Steel Shell (Composite) Brake Drum: Breakthrough in Pricing

light weight brake drum

Steel Shell (Composite) Brake Drum: Breakthrough in Pricing

light weight brake drum

Meritor X30 and Stemco’s CentriFuse brake drums for long have successfully dominated the centrifugally cast brake surface inside a steel shell. It has been a patented technology which blocked new entrants. Now that the relevant patent(s) have expired there is a rush to produce these drums. DuraBrake has recently introduced a new lightweight steel shell brake drum to its current long list of all cast brake drum and Air Disc Brake Rotor part numbers. This brake drum is made using a formed steel outer shell for greater strength in which molten cast iron is poured in the shell spun centrifugally to ensure even distribution of the braking surface. Under these manufacturing conditions the cast iron and the steel shell form a metallurgical bond at the interface. The result is a lighter, stronger and safer brake drum. The steel shell is stronger than normal cast iron, so it prevents drum from shattering or falling apart in extreme circumstances. The steel shell also allows weight to be 15-20% lighter than a normal cast drum leading to better fuel mileage and increased payloads. 


LIGHTWEIGHT – 91 lb. drum that is 15-20% lighter than a full weight cast drum.

LONGER LIFE – Superior heat dissipation, resulting in less brake fade and wear.

BALANCED – Drums balanced as a standard option

WARRANTY – 10-year warranty or wearable life

INCREASED SAFETY – One-piece shell design means no welds in the steel shell. Steel shell with high strength shields drum from shattering or falling apart which can happen in cast brake drums when exposed to thermal shocks. Steel shell provides more resistance to heat cracks. Meets and exceeds FMVSS121 requirements

APPLICATION – Application for composite brake drum include original equipment, fleets and aftermarket replacement

COST SAVINGS – Fleet costs will be reduced due to higher fuel economy and profits will be increased by maximizing payloads. Breakthrough in processing and manufacturing makes our composite drums up to 30-40% less expensive than other composite drums currently on the market

COMPATIBILITY – Applications compatible with most common wheel end configurations

Material and shipping costs are two major cost components of the high-volume parts which has driven good US companies, to compete with offshore companies and to penetrate the market. This is particularly true where the volumes are high, margins very tight in the popular brake drum (16.5” by 7”) such as DuraBrake 16792X (Gunite 3600AX and 3922X, Webb 66864B and 56864B, Meritor 123207, KIC 53033 and 60000 and 60001) and a select few more part numbers. All suppliers have introduced reduced weight brake drums and called it value drum. Lowering the weight can solve the problem part of the way as with lower weight the overall integrity and strength of the drum is compromised. In addition to our common brake drum parts we produce over 2000-part numbers of specialty brake drums which are generally higher in value and we also include spectrum of high and medium value rotors. We are now introducing composite brake drum which is made by spin casting in a steel shell. This process has been used for about two decades, but the high-volume applications are limited due to the high price. Now we have a breakthrough in cost saving which makes the application economical with better manufacturing and engineering. Steel shell makes the drum thinner, stronger and safer as the chances of shattering in use are significantly reduced. As the tooling cost is high, its application is limited mainly to the high volume 16.5” by 7” drum and a couple more as it is price sensitive. We can now reduce the price by 30 to 40% from a current composite drum based on application and quantity. Equivalent composite drum has reduction in weight by roughly 15 to 20% of cast drum while improving the performance and reliability. We have significantly narrowed the price difference between an all cast and composite brake drum. Now we have 20 to 30% increase in upfront cost (composite vs. cast drum) in return for savings in weight and performance based on volume purchase and shipping destination. In summary, the advantages of DuraBrake’s centrifugally fused cast iron drum in a steel shell include:

  • Total Cost: DuraBrake’s Metallurgically bonded composite brake drum approaches in cost to a heavier all cast brake drum with several engineering benefits of strength and safety. It is also easier to handle during shipping and installation.
  • Safety: DuraBrake composite drum is safer to use as the steel shell limits the possibility of shattering in use. 
  • Experience: The technology has been widely used and tested but its application is limited by higher tooling and part cost. Now the upfront prices are within striking range but cost savings from application makes the investment more economical. DuraBrake has resources at its disposal for customers who are new to Composite Brake Drum. This drum is widely used in OEM application when a standard 16.5” by 7” drum is required, and it is interchangeable in aftermarket application to replace an all cast brake drum.

Well maintained use of DuraBrake Composite Brake Drum will cut down on brake costs by avoiding CSA citations. Brakes are the second-most penalized component of the truck, after lighting, and it can lead to unnecessary delays and downtime for fleets. DuraBrake has successfully guided many customers with their product strategy to stock selective part numbers and inventory levels based on their market reach. Contact DuraBrake’s marketing group to consult on your entry needs for serving and application of composite brake drums and rotors in the aftermarket. We introduced this product to offer our customers a premium, safer product at competitive pricing. With increased volumes of lightweight drums needed, one day we should be able to offer this drum at a similar pricing as a normal cast iron brake drum. DuraBrake saves customers money and time with our seven decades of experience in manufacturing technology, commercial logistics management, large production capacity, quality control expertise and cash flow benefits to OE and large aftermarket customers.

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