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Comparing Brake Shoes and Brake Pads: A Comprehensive Guide

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Discover the distinctions between brake shoes and brake pads, their lifespans, and replacement procedures. Gain valuable insights to make informed decisions for your vehicle's braking system." "Learn about the longevity of brake shoes and brake pads, the costs involved in replacement, and the essential differences that impact the efficiency of your braking system.

When our brakes are functioning as intended and protecting us and others on the road, we tend to take them for granted. Therefore, it is prudent to gain some knowledge about them, beginning with the following question: how are brake shoes and pads different?

I have a question about brake shoes and pads. Are they interchangeable? In a nutshell, no. Although they serve a comparable purpose, they are utilized in various braking systems and offer distinct benefits (and drawbacks).

What are Brake Shoes

The brake lining is carried inside the brake drum systems by the brake shoes. A curved metal piece with a piece of friction material attached to one side is what they are.


A drum brake system’s wheel cylinder pushes the brake shoe outward, against the drum’s interior, whenever the driver presses the brake pedal. The car brakes as a result of the friction created between the lining and the drum. Dissipation of kinetic energy as heat occurs. Most current cars utilize their front wheels to brake more sharply, which means the rear brakes don’t need to handle as high of temperatures. Thus, brake shoes are commonly employed for the back axle. In addition to being more cost-effective overall, drum brake systems have the potential to outperform disc brakes when used as a parking brake.

How long do Brake Shoes Last?

Brake shoes and drums are both long-lasting components. They are built to endure for a long period. Under normal driving conditions and with regular maintenance, brake shoes should last about 30,000 miles.

Replacement of Brake Shoes

Brake shoes typically have a lifespan of 30,000 to 35,000 kilometers, as shown earlier. Every 30,000 to 35,000 miles, you should change the brake shoes. In less demanding driving circumstances, such as when you’re cruising down the interstate in little traffic, you might find that your brake shoes last longer.

Compared to other auto repairs, replacing brake shoes can be on the pricier side. Brake shoe replacement typically costs around $120 to $200. This price could change slightly based on the type of repair business that replaces the brake shoes and the make and model of your car.

What are brake pads?

braking pads, which are part of disc braking systems, are flat steel pieces that have a thick layer of friction material on one side. Brake caliper type, vehicle size, and kind of friction material all play a role.

Anatomy Of A Brake Pad

Pressing down on the brake pedal is how the driver uses the disc brake system. A master cylinder, consisting of a piston encased in braking fluid, is compressed by this. As the fluid travels through the brake lines, it presses on the caliper, which in turn presses on the brake pads and disc. Because of this, the wheel’s speed is reduced. It is necessary to disperse the waste heat that is produced when your vehicle’s motion is stopped. This type of brake provides superior stopping capability compared to drum brakes since the disc has a comparatively rapid cooling period. Brake pads wear down and eventually need replacement because the friction material layer thins with use.

How long do brake pads last?

The lifespan of brake pads, like that of brake shoes, can be affected by factors such as driving conditions and the frequency of maintenance. Having said that, brake pads typically have a lifespan of around 30,000 to 70,000 kilometers. Even up to 100,000 miles is the length of life certain brake pads have.

The replacement of brake pads

Remember that brake pads typically last between thirty thousand and seventy thousand miles. This being said, a lot of drivers still change their brake pads every 40,000 miles. The price of new brake pads can also change. The average cost to replace brake pads is $115 to $300 per axle. Thus, you should budget anything from $460 to $1200 to replace the brake pads on all four wheels of your vehicle.

Are brake pads and shoes the same thing?

The braking systems of most contemporary automobiles are either drum brakes or disc brakes, sometimes called rotors. Brake drum systems employ brake shoes to generate stopping power, in contrast to disc brake systems that work in tandem with brake pads. Brake shoes and brake pads are two different things, thus the simple answer is no.

