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How Do Brakes Work?

Most people don’t think about their vehicles’ brake systems unless something goes wrong. AutoFix wants to change that because the brake system is an amazing feat in mechanical engineering. It’s good to know how your brakes work because you understand better the importance of maintaining it. Plus, it’s a fun science lesson for your kids. You can explain how the brakes stop your car while they do it.

Brake System Components

First things first, though. Your brake system is made up of numerous parts that work together to stop your vehicle when you press on the brake pedal. Knowing what these parts are helps you understand how they work together to perform their crucial safety function. Your brake system is made up of the

  • ABS Pump (for those with anti-lock brakes): Distributes brake fluid and controls the anti-lock brake action of pumping the brakes on and off quickly when one or more wheels lock
  • Calipers: Activate hydraulic pistons that press the brake pads into the discs
  • Discs: The friction surface against which brake pads press against
  • Drums (uncommon in newer mid-sized-to-large vehicles): Housing in which the pads or shoes are stored in the rear wheels and the inner edge they press against to slow a vehicle
  • Master Cylinder: Converts pressure on the brake pedal into hydraulic pressure and stores brake fluid to push through brake lines
  • Pads: Provides heat-resistant friction against the discs
  • Pipes, Lines, or Hoses: The vessel through which brake fluid is transferred from the master cylinder to the calipers
  • Servo (aka Booster): Increases brake pedal force through a vacuum or hydraulic pump, i.e. power brakes

All of these parts slow and stop your car, truck or SUV. If you have an ABS braking system, and most vehicles do now, this system also prevents you from losing control of your vehicle if you slam on the brakes to avoid a hazard and your wheels lock.

How Brake Parts Work Together to Stop Your Car

Imagine you’re approaching a stop sign and you press down gently on your brake pedal. In both standard and power brakes, you’ve just engaged a mechanic lever in the brake pedal assembly. For those with power brakes, the servo boosts the force generated by your leg, which makes it easier for you to brake. The master cylinder takes your foot pressure and converts it into hydraulic energy.

This hydraulic pressure pushes brake fluid from the master cylinder into the brake lines. The brake lines bleed the fluid, if you will, into small pistons in the brake calipers. The calipers then press the brake pads into the disc and drums (if your vehicle has rear-wheel drums) which slows down your automobile. Eventually, the continued slowing motion caused by the brake system stops the vehicle.

There you go. That’s how your brake system works. For brake service and repair, call AutoFix today. We’re located in Franklin, TN.

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