Front and Rear Brakes: What's the Difference?

Front brakes go on the front of the car, and rear brakes go on the rear, and that seems to be about what most people know about the differences between the two types of brakes. The truth is that your two sets of brakes are designed to accomplish very different tasks, which makes understanding their design and contribution important for any driver who is trying to make sure their vehicle stays in good condition. so that they are dependable and comfortable to drive.

The reason that the brakes have different designs is because of their function. Because automotive brakes are designed to convert kinetic energy to heat energy, they have to be built to take the extreme forces and temperature changes. The key is, due to the distribution of mass and of forces as the vehicle moves, the brakes don’t heat up at the same rate. Instead, the set in front provides the majority of the stopping power and builds up the majority of the heat. By contrast, the pair in back provides stability, aiding with emergency maneuvers and helping to prevent spinouts and rollovers.

Front Brake Designs

Due to the physical needs of the front brakes, there are a few features that are designed almost universally:

  • High pressure from the master cylinder delivers heavy clamping force
  • Larger and multi-piston brake calipers aid with this
  • Larger brake pad surface areas and more aggressive pads add to their power
  • Thicker and larger diameter brake rotors – often these are also ventilated to aid with cooling

If you notice that your brakes are squealing, if they lose stopping power over time, or if your brake fluid has suddenly dropped below the full line but you can’t find a leak, these are all signs that your brakes need to be inspected. Waiting too long to service your front brakes can lead to caliper failure or other systemic problems.

Back Brake Designs

Like front brakes, back brakes have a few familiar design features, regardless of the manufacturer. These are typically lower pressure, smaller braking parts, and they either mirror the construction of the front brakes but with smaller shoes and less need for heat dissipation or they are available as drum brakes.

When You Need Service

It’s a good idea to get your brakes checked every 15,000 to 20,000 miles because our ASE certified technicians’ reading of the remaining brake pad is the best way to determine the overall condition of your brakes. In between checkups, be on the lookout for noises, especially squealing or grinding noises, and be sure to stop in to see us at Sun Devil Auto if you hear them.