Electric Scooters

Electric Scooter Brakes: The Ultimate Beginner Guide

Master electric scooter brakes as we dive into various types, their pros and cons, maintenance and optimal brake use.

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Electric scooter brakes are key to a safe and smooth riding experience. Brakes are not just a feature but your main defense against accidents and are essential for controlling your scooter's speed.

Whether you're a seasoned rider or new to electric scooters, understanding how brakes work and how to use them properly is important to stay safe on the roads. In this guide, we delve into the various brake types available, from mechanical to electronic and hydraulic options, and talk about the pros and cons of each.

You'll also learn which factors impact braking performance, how to conduct brake maintenance, and how to inspect your brakes to see if anything needs to be replaced.

Hit the brakes and take a moment to relax - by the end of this guide, you'll be well-versed in the ins and outs of electric scooter brakes, ensuring a safer and smoother ride.

Types of Electric Scooter Brakes

Electric scooters typically use three main types of brakes: mechanical, electronic, and hydraulic. Let's break down each type to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they operate.

Mechanical Brakes

Drum Brake

Closeup of the drum brake on the Segway Ninebot MAX G2
Drum brake on the Segway Ninebot Max G2

Drum brakes are commonly used in both budget and commuter electric scooters due to their durability and low maintenance. They work by pressing brake shoes against the drum lining inside the wheel when you pull the brake lever, creating friction to slow the scooter.

Pros
  • Durable
  • Low maintenance
  • Reliable in wet weather thanks to the enclosed design
Cons
  • Less braking force compared to disc brake systems
  • More challenging to service because of internal components
  • Heavier than discs

Suitable for: Low to medium-speed scooters up to 20 MPH (or 30 MPH for dual drums), ideal for urban commuting, rain riding, and less frequent maintenance needs.

Mechanical (Cable-Actuated) Disc Brake

Rear mechanical disc brake on the Apollo Phantom V3
Mechanical disc brake on Apollo Phantom V3

Mechanical disc brakes (cable-actuated) are the most common type seen in all price ranges, from budget electric scooters to high-end beasts, thanks to their reliability and strong stopping power. They're operated using a brake lever. When the brake lever is pulled, a cable tightens, moving the calipers to press the brake pads against the rotor, slowing the scooter.

They're different from the more premium hydraulic (or semi-hydraulic) disc brake options that use fluid to apply braking force.

Pros
  • Strong stopping power with consistent performance
  • Relatively easy to maintain and clean
Cons
  • May require more frequent maintenance than drum brakes
  • Can be prone to warping under extreme conditions
  • Harder lever pull is needed compared to hydraulic discs

Suitable for: A wide range of scooters, from entry-level to high-performance models up to 45 MPH, where powerful braking is essential.

Foot Brake

Rear foot friction brake on Fluid Mosquito
Foot friction brake on Fluid Mosquito

Foot brakes, or friction brakes, are less common but are mainly found on entry-level electric scooters. A foot brake is operated by stepping down on the rear fender, which creates friction between the fender and tire. Foot brakes are intuitive, but they're inconsistent and provide limited stopping power.

Pros
  • Simple to operate
  • Doesn't rely on electricity to work
Cons
  • Inconsistent
  • Causes premature wear to the tire
  • It can cause wheel locking or skidding if used aggressively

Suitable for: Low-speed scooters and as a secondary brake for minor speed adjustments and not full stops.

Electronic Brakes

Close-up of electronic regenerative brake trigger on Apollo City Pro
Separate electronic brake trigger on Apollo City Pro

Electronic brakes - also known as regenerative brakes or E-ABS - are an increasingly popular secondary brake system in electric scooters. It is often seamlessly integrated with disc or drum brakes, but some models have a separate trigger for it.

When electronic brakes are activated, it reverses the motor's function to act as a generator. It then converts the rotational kinetic energy from the already moving wheel into electrical energy, creating resistance that slows down the wheel. Most electronic brakes recapture the generated electricity and send it back to the battery to recharge it a bit.

