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How Brakes Work: Understanding vehicle Braking Systems

Brakes are devices which stop something from moving, usually by applying force to a moving part that converts the mechanical energy of movement to heat. In the case of cars, there are two main types of brakes, namely drum brakes and disc brakes. Both of these work by applying pressure to a part of the wheel assembly, thus impeding movement. Ever since humankind first started moving around in carriages the quest has been to find the most effective way of stopping, and to this day improvements in braking technology continue to be engineered.

So what are the fundamentals of brakes?

As previously mentioned, there are two main types of brakes, to be specific, disc and drum. Despite the fact that the fundamental standards and physics are the same, there are some key contrasts.The drum brake, as the name implies, is a drum shaped device with brake shoes inside it that expand and apply pressure to the drum. The shoes are pushed against the drum surface by a hydraulic device known as a wheel cylinder. This pressure of the shoes against the drums creates friction, which in turns impedes movement. One of the side effects of friction is heat, which is the reason brakes can get extremely hot if utilised regularly. Drum brakes tend to dissipate less heat as the heat gets trapped inside the drum which in turn means less efficient braking when constantly used. Hence, the disc brake was designed to overcome the heat dissipation problems of drum brakes.

A disc brake is similar in that it uses a hydraulic device, known as a caliper, to hold brake pads which are the friction material that is applied to the disc rotor to create friction and slow momentum.However, disc pads clamp a rotating disc that is open to the atmosphere and the heat generated is able to dissipate more easily resulting in better operating conditions and braking performance. A brake that has pads that contract around the outside of a drum is sometimes known as a band brake. Both categories of car brake systems rely upon applying force on a surface that a wheel assembly is bolted to, and therefore stop the vehicle.

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Improving how brakes perform

Your car’s brakes are a basic and important component of your vehicle's safety equipment and well maintained braking systems are crucial. Pads or shoes are the important part of car brake system that ensures the standard contact with the disc or drum to help create friction. If in case they turn out to be excessively worn, they will slip over the surface they are intended to affect with, making almost no friction, and therefore minimal stopping power. Brakes additionally should be balanced consistently so the pads align properly. Soil, particularly oil deposit from the street can affect how your brakes function. Effective brakes need to be clean, balanced precisely and not very worn.

Your car’s braking system also requires hydraulic fluid, usually known as brake fluid, to be in good condition. It is essential that there are no hydraulic leaks in your brake system and that the fluid is changed regularly. Most manufacturer’s recommend brake fluid is changed every 2 years regardless of how many kilometres you have travelled.

Ensuring your brakes work properly

Considering how important brakes are in terms of being able to stop as effectively as possible, and how vital this is in the overall context of safety, it is advised that you make sure they are inspected and serviced regularly by experts. Excessive wear, bad adjustments and the build up of dirt and oil can all compromise your brakes' effectiveness. Regardless of what type of brakes your car has, there can be no short-cuts when it comes to safety.