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Car Brakes Explained

How brakes work and other brake information

You never know exactly when you will need to brake suddenly in an emergency. If your brakes are worn it could mean the difference between life or death.

Remember to check your brake pads and or brake shoes every 25 000 kms. Regular brake inspections should be done as part of your vehicle’s ongoing maintenance helping to ensure their reliability and your safety.

We recommend that you have your brakes inspected if you experience any of the following:

  • Low or soft brake pedal
  • Hard brake pedal
  • Brake warning light that stays on
  • Continuously squealing or grinding brakes
  • ABS or stability program warning

If you notice symptoms such as these, have your brakes checked. The inspection could reveal that they require repair or replacement.

Why do brakes squeak?

Brakes squeak for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is harmless, the result of something like moisture or dust that is between the brake pads and the brake discs. Continuous squealing or grinding sounds should be taken very seriously as they may mean your brake pads are worn and need to be replaced.

Worn brakes can mean that the vehicle takes longer to stop and as a result could be the difference between avoiding an accident and being the cause of an accident.

How your brakes work

A fully functioning braking system is one of the most essential parts in your car. Your vehicle’s braking system is there to stop your vehicle.
When braking, leverage is applied to the brake pedal.

The pedal is connected by levers and rods to a power booster. The power booster uses either engine vacuum or hydraulic pressure to transfer the force to the master cylinder. The master cylinder is the heart of your vehicle’s brake hydraulic system.

It uses applied leverage to force a reservoir of brake fluid through valves, steel brake linings and rubber hoses into hydraulic calipers and wheel cylinders to stop vehicle.

Disk brakes use brake pads to grab/apply pressure to a rotating disk. Drum brakes, on the other hand, have a hydraulic wheel cylinder that pushes a brake shoes against the inside of a rotating drum. Either design involves highly engineered parts and precise movement. The more force a driver applies to the brake pedal, the greater the stopping force that is applied at the wheels.

In addition to this primary braking system, many of today’s vehicles utilise an electronic Anti-lock Brake System (ABS). Using electronic sensors and high-pressure pumps, under certain conditions, your ABS system can measure vehicle speed, wheel slip/skid and break the force. It actually pumps the brakes for you during an emergency stop.

It is therefore important to have your brake pads replaced if your vehicle is not braking properly as a result of worn brake pads. When brakes need attention, they usually give certain warning signals:

Common Signs of Wear:

  • A low or spongy pedal, which can mean there is air in the hydraulic system
  • A red brake-warning light that could indicate an imbalance in the system
  • An amber brake-warning light that could signal a problem with the ABS system.
  • Continuous squeals and grinding sounds – these may mean it is time for new brake pads or shoes.
  • Brake pad and rotor thickness – worn pads or rotors that are too thin cannot dissipate the extreme heat produced during braking.
  • Brake shoe and drum diameter – worn shoes or drums not only dissipate less heat, they can cause greater brake pedal travel.

These conditions can cause longer stopping distances and difficult stopping in an emergency situation. Rotors and drums that are too thin may even become over-stressed and disintegrate.

Remember, any time you notice any of these or other braking problems have the brakes checked. We recommend that you have them inspected at least every 25, 000 kilometers or once a year.