The disc brake can be divided into the common disc brake and the vented disc brake.
The disc brake is often connected to the wheel or the axle.
To stop the wheel, the brake pad (mounted on a device called a brake caliper) is forced mechanically, hydraulically, pneumatically or electromagnetically against both sides of the disc.
The friction causes the disc and attached wheel to slow or stop.
The vented disc brake design helps dissipate the heat that is generated by the friction between the pad and the disc.
The disc brake is commonly used on heavily-loaded front discs.
Compared to drum brakes, disc brakes offer better stopping performance in repeated or sustained applications of brakes with quick response and meet the requirements of the ABS system.
As a consequence, the discs tend to generate less brake fade phenomena and when brake components overheat; disc brakes recover more quickly from immersion.
A drum brake will have at least one leading shoe, which gives a servo-effect; see leading or trailing drum brake.
By contrast, a disc brake has no self-servo effect and its braking force is always proportional to the pressure placed on the brake pad by the braking system via any brake servo, braking pedal or lever.
The disc brake is simpler in structure and easier to maintain.