With the onset of rotors, and the uncertainties of production of Motor Wheel’s Centrifuse drum, many predicted that the steel-shell drum would soon phase out. Then came COVID, which caused all types of supply chain issues. Our industry has learned to be resourceful and accommodating and be much better planners during this time. WD’s, dealers, and end-users have been more accommodating by using products like the DuraBrake Blueä steel-shell, light-weight drums that interchange with the standard cast drums but may be more readily available even though they are more expensive.
Under normal circumstances, we see a Blue steel-shell drum having an approximate 100% premium to a cast drum, and using a steel-shell drum becomes a more difficult decision. Currently, we see a Blue steel-shell drum having an approximate 35% premium. Why? Because non-manufacturing costs like overseas shipping have increased dramatically, it has diluted the premium on the part cost. In addition, a lighter-weight drum allows more drums to be shipped in a container, further decreasing the premium. The steel-shell drum becomes more of a no-brainer as the premium has reduced significantly. Now, our Blue steel-shell drum users can typically be found walking around with their Derek Zoolander Blue Steel faces.
Why is a steel-shell drum a premium product? The most significant advantage of the DuraBrake Blue steel-shell drum is that it reduces each axle by 31 lbs from our 16.5”x7” standard cast drum. If these drums are used on all trailer axles and rear axles, each truck-trailer combo could save 124 lbs. For many carriers, this may not matter much, but for bulk transporters who typically maximize weight, the extra payload over the life of the drums can be significant. Due to less weight, the additional fuel economy is also a welcome added benefit as diesel prices remain high.You might also see Blue steel-shell drums for more severe applications with high stop frequency (e.g., garbage trucks) or axle loading (e.g., tankers). Since steel has a much higher tensile strength than cast iron, it can resist deformation better than a cast drum and be less prone to heat checking. Heat checking is one of the primary causes of drum replacement, and since heat checking is reduced, typically,Blue drums will last longer. In the current environment of high product costs, labor costs, and opportunity costs from not having your truck or trailer running, a 35% premium seems like a no-brainer.
The flange thickness is the primary difference in interchangeability between a cast drum and a Blue steel-shell drum. Typically, most vehicles and trailers using a standard 16.5” x 7” brake or a 16.5” x 8.62” brake can swap out a steel-shell drum for a cast drum, and the studs protrude by an extra 0.25”. It may not work in the opposite direction where a hub assembly designed for a steel-shell drum can accommodate a cast drum unless the studs are changed.
If you have difficulty getting drums and your customers are willing to spend a small premium to get a superior product, call us about DuraBrake’s Blue steel-shell, light-weight brake drums.