Even though they do the same thing—to bring your vehicle to a complete stop—disc and drum brakes couldn’t be more different. Although they share the use of friction material, the specific components used by each type of braking system render them incompatible with one another.

Keep reading to learn more about the many types of brakes your vehicle may have.

The different kinds of brakes

These days, most automobiles employ one of two kinds of brakes. To start with, there are disc brakes, which are standard on most new and high-performance automobiles. Drum brakes, which are more common on older vehicles, make up the second type.

Disc braking systems, commonly used on high-performance or sports automobiles, often feature ventilation holes or slots to improve heat dissipation. Assembled with the discs are the brake pads, which function in tandem with the caliper.

Additionally, drum brakes are available. These earlier brakes are more common on smaller or older vehicles, or when used in conjunction with disc brakes. Disc brakes up front and drum brakes in the back are common on hatchbacks, in place of the pads that normally reside inside the drum and exert pressure when braking, brake shoes are utilized.

Although disc brakes are increasingly prevalent, many vehicles still use a combination of the two.

Do you need help identifying the brake system on your vehicle? Before you go on a drive, make sure to inspect your wheels. If you look closely enough, you should be able to make out the caliper assembly, disc, or drum of the vehicle’s braking system; however, certain vehicles’ intricate wheel designs make this impossible.

As the name suggests, disc brakes resemble flat cylindrical discs. The caliper assembly might be visible on the exterior (see to the image below for clarification).  

On the other hand, drum brakes resemble a housing more. Within, you’ll find brake shoes and a plethora of other tiny parts that work together to generate the necessary friction for stopping. For a comparison, see below.


The similarities of Brake shoes and brake pads 

There is a difference between brake shoes and brake pads. Although they serve distinct purposes, they are functionally identical parts of an automobile’s braking system. Brake shoes might not even be an option for your vehicle. It could be completely devoid of shoes.

But they’re both useful for the same thing. You may slow down and stop your moving vehicle with the help of brake shoes and pads, which generate friction and transform your vehicle’s kinetic energy into heat energy. Each wheel has brake pads or shoes ready to slow the wheel’s motion when you apply the brakes; this pressure is transmitted to the wheels via a network of hydraulic pipes and hoses.

Brake shoes and pads both wear down with time due to the pressure they exert on moving metal parts. It’s alright, they should. The sacrificial friction material in shoes and pads fades away with use, protecting the other functional components of the drive system from damage. This means that a full brake job should include replacing both the shoes and the pads at regular intervals. Each brake job is critical to the safety of you and your passengers, so it’s important to do them properly.

Composition of brake shoes and brake pads

Another similarity between brake shoes and pads is the type of friction material they use. Utilizing specialized hardware, both shoes and pads are constructed from metal plates, with the former featuring a curved design and the latter a flat one. A metal plate is used to attach the friction substance.

Brake shoes or pads can have different friction materials. Advantages and disadvantages are inherent in every material type. Ceramic, organic, and semi-metallic materials are the three most common kinds of frictional surfaces.

Many new passenger cars come with organic pads already installed. Although they are the most comfortable and silent option, their lifespan is the shortest, and they get dusty as they wear down. In most cases, organic options will also be the most budget-friendly.

Particularly on bigger vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks, semi-metallic footwear and pads may be supplied straight from the manufacturer. Although they make more noise, their gripping power is superior. Some parts of the braking system are also more susceptible to damage from semi-metallics. They are a great choice for high-performance cars and big rigs alike.

Ceramic brake shoes and pads are the most expensive alternative, but they are the most pleasant, long-lasting, and silent.

Brake Shoes vs. Brake Pads

Disc brakes with brake pads are standard on most modern vehicles. In an effort to keep production costs down, some automobiles use front disc brakes and rear drum brakes, as indicated earlier. Since the front wheels of these vehicles are typically capable of handling a greater amount of braking power, they are nearly always equipped with disc brakes. Some other distinctions between brake shoe and brake pad systems are as follows.

