HOW BRAKES IN YOUR CAR WORK
How do brakes work in your car? Thank the modern vehicle braking system if you’ve ever narrowly avoided a collision by stopping just short. They’ve come a long way over the decades, and now the best are capable of destroying even large trucks on a dime. But as advanced as they’ve become, the same essential parts are always in play. So let’s talk about brakes!
TYPES OF BRAKES
There are many kinds of brake systems in use today. Most brakes are frictional systems that stop your vehicle by creating resistance against a moving or rotating mechanism. You may be familiar with other standard brakes, including brakes you see on most bicycles and band brakes used inside appliances like dryers. Band brakes are like rubber bands wrapped around a wheel, and the rubber band tightens to slow rotation; caliper brakes, not unlike disc brakes in most cars, pinch the sides of a rotating mechanism to delay it, but differently.
There are other types of brakes, too, including drum brakes which are most commonly used for rear wheels, but we’re going to focus on the front disc brakes widely known in most cars. Keeping that in mind, let’s learn about auto brakes!
ESSENTIAL PARTS OF A DISC BRAKE SYSTEM
To keep things simple, the primary parts of the brakes are the pad, the disc rotor, and the caliper. The place which goes over the brake disc is slowed and pressed by hydraulic pressure from the brake pedal. Finally, the housing is apparent: it holds everything together and joins the piston. But let’s go into detail about the other parts.
The caliper looks like a clamp over the brake disc (or brake rotor). It holds the brake pads used to squeeze the disc brake to slow it. Calipers tend to last a long time if there’s no serious accident. However, a caliper replacement can become necessary after a severe incident or if a replacement brake system is installed.
THE BRAKE DISC
The brake disc, aka disc rotor, is the spinning mechanism that needs to be slowed by friction to stop your vehicle. It’s located behind the wheel and is “pinched” by the brake pads to reduce motion to a stop.
THE BRAKE PADS
The brake pads are between the caliper and on either side of the brake disc. Brake pads are pushed against the brake disc by fluid pressure from the brake lines. That’s why if someone in a movie gets their brake lines cut, they can’t brake anymore: the brake system lacks fluid pressure from the brake lines required to squeeze the brake pads against the brake disc/rotor.
If ever you suspect any of these parts are faulty or worn, or you need brake line repair, please see a brake repair technician immediately.
ESSENTIAL PHYSICS OF BRAKING
Found an internal leak on a master cylinder
Without getting too bogged down in complex math and other concepts best left to nerds, the core idea behind most brakes is that they use friction to cause resistance to slow and stop something. That resistance converts the motion energy into heat (or even electricity), and that heat dissipates into the surrounding environment (usually the brakes and the air).
Rather than use metal-on-metal friction, brake pads use specialized composite materials to cause the perfect amount of friction while dissipating heat. The need to control the spread of heat is such that asbestos is commonly used in some brake pads for its heat-resistant properties, even though it’s traditionally treated as unsafe for human contact. Without controlling heat, it’s possible the brake housing could become warped which would reduce efficiency and potentially cause damage.
Some brakes, called “regenerative braking” systems, can power electronics by converting the friction from the braking system into electrical energy. This can then be stored in a battery for later use to improve mileage in an electric car, for example, or to power auxiliary systems like your car’s air conditioner or stereo.
MAKING BRAKING BETTER
There are many ways to improve car brakes’ responsiveness, either by technology or performance parts. For example, Anti-lock Braking Systems have been standard in vehicles since the 1970s. ABS keeps the wheels from locking during braking, which improves control. Today, even advanced computer systems can help prevent accidents by braking automatically. You can learn more about them in our “Autonomous Cars Are The Future” article.
One of the easiest ways to improve braking- especially in an old car with bad brakes- is brake pad replacement. It takes some work, but you’ll probably notice the difference immediately. You can also buy performance brake systems with specialized calipers and disc rotors that are much stronger. These are often found in sports cars and other performance vehicles that need quality brakes in emergencies.
Regardless of the type or quality of your brakes, know that they’re always there to keep you safe as long as you keep your brakes repaired and inspections up. Never put yourself or others at risk by using old, worn, or damaged brakes. We provide FREE brake inspections with oil changes and other services.
BRAKE HELP NEAR ME
Whether you have squeaky brakes, need brake fluid changed, want brake pad repair, or you’re just looking for cheap break service near you, you can trust Tedious Repairs to get the job done. Call ahead for a quote on brake service cost and we’ll be happy to help. We can also help you find the perfect brake system for your vehicle, and then do the brake installation for you!
We fix squeaky brakes! We also do brake rotor repair, caliper replacement, brake flushes, and more. To learn the essential criteria for a great brake shop, click here!
CALL TEDIOUS REPAIRS FOR BRAKE REPAIR SERVICE
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Buddy started his auto career journey at Butte College and started his own auto repair company in 2007. Since then he has worked on countless cars, diagnosing, repairing, and replacing worn, faulty, and broken parts.
After a few years, he moved to a bigger shop to accommodate his growth and to better serve the Chico, CA community. It’s a family-owned & operated business.
Outside of work Buddy enjoys spending time with his family and playing softball is one of his many passions.