How Exactly Do Car Brakes Work?

Your car’s most critical safety feature is its braking system. Even if you’re not a technician, learning how brakes work can be extremely beneficial to you. Every driver must understand how their braking system functions—that’s where we come in! In this article, we will be going over how exactly car brakes work to ensure learning about them benefits you in the long run.

How do car brakes work?

Studying the design and mechanics of how a car’s brakes work can be pretty fascinating. A hydraulic brake system controls the brakes on each of the four wheels of modern vehicles. It’s awe-inspiring to think about how quickly an automobile that weighs thousands of pounds can be brought to a halt by simply applying pressure to the brake pedal. Pressing the brake pedal transfers force directly from the driver’s foot to the vehicle’s brakes via fluid transmission. Brakes require more force than can be delivered with the foot, though. 

Due to this, the vehicle must increase the force of the foot using a hydraulic force multiplier or leverage made with a mechanical advantage. Friction transfers force from the brake to the wheels. For this reason, front brakes are considered more crucial than rear brakes because when the vehicle slows, the weight shifts to the front end. 

Many premium and luxury cars have disc brakes on all four wheels, not just on the front. They also rely on friction in order to transfer energy from their tyres to the road. Therefore, front disc brakes are commonly employed due to their high effectiveness. Drum brakes, on the other hand, are more commonly seen on the rear wheels of vehicles. 

  1. Hydraulics

Hydraulic brake systems are the most common in automobiles. Brake cylinders are connected to each other by brake pipes that receive fluid from the hydraulic brake circuit. The metal rod connecting to the brake pedal acts on a piston inside the master cylinder when you press the brake pedal. The master cylinder’s piston compresses the brake fluid, increasing the pressure in the brake system. The brake lines convey this pressure, which is what’s needed to get the car’s brakes to work. The more force used on the pedal, the greater the braking power. 

Fluid is forced through hydraulic lines to one or more calliper pistons, which subsequently exert force on your car’s brake pads. This increases the pressure in the system. When the brakes are applied hard, the back wheels lift a lot of weight and lock up, leading to a skid and jeopardising the driver’s life. Due to that, the brakes in the back of the car are intentionally less strong than those in the front. A pressure-limiting valve that is load-sensitive is standard on most cars. It closes when heavy braking elevates hydraulic pressure so much that it prevents fluid flow to the back brakes. 

Fortunately, most modern cars are equipped with sophisticated anti-locking brake systems that apply and release the brakes repeatedly and quickly to keep them from locking. Two hydraulic circuits and two master cylinders are standard in most current automobiles. This system is designed to work in the case one of its two cylinders or circuits fails. The circuit can handle the front brakes while the other works the rear brakes in specific scenarios. Instead, each circuit can operate both front and rear brakes. Some braking systems are intended to run all four brakes using a single circuit. The brake pedal, brake master cylinder, wheel cylinders, brake boosters, and brake pipes are all parts of a hydraulic braking system.

  1. Callipers

The calliper, which is like a gigantic clamp, is located behind each of your car’s wheels as part of the braking system. The callipers generate clamping force when pressure is applied to the brake fluid and the brake lines. You can slow or stop your vehicle by using this clamping motion that forces the brake pads into contact with the rotor and generates the necessary friction. When you apply the brakes, the increased hydraulic pressure is conveyed to the callipers via the braking fluid in the lines.

As a result of the callipers clamping, friction is created, and your car comes to a halt. Older cars may have braking drums instead of callipers, which can be a problem. Despite their differences, brake drums and callipers perform the same function: converting hydraulic pressure into friction that stops the car.

  1. Friction

When two objects come into contact with each other, there is a lot of friction. Newton’s first law of motion is critical to the operation of a vehicle’s brakes. The force needed to move an object is inversely proportional to its mass. Friction is more challenging to achieve as an object’s mass increases. The question is, though, how exactly does it work? 

Once you’re familiar with the brake pads and rotors (also known as discs), learning the rest is easy. Brake pads are metal plates with a particular slab of friction material bonded to them. On each side of the calliper are two brake pads, one on each side. This means that the friction surfaces of both brake pads face each other when they are fitted in callipers. Brake rotors are designed to fit between the two slabs of brake pads to ensure that friction can occur. 

This metal disc is bolted to your car’s wheels and revolves at the same rate as the wheels themselves. Braking pads fitted in the calliper allow it to slide over the rotating brake rotor. The brake rotor rotates with the smooth, spinning surface of the braking rotor just slightly above the smooth, rotating brake pad surfaces. Brake friction is formed when the brake pad is pressed on the rotating disc of an automobile’s disc brake. 

More force applied to the brake pad results in a more substantial stopping power. In the case of sliding surfaces, the amount of pressure required to bring the vehicle to a halt is given by the coefficient of static friction (CF). The coefficient of dynamic friction in a car tyre is much smaller than the coefficient of static friction in this case. This indicates that the vehicle tyre provides the highest traction when the contact patch does not move relative to the ground. 

How to properly maintain of your brakes

  1. Have your brake pads and rotors checked

Check on your brakes and brake pads at least once a year. When your brake pads and tyres come into regular contact, heat is generated, leading to brake pad degradation. A burnt rubber smell or the need to apply more pressure to your brakes are signs that your pads and rotors need to be checked out. You should have them replaced if they’re worn out. The depth of the brake pads should also be checked to verify that they will provide enough resistance while driving. 

  1. Replace your brake fluid

As a conduit connecting your pedal and rotor, brake fluid is critical to your braking system’s effectiveness. Your brake fluid should be flushed out if it appears to be dark in colour. The master cylinder, brake lines, and callipers send the pressure to the brake pads and rotors when you press the brake pedal. 

  1. Bleed your brake lines

Additionally, it’s a good idea to bleed the brake lines to eliminate any air that may be trapped in the lines. The braking system’s effectiveness can be harmed if even a little air is trapped inside the brake line. Every two to three years, the bleeder valve should be opened and the brake pedal depressed to remove the air from the brake lines by adjusting the bleeder valve.

  1. Proper care and prevention of damage

Proper maintenance and taking care of your brakes is essential. You may need to replace some of the components in your braking system, which is an excellent opportunity to upgrade to more powerful or specialised parts. Invest in high-quality, long-lasting brakes. You’ll get more value for your money in the long run, even if it means paying a little more now. Additionally, as part of proper brake maintenance, it is essential to avoid scenarios leading to brake deterioration. A few examples are avoiding driving in rain and ice, not hauling too much load or goods, and being attentive to your driving to prevent sluggish acceleration and sudden braking. For this reason, it is important to limit these acts to take better care of your brakes and, most importantly, your vehicle.


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