Whenever we get behind the wheel of our car, we rely on our brakes to work properly, especially when we need to stop.We need them to function at a stop sign, traffic light, or in an emergency – think deer or a pedestrian. We know why we want them to work, but do we know how they work? If you’re a curious George like I am, I have it broken down for you, from the fluid to the squeak. Here is the complete 411 on brakes.
The Complete 411 On Brakes
How do brakes work?
Brakes use hydraulics: a system of fluid-filled pipes that can multiply force and transmit it easily from one place to another.
- When you press on the brake pedal, your foot moves a lever that forces a piston into a long, narrow cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid.
- As the piston plunges into the cylinder, it squirts hydraulic fluid out through a long and narrow pipe at the end (much like squirting a syringe).
- The narrow pipe feeds into much wider cylinders positioned next to the car’s four brakes.
- Because the cylinders near the brakes are much wider than the one near the brake pedal, the force you originally applied is multiplied greatly, clamping the brakes hard to the wheels.
So that’s the theory of how brakes work. This is how they ACTUALLY work.
- Your foot pushes on the brake pedal.
- As the pedal moves down, it pushes a class 2 lever (a kind of simple machine), increasing your pushing force.
- The lever pushes a piston (blue) into a narrow cylinder filled with hydraulic brake fluid (red).
- As the piston moves into the cylinder, it squeezes hydraulic fluid out of the end (like a bicycle pump squeezes out air).
- The brake fluid squirts down a long, thin pipe until it reaches another cylinder at the wheel, which is much wider.
- When the fluid enters the cylinder, it pushes the piston in the wider cylinder (blue) with greatly increased force.
- The piston pushes the brake pad (green) toward the brake disc (gray).
- When the brake pad touches the brake disc, friction between the two generates heat (red cloud).
- The friction slows down the outer wheel and tire, stopping the car (More information can be found on Explainthatstuff.com)
Is Brake Fluid Really Important?
Did you read any of the above? Well, the answer is yes! Brake fluid is an essential part of keeping your brake system functioning properly. You should always be sure that your car has an adequate amount of brake fluid. It’s this fluid that pushes the brake pads against your car rotors when you apply pressure to your brake pedal. It’s also important to note that brake fluids in your car can become contaminated by debris, sludge, moisture and air over time. It’s recommended that you have a “brake flush” done by a trusted mechanic at every oil change, or every 15,000-20,000 miles at the very least.
Why do brakes squeak?
Generally, when your brakes start squeaking, it’s a sign that the pads are becoming worn or are on too tight. They will loosen up as you drive. If it still sounds weird or your car isn’t braking properly take them back to the servicer to get them checked.
If ever you notice that your brakes are beginning to not function properly, or that they are making a noise when you push down on the brake pedal… have them maintenanced immediately. A simple repair could go a very long way in keeping you, your family, and others on the road safe.
If you have more questions regarding your breaks give our partner, Fitzgerald Auto Mall a call or visit, and have the experts check them out.