Pros

  • No maintenance required
  • Provides extra braking power alongside mechanical brakes
  • Slightly recharges the battery during braking, increasing energy efficiency
  • Can decrease wear on mechanical brakes

Cons

  • Not strong enough to be a primary braking system
  • Often poorly implemented, resulting in jolty or jumpy braking

Suitable for: Any electric scooter secondary to a mechanical braking system, provided it is properly implemented and not jolty.

Hydraulic Brakes

Fully-Hydraulic Brakes

Hydraulic Logan brake on the Nami Burn-E 2 Max
Hydraulic Logan brake on the Nami Burn-E 2 Max

Unlike mechanical disc brakes, which rely on a cable, fully hydraulic brakes use the force of pressurized fluid (brake oil, mineral oil) to activate the brakes. When you pull the lever, it pressurizes internal brake fluid to engage the calipers and brake pads. This results in more immediate and stronger braking that feels smoother and requires less lever force.

Pros

  • Strongest braking power
  • Precise and consistent braking
  • Requires less lever force than mechanical alternatives
  • Self-adjusting nature reduces maintenance frequency

Cons

  • The most expensive braking system
  • Most difficult to service and repair

Suitable for: High-performance electric scooters, especially those designed for high speeds or off-road use. Ideal for riders seeking the best in safety and control and don't mind paying extra for it.

Semi-Hydraulic Brakes

Semi-hydraulic brakes are a blend of mechanical and hydraulic braking systems. They offer a middle ground in terms of performance and cost. Semi-hydraulic brakes use a mechanical cable with hydraulic calipers. When pulled, the cable activates the hydraulic mechanism in the calipers, which presses the brake pads against the disc (rotor).

Pros

  • Better braking performance than purely mechanical
  • Easier to install and maintain than fully-hydraulic systems
  • Cheaper than fully hydraulic brakes

Cons

  • Not as powerful as fully hydraulic brakes
  • May require more maintenance due to the presence of cables

Suitable for: Riders who want an upgrade from mechanical brakes but aren't ready for the complexity or cost of fully hydraulic systems.

Brake Position: Front, Rear, or Dual?

Single vs Dual brakes on electric scooters

Electric scooters come with different braking options – front, rear, or both – each has its own advantages and ideal use cases.

Single vs. Dual Brakes

Almost all electric scooters have at least one mechanical brake system, while more powerful models have two.

Single brake systems are typically found on single-motor electric scooters with top speeds under 25 MPH. With limited motor power, you don't need as much stopping force. Single brake systems often combine with an electronic brake to increase stopping power.

The main benefit of a single brake system is that it's cost-effective and requires less maintenance. There's no need to tame a 20 MPH scooter with dual-hydraulic disc brakes when a single mechanical disc and regen brake can do the job.

However, while single brake systems are practical, they should be limited to electric scooters under 25 MPH or with a single motor. Dual motor scooters accelerate notably faster, calling for more stopping power.

Dual brake systems are seen across the market (even in 20 MPH models like the KQi3 Pro), but they're mainly used on models that go faster than 25 MPH. The faster you're riding, the longer it takes to stop, so to allow for emergency stops, dual brakes are called for.

Dual brakes are often accompanied by electronic braking as well for increased strength and regen properties. They're much more performant than single brake setups but add weight and require more maintenance.

So, should I look for a scooter with single or dual brakes?

Single brake systems are suitable for casual, low-speed riding on single-motor scooters below 25 MPH. Dual brake systems are the go-to choice for enhanced safety and performance, especially in more demanding riding scenarios and on dual motor scooters above 25 MPH.

Front vs. Rear Brakes

Many low-powered electric scooters come with just one mechanical brake, usually on the wheel opposite the motor. So, scooters with a motor in the rear wheel often have a front brake, while those with a front-wheel motor have a rear brake.

Front brakes offer more stopping power than rear brakes as they are located ahead of the center of gravity. However, the superior braking force comes at the expense of control and smoothness. Front brakes need to be applied carefully to avoid tipping the scooter, especially in emergency situations.

Rear brakes offer smoother and more controlled slowing. They reduce the chance of skidding and throwing the rider over the handlebar but generally have a longer stopping distance. They are preferred in less aggressive stopping scenarios with gradual deceleration and are generally easier to use, but they don't deliver as much performance in emergencies.

