Brake Pads vs. Brake Shoes: What are the Differences?

Many a time, people take their car brakes for granted, especially when they are working correctly. The brake system is an essential part of your vehicle since it keeps you and other road users safe. The debate on brake pad vs. brake shoe may get you overthinking. It is crucial to note that brake pads and brake shoes are different even though they perform a similar task.

Brake shoes and brake pads differ primarily by applying force in opposing directions. Whereas the former cause a halt of the moving car by pushing outward, the later does it by moving closer.

Ensure you read this comprehensive guide that explains why the two are different, as well as how they both work. The guide contains all you need to know about brake pads vs. brake shoe and their significance.

Brake Pads vs. Brake Shoes

Brake pads and Brake shoes Comparison Table

The choice between brake pads and brake shoes depends on the specific vehicle, its braking system, and your intended use. Both components are essential for safe braking, but their applications and advantages differ. The following table may help you develop an overall impression.

Feature Brake Pads Brake Shoes
Function Press against the rotor to create friction and stop the vehicle Press against the inside of the drum to create friction and stop the vehicle
Location Installed inside the brake caliper, mounted on the rotor  Installed inside the brake drum, surrounding the inner circumference
Functional Material Typically made of semi-metallic, ceramic, or organic materials   Usually made of a heat-resistant friction material, often a mixture of organic and metallic compounds
Maintenance Easier to inspect and replace since they are outside the brake assembly      More difficult to inspect and replace as they are enclosed within the brake drum
Heat Dissipation Better heat dissipation due to the exposed design            Lower heat dissipation because they are enclosed
Stopping Power Generally offers better stopping power, especially in high-performance applications. Typically provides adequate stopping power for regular driving
Cost More expensive than brake shoes Usually more cost-effective than brake pads
Noise Tends to produce less noise when braking           May produce more noise, especially in older drum brake systems
Wear and Tear Wear faster than brake shoes and may need more frequent replacement      Tend to have a longer lifespan and require less frequent replacement
Brake Type Commonly used in disc brake systems         Commonly used in drum brake systems
Performance Better suited for high-performance vehicles and heavy-duty applications   Suitable for regular passenger vehicles and lighter-duty applications

Brake Pads

These are usually flat steel piece that has a thick friction material such as rubber on one of their sides. The friction material, however, varies depending on the type of vehicle, size, and type of brake caliper. Manufacturers of cars most commonly place them in disc brake systems.

Due to friction and heat, the brake shoe material wears out with time. This will later necessitate replacement if you want them to work efficiently. The disc pad usually has a shorter cooling time and hence offers better-stopping performance compared to drum brakes.

Brake Pads
Brake Pads

For the disc pad to operate, the driver has to push his foot down the brake pedal, which in turn pushes the master cylinder. The master cylinder contains a fluid that equally transmits the braking force to all brake pads in the wheels.

The energy used while stopping a car in motion converts into heat, and this explains why tires feel hot after a long distance of travel. The brake pad, however, undergoes more intense strain, and this causes faster wear and tear on them. They are also normally used in cars with front-wheel drive.

Types of Brake Pads

There are different types of brake pads, mainly due to a variety of vehicle specifications. The faster you drive or the more massive a car is, the more strain you require to stop a moving vehicle. Metallic brakes are the most common types and are created from a unique blend of metals such as steel, iron, or copper.

Long ago, organic brakes were manufactured from asbestos, which was popular due to their ability to absorb heat. However, they were eventually banned and replaced by ceramic brake pads. They cost quite a fortune, but they are durable, lightweight, and have better performance.

Replacing Brake Pads

There are certain indicators that tell you that your brake pads need replacement. Some of the most common indicators are grinding, squealing, or whining sounds while trying to brake. These symptoms show that our brake pads are wearing out and are becoming a little too thin. Also, if your brakes are not as efficient and your car takes longer to stop, this might mean your brake pads need replacement.

The lower-end braking materials are usually cheaper, say about 50$ per axle, while higher-end ceramics may cost up to 150$. However, these prices are not constant as they will vary, mainly due to labor costs for your brake lining replacement.

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Brake Shoe

A Brake Shoe is a curved metal piece with one side fitted with friction material and is placed inside the brake drum systems. This is an older braking system typically used on the back axle of a car. They are a little more expensive, but they tend to last longer and are more efficient as well.

brake shoe

Rather than squeezing, a brake shoe material pushes outwards against the brake drum, and this way, friction-induced makes a moving vehicle reduce speed or stop. If your car needs a set of powerful brakes, then you require brake shoes, as they offer excellent traction and force.

Brake Shoe Materials

Brake shoes, unlike pads, are an older system, and thus, they have various linings that press against the drum. Asbestos was the most used material, but they later noted adverse effects on them. After asbestos was scrapped, they currently use synthetic aramid materials.

You can use aramid for various purposes, but it is the ideal material to replace systems that initially used asbestos. Synthetic fibers are typically part of the best materials for brake shoes, but whatever material you decide to use depends on whatever may be available or what your mechanic may suggest.

Brake Shoe Replacement

Brake shoes are easier to manufacture. Thus you can pay less for their replacement. However, the cost will differ depending on the type of material used. The better quality materials are more expensive. Be careful; however, a high price does not guarantee quality.

This system generates more heat. However, the cost of brake shoe replacement is much lower when compared to brake pads. While choosing the right brake shoes, you ought to consider your vehicle type, the quality of roads in your area, the terrain you drive on, the ambient temperature of your area, and your driving requirements as well.

