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Did you know that you can stop your car from 100 kilometers per hour faster than a cheetah can reach that speed? And It’s all thanks to the brakes. Therefore, keeping your brakes in top shape is crucial, especially in Kenya, where busy roads and unexpected hazards demand quick reactions. Which brake brake configurations achieve the best braking performance? Why do manufacturers use different brake configurations?

But not all cars stop the same way. Some have modern disc brakes, others have old-school drum brakes, and others have a combination of both.

Why the different setups? Read on to learn more about brake configurations and what they mean for your car.

Disc Brakes: The Stopping Powerhouse

Imagine a spinning bicycle wheel. Now, picture yourself squeezing the rim between your fingers to slow it down. That’s basically how disc brakes work.

A disc brake system has three main components:

  • Rotor: A shiny metal disc attached to the wheel of a car.
  • Caliper: A clamp-like device that sits over the rotor.
  • Brake pads: Tough friction materials housed inside the caliper.

When you press the brake pedal, the fluid squeezes the caliper. This forces the brake pads to grip the spinning rotor, creating friction and slowing down your car.


  • Stopping power: Disc brakes deliver superior stopping power, which is very critical in Nairobi’s bumper-to-bumper traffic jams.
  • Fade resistance: Disc brakes cool down quickly, so even with heavy braking in hot weather, they they don’t fade.
  • Rain warriors: Disc brakes perform consistently even in wet conditions, a big advantage in the current climate, characterized by unpredictable rainfall patterns.
  • Easier to maintain: Compared to drum brakes, the maintenance and inspection of disc brakes is more straightforward.


The main disadvantage of disc brakes is their cost. Their components and replacement are costlier than drum brakes.

Drum Brakes: The Old-School Workhorse

While disc brakes are the flashy newcomers, drum brakes are the seasoned veterans. Think of them as a hidden drum inside the wheels of your car.

Here are the key components of a drum brake system:

  • Brake drum: A hollow cylindrical metal part that rotates as the wheel rotates.
  • Brake shoes: Curved pieces with friction materials that sit inside the drum.
  • Wheel cylinder: This uses hydraulic pressure to push the brake shoes outwards.

When you step on the brake pedal, brake fluid forces the wheel cylinder to push the brake shoes against the rotating brake drum. The resulting friction slows down your car.


  • Budget-conscious: Drum brakes are cheaper to manufacture, keeping the overall cost of the car down.
  • Emergency power: Their design makes them excellent for emergency braking (handbrake or parking brake).


  • Heat problems: Drum brakes trap heat, and with repeated heavy braking, they can overheat and lose effectiveness.
  • Wet weather worries: Water can get inside drum brakes, temporarily reducing their performance.

Maintenance issues: Drum brakes are relatively more complicated to inspect and service compared to disc brakes.

Why the Mixed Brake Configurations (Disc Front/Drum Rear)?

Picture a powerful athlete with the perfect running shoes. That’s the idea behind the mixed brake configurations: disk brakes for the front wheels and drum brakes for the rear wheels. The mixed configuration strikes a balance between performance and keeping costs down.

Automakers know that putting high-performance disc brakes on every wheel would drive the cost of cars high. By putting drum brakes in the rear wheels, they offer budget-conscious vehicles.

The mixed brake configurations also makes sense because most of the braking heavy-lifting happens in the front. When you hit the brakes hard, most of the force shifts to the car’s front. As mentioned before, disc brakes have superior stopping power. The drum brakes on the back wheels can adequately handle the lighter braking tasks.

Most budget-conscious cars in Kenya have a mixed configuration, which makes sense because it balances stopping power and affordability in an economy where car maintenance costs are a significant factor.

Some of the popular cars on Kenyan roads with this mixed setup include:

  • Nissan Sunny/Sentra
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Mazda Demio
  • Toyota Vitz
  • Subaru Impreza (older generations)
  • Toyota Probox/Succeed
  • Isuzu D-Max (single cab)

Where All-Around Disc Brakes Are Used

There are times when the disc-drum brakes combo just won’t cut it. Here is where you are likely to find disc brakes on all wheels:

  • Performance machines: Sports cars and other high-performance vehicles demand the absolute best in braking. Brake discs on all wheels provide maximum stopping power, fade resistance for track days, and the precise control that performance drivers need.
  • Luxury vehicles: Smooth and powerful braking is important for a refined driving experience in premium models. The all-around disc brake configuration delivers superior comfort and confidence for discerning drivers.
  • Heavy haulers: Larger vehicles like SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans carry more weight. Therefore, they need the superior stopping power provided by disc brakes.

Popular vehicles on Kenyan roads with all-around disc brakes include:

  • Subaru Impreza (newer generations)
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
  • BMW and Mercedes-Benz models (most luxury sedans and SUVs of these brands)
  • Toyota Hilux and other higher-end pickup trucks

Remember: Car features vary across model years and trim levels. Always do your due diligence and verify the brake setup for the specific vehicle you have in mind.

Keeping Your Brakes in Top Shape: Key Considerations for Drivers

Regardless of the brake setup in your car, it is very important to keep your brakes in top shape. Here is what you should keep in mind:

  • Maintenance is key: Regular brake inspection and servicing are important for safe driving. Even if you have an objectively superior braking system, neglecting your brakes can result in accidents on our busy roads.
  • Switching up can be challenging: If you are used to driving a car with drum brakes, then you switch to an all-disc setup, the driving experience might feel different. Disc brakes are more responsive and, therefore, require you to go light on the brake pedal.
  • It might not be possible to upgrade: Are you thinking of upgrading your car to all-around disc brakes? It is possible for some models but impractical for others. Seek expert advice from auto braking experts to determine if upgrading is a viable option for your car.

Conclusion on Brake Configurations

Knowing how your car’s brake setup works empowers you to make informed decisions about maintenance and spot potential problems early. To recap, disc brakes offer superior stopping power and remain effective regardless of weather. Drum brakes are cost-effective and work well for handbrakes. A mixed setup strikes a balance between performance and affordability.

Need help with your car’s braking system? Whether you need a routine inspection, expert advice, or quality brake parts, our team at Varsani Brake Linings is ready to help. Contact us today and let our experts give you the peace of mind you need behind the wheel.