So, should I look for a scooter with a front or rear brake?

If you're a beginner choosing a scooter with a top speed between 15-18 MPH, a single rear brake is sufficient. However, if you have experience operating e-scooter brakes and know how to shift your weight properly, front brakes are ideal for their increased stopping power. On scooters close to 25 MPH, a front brake is always preferred.

Tip

Practice braking in a closed, safe environment to get comfortable with your scooter's brakes before taking it into traffic. Start by practicing gradual braking; once comfortable, practice emergency braking situations. Don't forget safety gear.

Which Factors Affect Braking Performance?

How effective your electric scooter brakes are depends on several key factors.

Rotor Size & Design

Exclusive to disc brakes, rotor size, and design play a crucial role in braking efficiency.

Rotor Size

Larger rotors provide better leverage, which results in stronger braking. Braking torque is directly proportional to the rotor's radius. As the radius increases, so does the torque, enhancing the scooter's ability to stop more quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, larger rotors offer better heat dissipation. During braking, friction generates heat, and larger rotors have more surface area to dissipate this heat, reducing the risk of brake fade. This is especially important in high-speed or downhill riding conditions where brakes are used more frequently and aggressively.

With a larger friction surface, large rotors wear out more slowly, leading to longer-lasting brakes. This means fewer replacements and less maintenance over time.

Rotor size is typically measured by diameter from edge to edge (in millimeters). The size is sometimes engraved into the rotor.

  • Entry-level electric scooters with discs typically have 120mm rotors.
  • More performance-oriented scooters often have 140mm rotors.
  • High-performance models typically have 160mm rotors.

Rotor Design

Most disc brake rotors have slots or holes that enhance braking performance. First, it further helps to dissipate heat but also disperses water and dirt so it doesn't build up between the brake pads and rotor. It also gives the brakes a stronger bite during initial braking.

Some rotors may favor more hollow designs for their water dispersion, heat dissipation, and cut-in weight, while others may be more densely designed, favoring longevity.

Tires

Your tires arguably have the biggest effect on braking performance out of all the factors mentioned.

Tire Type

Pneumatic tires (when inflated properly) provide better braking performance than solid tires as they provide more traction and grip on the road, thanks to their flexible construction. The only thing that speaks in favor of solid tires is their practicality in being virtually maintenance-free until the tread is worn down.

Tire Tread

Tire tread directly affects how well your electric scooter grips the road. There are three tread categories in the electric scooter space.

  • Street tread: Shallow and smooth tread patterns. They have less grip than hybrid and off-road tires but are smoother, less noisy, and have better longevity on dry urban roads.
  • Hybrid tread: Hybrid tires strike a midground between street and off-road usage, balancing their strengths and weaknesses. Hybrid tires handle wet roads better and work well for hardpacked trails, light terrain, and poor city roads.
  • Off-road tread: Has deeper, more pronounced tread for a strong grip on uneven surfaces. However, they typically wear faster, and their braking performance on smooth, dry pavement may be worse than street tires due to the larger and more spaced-out tread blocks.

The tire tread wears down with usage. At a certain point, this affects performance, resulting in poor grip and increased braking distance. It is crucial to keep an eye on tire health and change the tire when the tread starts disappearing.

Tip

It's time to change your electric scooter's tire when visible signs of wear appear. This includes cracks and worn or bald tread. If you notice a significant drop in braking performance that cannot be attributed to the brake system itself, it may also be time for a change. If you are unsure, reach out to the manufacturer for a recommended minimum tread depth to see if you're below that.

The vast majority of electric scooters under $1,500 use street tires exclusively. We start to see hybrid options around $2,000 while pure off-road tires remain rare or "add-ons" for more niche scooters.

Tire Size

Larger and wider tires provide better grip and traction, thanks to their bigger contact surface with the road. With a stronger grip, the risk of hydroplaning is also decreased.

However, they're heavier and may not accelerate as fast as smaller tires. For safe braking in the rain, we recommend that you have 9" pneumatic tires at the very least (preferably 10").

