The Difference Between Front Brakes and Rear Brakes

If you’ve got an ATV, your machine probably runs brakes in both the front and back. And they’re the same in the most basic sense: they bring your quad to a stop. But that’s about it. 

Front brakes vs rear brakes

So what makes them unique? Front brakes and rear brakes play different roles in the handling of an ATV, and they might employ completely different designs. A lot of that has to do with how they take the energy of a heavy, fast ATV and dissipate it so it can stop. Here are the differences between rear brakes and front brakes.

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Front vs Rear Brakes: What’s the Difference?

The difference in design and purpose between front and rear brakes on an ATV can largely be attributed to the laws of physics. 

ATV front brakes

ATV rear brakes

When you’re moving forward on an ATV and you apply the brakes, it shifts the ATV’s center of gravity forward. You’ll feel yourself getting pulled toward the handlebar, and that’s the same effect. This shift places more weight and energy on the front tires, which digs them in and creates more traction. Because of that extra traction, it makes more sense to give the front brakes most of the stopping work. On some machines, they can handle up to 75 percent of the stopping force.

Because the front brakes carry such a disproportionate amount of the load, they tend to be larger brakes with a bigger, thicker brake rotor to handle more heat with more aggressive pad material

How does all of that work? On most ATVs, a disc-brake affair manages the work of taking the momentum carried by the ATV and transferring it into friction as the brake pads contact the rotors. This creates heat, which is then dissipated. So every bit of speed and momentum you carried transfers out of your ATV via heat. 

What are Rear Brakes For?

The rear brakes play a much different role. In fact, so different that they may not even employ the same design. Some ATVs feature disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the rear. 

Rear brakes

The drum brake utilizes a closed brake drum with curved pads that push out on the inside surface of the drum. If they do have disc brakes, they tend to have a smaller rotor than the front, and the brake caliper may provide less clamping force through the brake pads and onto the rotor. Physics plays a role here, too. As weight is shifted to the front of the ATV during braking, the rear wheels have less traction. Because of that, the brakes would lock up if they exerted as much braking force as the front.

That’s basically it. If you want a better look at rear brakes versus front brakes on an ATV, watch the Honda Rancher 420 rear brake shoes replacement and front brake pads replacement videos above.







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