Disc Vs Drum Brakes For Trailers

When driving a trailer through Kentucky, you want to be sure you have ample braking force. While most small trailers rely on the braking force of the towing vehicle, larger trailers should have their own braking system. Let’s compare the trailer braking systems, Disc vs Drum brakes. Whether you’re adding brakes to your trailer, fixing existing ones, or upgrading for better stopping-power, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get the job done well with the following disc vs drum brakes information.

Disc Vs Drum Brakes

disc vs drum brakes

What Are Disc Brakes? 

Disc brakes are braking system that is used in various vehicles such as cars, bicycles, and motorcycles. They work using a disc that rotates with the wheel and a caliper with two or more brake pads. 

Are Disc Brakes Better Than Drum Brakes On A Trailer?

The significant advantage of disk brakes is the shorter stopping distance. Depending on the speed, disk brakes can be anywhere from 17% to 33% quicker than drum brakes. Reduced fading is another advantage, especially for vehicles that stop frequently. 

Furthermore, disc brake service and maintenance are often easier and faster than drum brake service and maintenance. Despite all of the advantages of disc brakes, drum brakes also offer certain benefits.

On the other hand, drum brakes are less expensive to install and maintain in comparison to disc brakes. Drum brakes are resistant to water damage and can still function even when the brake lining is worn down.

Disc vs Drum Brakes: Advantages And Disadvantages Of Disc Brakes


  • Easier to maintain: Disc brakes are easier to repair and maintain compared to other types of brakes. 
  • Better stopping power: They boost the spotting power substantially. They can generate more friction than other types of brakes, which provides more consistent braking performance. 
  • Consistent performance: They are less prone to fading, and they can still work even during an extended period of heavy braking. 
  • Less weight: Disc brakes are normally lighter compared to other types of brakes, which helps improve fuel efficiency and reduces wear and tear on the vehicle.


  • Complex: Because of its more complex components than other types of brakes, disc brakes can be more complex to install and repair. 
  • More Expensive: They are normally more expensive to replace and install than other types of brakes. 
  • Require more force: Disc brakes require more force to operate, which can make them less suitable for certain applications. 

Disc brakes are the go-to choice for many vehicles, especially for vehicles that require reliable and consistent stopping power. They are essential for heavy-duty and high-speed applications. Disc brake performance can make a significant difference in efficiency and safety. 

Disc vs Drum Brakes: How Long Do Disc Brakes Last On A Trailer? 

disc brakes

With proper maintenance generally, disc brakes on a trailer can last anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 miles or more with proper maintenance and care. These numbers can change depending on several factors. The quality of the components, frequency of use, and conditions in which they are used can affect the lifespan of disc brakes. Harses Services also mentions that disc brakes last about 50,000.

Factors such as load weight, the terrain on which the trailer is driven, and driving styles can also affect the lifespan of the disc brakes. Frequent braking and heavy weight can add strain to the brake system, which can affect the lifespan. 

It is important to maintain the brakes regularly to ensure the longevity of the brakes on the trailer. 

  • Keep your disc brakes clean and free of debris.
  • Regular inspection for signs of wear.
  • Replace brake pads and rotors as needed. 
  • Have a professional check the brake system at least once a year. 

What Are Drum Brakes?

disc vs drum brakes four winds trailer

Photo credit: Canva

Drum brakes are a type of braking system that uses brake shoes to press against the inside surface of a drum attached to the wheel hub. Hydraulic pressure is applied to the brake shoes, causing them to expand and press against the drum, generating friction and slowing down the trailer wheels and tires when the brake pedal is pressed. 

Disc vs Drum Brakes: Advantages And Disadvantages Of Drum Brakes


  • Good for low-speed driving: Drum brakes generate more braking force at a lower speed.
  • Cost-effective: Drum brakes are less expensive in comparison to disc brakes. They’re suitable for lower-cost vehicles. 
  • Good for parking: They can be designed to function as parking brakes. 
  • Simple design: Drum brakes have a simple design; they are easy to manufacture and repair.


  • Heat dissipation: Drum brakes are vulnerable to overheating because of their smaller surface area for heat dissipation in comparison to disc brakes. Overheating can cause brake fade and reduce braking performance. 
  • Longer stopping distance: Compared to disc brakes, drum brakes have a longer stopping distance. This can be a safety concern, especially in emergency situations. 
  • More maintenance: Drum brakes need more maintenance than disc brakes. They tend to gather dirt and debris inside the drum, which can affect braking performance. 
  • Heavy: they are typically heavier compared to disc brakes, which can affect a vehicle’s fuel economy and overall performance. 

Disc vs Drum Brakes: How Long Do Drum Brakes Last On A Trailer?

Normally drum brakes on a trailer can last anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 miles or more with proper maintenance and care. But depending on several factors, these numbers can change.  The quality of the components, the conditions in which they are used, and the frequency of use. With all of that stated, a “typical” situation with a trailer whose brakes start in good working order may provide two to three years of use, depending on whether those miles are highway miles (far less brake usage) or local road miles.

A decent rule of thumb is to check your brakes every time you leave the house and change them no less frequently than replace your tires. I recommend up to 12 months or 12,000 miles between replacements of wearable brake parts.

With proper maintenance, these types of brakes can provide reliable and long-lasting braking performance. However, it is recommended that disc brakes be a better option for trailers carrying heavier loads because of their superior heat dissipation and their strength under harsh conditions. 

Disc vs Drum Brakes: How do Drum Brakes Work on A Trailer?

When the driver presses the brake pedal, the brake booster (servo system) amplifies the power, and the master cylinder converts it to hydraulic pressure (oil pressure). The pressure is sent to the brakes on the wheels via brake oil-filled tubing (brake fluid). The supplied pressure compresses the pistons on the four-wheel brakes. 

The pistons force the friction materials, known as brake linings, against the inside surfaces of the brake drums, which revolve around the wheels. The linings are forced against the revolving drums, which decelerate the wheels, slowing and halting the vehicle.

Both disc brakes and drum brakes have their own advantages and disadvantages. Whether one is better than the other depends on your trailer and the purpose or uses of your trailer. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each brake system to determine which type of brake is best for your specific needs.

Disc vs Drum Brakes For Trailers: Effectiveness

There are various factors to consider when comparing disc vs drum brakes. Each kind has advantages and disadvantages that affect multiple users in different situations. 

The planned use of the trailer will have the most impact on the type of brake to use. Disc vs drum brakes, Disc brakes are more suited to vocational vehicles that must negotiate job sites due to their fade resistance. Drum brakes, however, are suitable for long-haul vehicles that benefit from extended service intervals due to their higher longevity.

Disc vs drum brakes both have their own advantages and disadvantages when used on a trailer, so whether one is better than the either all depends on the specific circumstances and requirements of the trailer.

 Disc vs Drum Brakes: Four Winds Trailer

four winds utility trailer for sale

Are you looking for quality trailers in Kentucky? Look no further than Four Winds Trailers. We offer a range of travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers. Our high-quality construction, innovative design, and attention to detail provide comfort and convenience. We design our trailers to ensure that they are durable, lightweight, and easy to use.