Braking force direction

The direction of force is the primary differentiator between brake shoes and pads. Brake shoes apply pressure outward, while brake pads apply pressure inward, bringing the vehicle to a halt. Brake pads are arranged around a disc known as a rotor rather than within a brake drum. The caliper applies pressure to the brake pads, which in turn press on the rotor disc, causing the wheels to slow down and eventually come to a halt.

Stopping power

A further distinction between brake pads and shoes is the amount of pressure needed to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Disc brake pads are more effective at stopping the vehicle than brake shoes, even though the former has more surface area to rub against, which helps generate friction. If both the brakes and the road conditions are identical, a vehicle with disc brakes will be able to come to a complete stop far more quickly and with greater stopping power than one with drum brakes.

Expected lifespan

Due to their systemic placement, brake shoes have the potential to outlast brake pads. When brake shoes are located towards the back of the car, they don’t have to absorb as much of the power used to stop the vehicle, which means they could last longer.

Brake shoes are further shielded from dirt, corrosion, and rust by being contained within the brake drum. But if grime or other debris gets into the brake drum, it might get stuck and quicken the wear on the brake shoes. Conversely, brake pads are more likely to come into contact with road debris, weather, and other road conditions. The brake pads clean the rotors by wiping off dirt and debris when the brakes are applied, thus this exposure can actually help them last longer.


Brake shoes are more resistant to corrosion since they are enclosed. Brake shoes are easier to replace than brake pads, but drum brakes are more complicated and take more time to install than disc brakes. Brake pads’ susceptibility to corrosion makes them more accessible, but it also makes them more vulnerable.

Brake shoes and pads are both subject to wear and tear. It usually takes far more time to get to the brake shoes in order to do brake repair services than it does to get to the brake pads. As brakes deteriorate, you may need to make more adjustments to the shoes to make sure they’re still touching the drum properly.


In their braking system, the pads and shoes are positioned differently. Brake shoes go into the brake drum, while brake pads go within the caliper that surrounds the brake disc.


In most cases, brake shoes will outlast brake pads.  They do a significantly less amount of braking and are often located on the back axle.


Brake pads are superior to brake shoes for stopping an automobile because they are heat-resistant. They can handle snow and rain with ease.

Brake pads are perfect for vehicles equipped with front axles since they are more resistant to heat. As a result, brake pads have a longer lifespan than brake shoes.

Compared to brake shoes, brake pads are simpler to change. The worn-out pads can be simply replaced at home by anyone with a basic understanding of mechanics.

Ensuring longevity

The pads and shoes are made of steel and feature a layer of frictional material on one side. Brake shoes are more susceptible to heat than brake pads. The fact that brake shoes may be recycled is a perk of using them.


The sole negative aspect of brake shoes compared to pads is the cost. Brake shoes are more cost-effective than new shoes or other car parts since they may be recycled. A used brake pad will cost you about half as much as a new one.

Drum and disc brakes on the same vehicle? Not possible! Be careful! Therefore, inquire about the brakes before purchasing a used vehicle. The less effective and shorter-lived brake shoes might not be something you’re keen on dealing with.

Troubleshooting brake pads vs brake shoes

Is your brakes making a screeching sound lately? Maybe you should get a new set of shoes or brake pads. There are wear indicators that make a screeching sound when the friction material, which is used for brake pads and shoes, wears down. Changing the brake shoes or pads should fix the problem if you’ve noticed this noise.

It is routine practice to replace friction material pads and shoes when they wear out. Doing so on a regular basis in accordance with your servicing plan is crucial to avoid dangerous collisions caused by underperforming brakes.

Do I need brake pads or brake shoes?

While it’s not possible to use brake shoes with disc brakes or drum brakes with a single wheel, you can use both types on the same vehicle. Actually, a lot of cars utilize a hybrid system that combines the two, especially smaller ones, with disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the back.


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