Brakes are one of the most important components in a vehicle. If you talk about performance it includes good brakes also, because if you go fast you need the same amount of stopping power to reduce that speed.
It is a mechanical device that absorbs energy from a moving system. It is used to slow or stop a moving vehicle, which is mostly accomplished using friction.
Most modern cars have brakes on all four wheels, operated by a hydraulic system. The brakes may be disc type or drum type.
The front brakes play a greater part in stopping the car than the rear ones because braking throws the car weight forward on to the front wheels.
All-disc braking systems are used on some expensive or high-performance cars and all-drum systems on some older or smaller cars.
A hydraulic brake circuit has fluid-filled master and slave cylinders connected by pipes.
Master and slave cylinders
When you push the brake pedal it depresses a piston in the master cylinder, forcing fluid along the pipe.
The fluid travels to slave cylinders at each wheel and fills them, forcing pistons out to apply the brakes.
Fluid pressure distributes itself evenly around the system.
The combined surface ‘pushing’ area of all the slave pistons is much greater than that of the piston in the master cylinder.
Consequently, the master piston has to travel several inches to move the slave pistons the fraction of an inch it takes to apply the brakes.
This arrangement allows great force to be exerted by the brakes, in the same way, that a long-handled lever can easily lift a heavy object a short distance.
Most modern cars are fitted with twin hydraulic circuits, with two master cylinders in tandem, in case one should fail.
Sometimes one circuit works the front brakes and one the rear brakes, or each circuit works both front brakes and one of the rear brakes, or one circuit works all four brakes and the other the front ones only.
Under heavy braking, so much weight may come off the rear wheels that they lock, possibly causing a dangerous skid.
For this reason, the rear brakes are deliberately made less powerful than the front.
Most cars now also have a load-sensitive pressure-limiting valve. It closes when heavy braking raises hydraulic pressure to a level that might cause the rear brakes to lock and prevents any further movement of fluid to them.
Advanced cars may even have complex anti-lock systems that sense in various ways how the car is decelerating and whether any wheels are locking.
Such systems apply and release the brakes in rapid succession to stop them from locking.
Many cars also have power assistance to reduce the effort needed to apply the brakes.
Usually, the source of power is the pressure difference between the partial vacuum in the inlet manifold and the outside air.
The servo unit that assists has a pipe connection to the inlet manifold.
Some cars have an indirect-acting servo fitted in the hydraulic lines between the master cylinder and the brakes. Such a unit can be mounted anywhere in the engine compartment instead of having to be directly in front of the pedal.
It, too, relies on the manifold vacuum to provide the boost. Pressing the brake pedal causes hydraulic pressure build-up from the master cylinder, a valve opens and that triggers the vacuum servo.
The pressurized fluid enters the brake caliper forcing the brake pads to move inwards against the revolving disc (which is connected to the front wheels). When the brake pads come in contact with the disc, friction is generated which reduces the speed of the disc which in turn reduces the speed of the vehicle and eventually stopping your vehicle.
The pressurized fluid now enters the brake cylinder inside the Drum brakes. There is a piston inside these cylinders, these piston move outwards because of the brake pressurized fluid inside the cylinder. This outward movement of the piston causes the brakes shoes to move towards the rotating drum. When this brake shoes rub against the drum, friction is generated converting the kinetic energy into heat energy and thereby stopping your vehicle.
A drum brake has a hollow drum that turns with the wheel. Its open back is covered by a stationary backplate on which there are two curved shoes carrying friction linings.
The shoes are forced outwards by hydraulic pressure moving pistons in the brake’s wheel cylinders, so pressing the linings against the inside of the drum to slow or stop it.
Each brake shoe has a pivot at one end and a piston at the other. A leading shoe has the piston at the leading edge relative to the direction in which the drum turns.
The rotation of the drum tends to pull the leading shoe firmly against it when it makes contact, improving the braking effect.
Some drums have twin leading shoes, each with its own hydraulic cylinder; others have one leading and one trailing shoe – with the pivot at the front.
This design allows the two shoes to be forced apart from each other by a single-cylinder with a piston in each end.
It is simpler but less powerful than the two-leading-shoe system and is usually restricted to rear brakes.
In either type, return springs pull the shoes back a short way when the brakes are released.
Shoe travel is kept as short as possible by an adjuster. Older systems have manual adjusters that need to be turned from time to time as the friction linings wear. Later brakes have automatic adjustment by means of a ratchet.
Drum brakes may fade if they are applied repeatedly within a short time – they heat up and lose their efficiency until they cool down again. Discs, with their more open construction, are much less prone to fading.
The handbrake mechanism
Apart from the hydraulic braking system, all cars have a mechanical handbrake acting on two wheels – usually the rear ones.
The handbrake gives limited braking if the hydraulic system fails completely, but its main purpose is as a parking brake.
The handbrake lever pulls a cable or pair of cables linked to the brakes by a set of smaller levers, pulleys, and guides whose details vary greatly from car to car.
A ratchet on the handbrake lever keeps the brake on once it is applied. A push-button disengages the ratchet and frees the lever.
On drum brakes, the handbrake system presses the brake linings against the drums.
These are the components used in brakes system:
When the driver presses the brake pedal there is a force generated which is boosted by the Vacuum from the engine. This boosting effect causes the brakes to respond more quickly.
This force from the vacuum booster pushes the piston inside the master cylinder against the spring force causing the brake fluid to flow under pressure. This pressurized fluid reaches the brake caliper(Disc Brakes) and brake cylinder(Drum Brakes) via fluid lines.
Think of a braking system as more of a ‘style’ of braking. This is the method behind the actual mechanics. The actual brakes describe the mechanical equipment used to carry out the method. We’re covering both in this article, as it’s important to be familiar with both the brake and its system.
The brakes you probably think of when you hear the word are your service brakes. These are the brakes that physically stop your car from moving and there are two types: the disc brake and the drum brake. Each car features two front brakes and two rear brakes. Most will either have all four as disc brakes or disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in the back.
Not everyone agrees on whether anti-lock is a type of brake, a braking system, or simply a safety feature which makes the act of sudden braking a lot smoother for your car. Most new cars are fitted with anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and they work by preventing the wheels from locking up when the driver brakes suddenly. This helps reduce the overall stopping and aids control by preventing skidding, particularly in wet conditions.