Weather Conditions

Electric scooter from the rental company Voi outside in the snow at night with street lights

Weather conditions can have a huge impact on how well electric scooter brakes work:

  • Wet Conditions: Rain or damp surfaces lower tire grip, making it harder to stop quickly. Dirt, dust, and water may stick to the rotor and brake pads, causing uneven contact and premature wear.
  • Cold Temperatures: Cold weather can harden tires and promote air leaks around the rim, reducing traction.
  • Hot Conditions: Exceedingly high temperatures combined with strong continual braking may cause brake fade. Brake fade creates a film between the rotor and pads, which decreases friction and, in turn, increases stopping distances.
  • Snow and Ice: These are the trickiest conditions, as snow and ice greatly reduce tire grip on the road and increase the risk of skidding. Gentle braking is key here to stay safe.

Scooter Weight & Load

Heavier scooters and loads need more stopping force due to increased momentum, resulting in longer stopping distances.

A lightweight scooter with a light rider stops faster than a heavy-loaded one despite having the same brakes. This difference is more noticeable at high speeds or when emergency braking, where stopping distances can increase by up to 30% in our tests.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you plan to carry a lot of cargo or weigh more than 230 lbs, put an emphasis on stopping power in your buying decision.

Speed

The faster an electric scooter is going, the more braking force is needed to counteract your momentum. With longer braking distances, you need to start braking earlier. This is why high-speed scooters need dual brake systems to match their increased motor power.

As mentioned before, anything above 25 MPH or with two motors calls for a mechanical dual brake setup for emergency situations.

How to Brake Properly on Your Electric Scooter

Learning how to brake correctly is important for both your safety and the longevity of your scooter.

  1. Adopt a Stable Stance:
    Position one foot behind the other, a full foot length apart if possible. This allows for better stability and weight shifting during braking.
  2. Bend Your Knees:
    Slightly bending your knees improves control and lowers your center of gravity. This reduces the risk of tipping forward.
  3. Apply the Brakes:
    - If you have dual brakes, use the 70/30 rule (apply 70% braking force to the front and 30% to the rear). This distribution compensates for the forward weight shift during braking, preventing the rear tire from lifting.

    - If you have a single front brake, try to brake early and gradually, as there is no rear brake to counteract the forward momentum.

    - If you have a single rear brake, also brake steadily and early. You don't want the tire to lock up or lose traction.
  4. Shift Your Weight Backward:
    Lean back while braking to keep the rear wheel grounded and maintain traction.
  5. Brake Gradually:
    Brake smoothly, especially downhill, for safer stops. Look ahead, anticipate braking points, and slow down accordingly.
Tip

Familiarize yourself with your scooter's braking setup. Practice braking in a closed, safe environment to get comfortable with your scooter's brakes before taking it into traffic.

Start by practicing gradual braking; once comfortable, practice emergency braking situations. Don't forget safety gear.

Electric Scooter Brake Maintenance

Electric scooter brakes require occasional maintenance for optimal performance and safety. Here are a few easy tips to keep your scooter's brakes sharp.

Inspect the Scooter Before Every Ride

We highly recommend conducting a visual and physical brake inspection before every ride. If there are any signs of visible wear, it's time to replace the affected parts.

  1. Check the brake pads to see if they have cracks or significant thinning.
  2. Test the brake levers for responsiveness; they should feel firm, not spongy or loose.
  3. Inspect the brake calipers for any visible misalignment.
  4. Check if the rotor is warped or bent (disc brakes only).
  5. Listen for any drag or rubbing between the rotor and brake pads, hinting at a misalignment (disc brakes only).

The most important thing is to test the brake's performance on every ride before blending into traffic. If something feels or sounds wrong, or if braking performance has significantly dropped, chances are there is an underlying issue that needs your attention.

How To Align Brake Pads

To align brake pads on an electric scooter disc brake:

  1. Loosen the caliper bolt(s) until the caliper moves freely.
  2. Squeeze the brake lever to press the pads against the rotor.
  3. While holding the brake lever, tighten the caliper bolt(s) again.
  4. Release the lever and spin the wheel to check for rubbing.
  5. If rubbing persists, repeat the process or adjust the caliper's position until it spins freely without dragging.

