How do your car’s brakes work exactly?

Published on

September 27, 2021

School is back in session, which may mean your vehicle will be busy with lots of short trips and after-school activities.  Or perhaps you are sending your child off to college. No matter what, back-to-school is busy for everyone, and now is the perfect time to make sure your car is at the top of its class.

Many people place a lot of importance on having a car that has some get up and go. However, a vehicle’s ability to stop is even more essential. Your car’s braking system can save your life and the lives of others.

What Happens When You Step on the Brakes? Let’s take a look!

Braking System Parts

Most of today’s cars have disc brakes, which consist of these main parts:

Rotors – Metal discs rotates attached to the wheel hub that rotates with the tire

Brake pads – Lined metal parts that push into the rotors to create the friction necessary to slow and stop the vehicle

Pistons – Cylinders powered by hydraulic fluid that move the brake pads into the rotor

Calipers – Housings that fits over the rotor, holding the pistons and brake pads in place

How Do They Work Together?

When you step on your brake pedal, hydraulic fluid is released into your car’s brake lines, the tubes that carry the fluid to your brakes. The hydraulic fluid transfers the pressure from your foot on the pedal to the pistons in the brake caliper, forcing the brake pads to push against the rotors. The friction produced slows the wheels’ rotation, decreasing your car’s

speed and allowing you to bring it to a stop. The harder you push on your brake pedal, the more pressure the brake pads will place on the rotors, and the faster your car will come to a halt.

How Can You Tell if Something’s Wrong With Your Brakes?

Over time, the heat and stress generated when braking causes some braking system components to wear out. Symptoms of possible brake problems include:

Squealing or grinding sound—The material around brake pads wears away eventually, causing a metal wear indicator within the pad to rub against the rotor. The effect is a not-so-pleasant, high-pitched squealing sound. When this auditory assault begins, it’s usually time to replace the brake pads.

Unusual soft and spongy feeling—If your brake pedal feels “off”—with a sort of lowness or

sponginess when you press it with your foot— it could be a sign that you have a leak in the hydraulic system or contaminated brake fluid.

Shakiness—A pulsating or shaky brake pedal may indicate that your brake’s rotors have warped and need to be replaced.

Other warning signs that your brakes may need servicing are:

• You feel your car pulling to one side when you hit the brake pedal.

• You need to pump brakes to make them work.

• You notice brake fluid leaking around your wheels.

• Your braking system warning light turns on.

How Should You Care for Your Brakes?

Your car’s manual should have a recommended brake maintenance schedule. The frequency of how often parts need to be repaired or replaced will depend on your vehicle’s make and model, your driving habits, and the condition of your car’s tires.

Generally, a car’s brake pads will need to be replaced after approximately 50,000 miles, but keep in mind some may wear out sooner. Brake rotors usually last between 30,000

to 70,000 miles. Brake fluid, the lifeblood of your braking system, should be checked at least once each year. Calipers and pistons—unless they are damaged in an accident or experience a mechanical problem—will usually last your vehicle’s lifetime.

Don’t Take Your Brakes for Granted.

Well-maintained brakes can go miles toward ensuring your safety when driving. If you have questions about getting your car’s brake system on a maintenance schedule or if you’ve noticed that your brakes aren’t working the way they should, give Quality Tune-Up a call!

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