How the Braking System Works: The Basics

How the Braking System Works

How can a light tap on your car’s brake pedal slow a speeding car to an abrupt stop? They might not be something you think about every day but brakes are an integral part of your vehicle. In this article, we’ll walk through the basics of the braking system to explain how.

How It Works

A moving car has a lot of kinetic energy. To bring your vehicle to a stop the brakes convert that kinetic energy into heat using friction.

Brake rotors, also called brake discs, clamp down on the brake pads to stop the wheels from spinning. The pads on the insides of each rotor and smaller pistons inside the caliper push the pads on either side of the wheel as they squeeze the rotor. (Some cars have multiple pistons inside one caliper.) The rubbing of the brake pad against the brake disc generates friction, which converts kinetic energy into heat in the brake pad.

Most modern cars have brakes on all four wheels, operated by a hydraulic system. When you press the brake pedal, the connected lever pushes a piston into the master cylinder. This sends the hydraulic fluid from the master cylinder into a system of pipes, and then into other wider cylinders positioned next to the brakes on each wheel.

How much heat do brakes generate?

Stopping a speeding car can heat the brakes to 950º F or more. To withstand such heat, brake pads must be made of special materials that won’t melt at such high temperatures. Some of those special materials include composites, alloys, and ceramics.

The front brakes play a greater part in stopping the car than the rear ones because braking throws the car weight forward onto the front wheels. Many cars have disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. Read more about each type of break in our next article.

At V&F

At V&F, we offer Brake Repair & Antilock Braking System (ABS) Repair. Our expert mechanics use the latest diagnostic equipment and high-quality CARQUEST auto parts to make sure we get the job done right. Plus, our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3-year / 36,000-mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.

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Written by Nicole Palange