Heavy-duty trucks, as well as trailers, require brake shoes because they can provide the necessary force to stop these vehicles while in motion. Light-duty vehicles can use fabricated brake shoes.

You cannot use brake shoes or drum brakes with brake pads on the same wheel, but you can have them in one car. Most cars have a combination of the two, with brake shoes fitted on the back axle and pads on the front axle. The brake shoe is safer than brake pads.

Brake Pads vs. Brake Shoes: How and where they differ

Both brake pads and shoes share the same responsibility that is of bringing your vehicle to a safe stop when needed. But it’s important to note that they differ in terms of their function, design, and application.


When contacting the rotating dis, brake pads convert the kinetic energy of a moving vehicle into heat energy through friction. As for brake shoes, they are specifically designed for use in drum brakes and work by exerting outward pressure against a rotating drum to bring the vehicle to a halt.

Brake shoes are made of two curved metal pieces with friction material bonded onto them. And these two press against each side of the drum upon activation. Unlike brake pads that directly apply pressure to a rotor in disc brakes, brake shoes based on hydraulic pressure extend outwards. And establish contact with the inner surface of the spinning drum.

Wear and Tear/Life Expectancy

The wear patterns of these two types of braking mechanisms vary. Brake pads, placed on the caliper, undergo more continuous friction and heat accumulation while braking. As a result, they tend to wear out over time. Conversely, brake shoes sitting inside the drum have likelihood of wearing more uniformly. That may earn it a longer lifespan consequently.

Braking Force Direction

Brake pads put on pressure in a direction that is vertical to the rotation of the disc, effectively slowing down or halting the vehicle. This arrangement provides superior stopping power and enhanced control during braking. On the contrary, brake shoes operate in a quite different manner as they exert outward pressure against the inner surface of a rotating drum. And the resulting friction causes deceleration.

Unlike acting perpendicularly to the drum’s rotation like with brake pads, braking force with brake shoes pushes against its inward surface. Yes, this design may not offer as much stopping power as brake pads do. But it evenly distributes forces across every part of the drum for more balanced performance.

Power of Stopping Vehicle

Already clear, brake pads offer increased braking force by enabling more friction against rotors or discs. Conversely, brake shoes are commonly employed in drum brakes where the need for gripping power is reduced because rum brakes tend to dissipate less heat generated during braking.


Do I Need Brake Shoes or Pads?

The correct answer to this question will depend on your car type, the quality of roads in your area, the terrain you drive on, the ambient temperature of your area, and your driving requirements as well.

Typically, brake pads are for front-wheel drive vehicles, while brake pads are typical for four-wheel drives, trailers, heavy-duty trucks, or rear-wheel drive vehicles. Brake shoes are more efficient, although many cars have both systems in place. If you know the differences between the two, then it is easy to decide which braking system best suits your needs or vehicle.

Can Brake Pads Break?

Yes, they can. Brake pads have to be broken in. This is something that mechanics especially do while on a test drive before they give you back your car. Therefore, if you change your brake pads, you have to be careful as the stopping power is usually low at first.

If the friction lining materials in your car’s braking system are not permanently and positively attached to the brake shoe, the lining may delaminate. Thus the performance of the braking system degrades. The wear and tear of the friction lining material may also lead to the transfer of excessive heat into the brake caliper and hence causing the brake fluid to boil, which is not safe.

How Much Are Brake Pads and Shoes?

An average pad replacement will cost you approximately $ 150 per axle. The cost ranges from about 100$ to 300$ per axle, depending on where you are. There are other parts of hardware in the braking system that requires to be serviced, such as rotors and calipers. However, there is a range of costs mainly depending on the material type, with the better quality ones being more expensive.

Do I Need to Bleed the Brakes When Changing Pads?

Brake pads require to be bled whenever you are changing pads and/or discs. Bleeding simply means, in this context, the removal of old brake fluid from the system. However, this does not necessarily mean the entire fluid from the system. Bleeding is most common after you open the hydraulic line, and the liquid gets exposed to air in the atmosphere.

How Long Do Brake Shoes Last?

Typically, brake shoes are designed to last about 35,000 miles. In some instances, they may not make it up that far. Various factors lead to increased wear and tear, such as damaged hardware or even warped brake drums. The vehicle type, terrain, car owner, and maintenance are other factors that determine brake shoe life.

How Long Does the Brake pad Last?

The average brake pad life lies somewhere between 25,000 to 65,000 miles. Nonetheless, some people have had pads that last for even more than 70,000 miles. Generally, we could say they continue for about 40,000 miles, but again, it depends on a lot of factors, including your driving style and the brake pad material.


The braking system is one of the essential parts of our car and so is knowing how your vehicle’s brake system works. Thus you can save a lot of time and money whenever you need to replace them. Hopefully, you are now in a better position to answer any question on brake pads vs. brake shoes. Therefore, even if you may not have a choice on what system your car uses, you still know how to cut costs while maintaining your vehicle.

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Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

2 thoughts on “Brake Pads vs. Brake Shoes: What are the Differences?

  1. My 1kd engine is leaking oil between cylinder head and block when revining.what could be the problem?

  2. I have a 2002 cavalier and apparently this is a common problem. The brakes lock up and I skid to a stop. It’s worse when it rains. What’s going on?

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