How To Replace Brake Pads

It's time to replace your brake pads if you notice cracks, deep thinning, or uneven wear. If you notice a drop in performance that persists despite ruling out other possible causes, it is also time to change pads. The process depends on the caliper design on your brake.

Calipers with Retaining Pin

Many calipers use a simple retaining pin to hold the brake pads in place. These can be accessed by unbending the pin with pliers. To avoid putting unnecessary strain on the rotor, loosen the brake cable on the caliper first. You can now freely remove the pads, give them a thorough cleaning, or replace them.

Make sure to reinsert the retaining pin through the pad holes and secure it by bending the end again.

Calipers Requiring Removal

Other caliper designs may require a full removal to access and replace the pads. While this requires a bit more effort, it's a good excuse to give the entire caliper setup a thorough clean.

First, remove the bolt(s) that hold the caliper in place on the scooter's frame and/or fork/swingarm. Next, loosen the bolt that holds the brake cable and detach it completely so the caliper is no longer connected to the scooter. Remove the calipers and replace them with new ones. Optionally, give the caliper a deep cleaning.

How to Clean Electric Scooter Brakes

Regular cleaning will maintain optimal brake performance and extend the life of components. While it isn't as fun as riding, it may save you both time and money down the line. Here's how:

  1. Safely place your scooter on a box or stand so you have easy access to the brakes and can spin the wheels freely.
  2. Use a soft brush to gently remove dirt, dust, or debris from the caliper, rotor, brake pads, and the rest of the assembly.
  3. For tougher grime, apply a brake cleaner spray or de-greaser. Avoid oil-based products as they may negatively impact braking performance.
  4. After applying the cleaner, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe off the residue. If your scooter is properly protected against water, you may also add a bit of water to the brush as needed.
  5. Let the brake components dry off thoroughly in a ventilated space before using the scooter.
Tip

For a deep clean, you can disassemble part of the brake setup. We recommend taking off the caliper as it'll give you easy access to the brake pad slots, and it is relatively easy to reassemble. While the caliper is off, you have full access to the rotor too.

Electric Scooter Brakes: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Upgrade the Brakes on my Electric Scooter?

Depending on the brake type, you may or may not be able to upgrade them.

Disc and friction brakes can be replaced or upgraded with some DIY skill, as their parts are external. Ensure the new parts fit your scooter before moving forward.

Drum brakes are extremely difficult to replace. Most key components are inside the drum, so it often requires a complete wheel disassembly to access components. Drum brake upgrades are best left to professionals.

Electronic regen brakes are integrated into the motor and are often controlled by software. They are typically not upgradeable or replaceable.

Which Electric Scooter Brake Type is Best?

The ideal brake type for electric scooters depends on their specific use:

  • Disc Brakes: Offer the most power but need more maintenance.
  • Drum Brakes: Provide good stopping power with less upkeep.
  • Electronic (Regenerative) Brakes: Great as an addition to mechanical brakes.
  • Foot (Friction) Brakes: Suitable as a secondary, low-power brake option but not strong enough alone.

Each type has its advantages, catering to different needs and preferences in scooter braking.

Mechanical vs. Electronic Brakes - Which Are Best?

Mechanical brakes are more powerful and reliable than electronic brakes. They'll still work if the scooter's power cuts out, unlike electronic brakes.

Mechanical brakes are generally seen as the best primary system, but electronic brakes are good as a secondary system to increase stopping power and for energy recovery.

Is It Safe to Use Only the Electronic Brake on My Scooter?

No, relying solely on an electronic brake is not recommended. Some portable models use it alongside a friction brake, but electronic brakes alone lack sufficient stopping power. Also, if the scooter's power cuts out, the electronic brake won't work.

Why are My Disc Brakes Squeaking?

Disc brake noise is commonly caused by dirt, misaligned or worn pads, or a bent rotor. They may also squeak temporarily when wet, which doesn't necessarily indicate a problem, although it can diminish performance.

Start by cleaning your brakes and check if the pads are worn or misaligned. If that doesn't solve your issue, check to see if the rotor is bent.

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Rasmus is the founder of ERideHero. Through half a decade, he has tested more than 110 electric rides across more than 6,400 miles. He handles the review process, content creation, and all things web and video.