Parts of a braking system:

Brake rotor or also known as a disc.
Brake pads
Drum
Brake shoes
Caliper
Brake fluid

On your car you will have either 4 wheel disc or two wheel disc on the front and drums on the rear. 
 
On a disc braking system you will have a calliper and the brake pads sit inside of it and they act as a clamp on the rotor when you put the brakes on.  This is how you wear your pads and rotors out. 

Drum brakes are only found on the rear of a vehicle and the shoes will sit inside of the drum.  When you put your foot on the brake the shoes push out onto the drum and this is how you slow down.

How you drive your vehicle will impact your quickly you wear your brakes out.  If you drive in stop and go traffic or are a heavy braker you will wear them out quicker than a person who does a lot of highway/long distance driving.  A person who anticipates stops by just letting up on the gas pedal will also get longer brake life.

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