The car brake system has one critical job. Its main purpose is to allow the driver to slow down or stop the vehicle.
Each time you step on the brake pedal, the speed of the spinning wheels underneath your vehicle is reduced proportionately to how much pressure you apply to the pedal. A vehicle will have either a disc braking system or drum braking system to create the necessary friction for this to take place.
Modern car brake systems are referred to as power brake systems. These systems use hydraulic technology and fluids to make braking so much easier for drivers. Power braking allows you to apply just a little bit of pressure to the brake pedal in order for the vehicle to slow down.
This is much better than the traditional brake systems where you had to step hard on the brake pedal just to slow it down to a stop. In emergency situations, you’ll be glad to have power brakes with hydraulics.
In the classic mechanical brake system, there was a cable which connected the brake pedal and brake shoe assembly together. When the driver stepped on the brake pedal, it pulled on the cable and allowed the brake drum spinning to slow down.
When the disc braking system was invented, the disc was used instead of the drum. Then as computer technology got more advanced, the power brake system took over and eliminated the need for the cable.
Parts of a Car Brake System
Below is a list of the components of a car brake system. We have included both the components of the disc and drum brake systems. Remember that cars only have one or the other, but not both together.
1. Master Cylinder
There are really 2 individual cylinders in a single unit. Each cylinder manages the braking ability of the 2 front wheels. That way, if one cylinder fails, the other cylinder can still slow down the wheels.
The master cylinder works by managing the amount of hydraulic pressure that is placed on the hydraulic fluids. More pressure means a faster ability to slow down the vehicle.
2. Brake Rotor (disc brakes)
Each wheel has a brake rotor which spins while the vehicle is moving. The brake pad and caliper rub against the rotar and create the necessary friction to slow down the disc. This, in turn, slows down the wheel and vehicle.
3. Brake Drum (drum brakes)
The brake drum is the alternative to a brake rotor when you have a drum brake system. As the drum component spins, the brake shoe goes inside and pushes against it when you step on the brake pedal.
4. Brake Pad (disc brakes)
In a disc brake system, the brake pad and its caliper create friction as they rub against the spinning brake disc.
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5. Brake Shoe (drum brakes)
This is the alternative to the brake pad when you have a drum brake system. The brake shoe is what rubs against the interior of the brake drum when you step on the brake.
6. Brake Booster
The brake booster is part of the power braking system. It is what amplifies the foot pressure that you place on the brake pedal in order to make it easier to slow down the vehicle.
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7. Brake Pedal
The brake pedal should be obvious. This is the pedal next to the gas pedal that you step on to slow down the vehicle. It is connected to the entire braking system on the inside.
8. Anti-Lock Sensors
Power brake systems have anti-lock brake sensors which detect how fast each wheel is spinning. If your wheels lock up because you slam on the brakes out of panic or fear, then anti-lock sensors will keep your brakes pumped so that you can steer the wheel.
9. Brake Lines
Brake lines transfer brake fluid between the master cylinder and wheels. This is the hydraulic fluid that allows braking to be so easy.