How to Tell What Kind of Brakes a Car Has

by K.K. Lowell

When ordering brake parts for your car or truck, you will be asked if it has disc or drum, power or anti-lock brakes. It is possible to make the determination of your car's brakes without jacking up your vehicle and removing any wheels.

Look through one of the holes at the top of the front wheel. If your car has front disc brakes (most do), you will see the brake rotor, a shiny smooth surface an inch or two behind the wheel. If it does not have front disc brakes you will see a round rusted-looking brake drum.

Look through one of the holes in the top of one of the rear wheels. You will either see a brake rotor, which will be smooth, shiny and flat, or a brake drum, which will be round, rough and very likely quite rusted-looking.

Look at the back side of the wheel and tire if you cannot see clearly enough through a hole in the wheel. A disc brake will have a rubber hose from the axle or body to the brake caliper; a drum brake will have a metal tube.

Determine if your car has anti-lock brakes by one of these methods: 1) Turn the ignition key to on and look at the warning lights on the instrument panel. If your car has anti-lock brakes there will be an "ABS" or "Anti-lock" light illuminated. 2) Look for a wire at the back of each wheel. Check both front and back as some vehicles only have front ABS, while others may have front and rear. 3) Call your dealer with your VIN number and ask.

Open the hood and look for a large round metal can about 10 or 12 inches in diameter on the rear of the driver's side of the engine compartment. This is the power brake booster. If you have one of these, your car has power brakes.

About the Author

K.K. Lowell is a freelance writer who has been writing professionally since June 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. A mechanic and truck driver for more than 40 years, Lowell is able to write knowledgeably on many automotive and mechanical subjects. He is currently pursuing a degree in English.