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How Brakes Work

We all know that pushing down on the brake pedal slows a car to a stop. But how does this happen? How does your car transmit the force from your leg to its wheels? How does it multiply the force so that it is enough to stop something as big as a car? When you depress your brake pedal, your car transmits the force from your foot to its brakes through a fluid. Since the actual brakes require a much greater force than you could apply with your leg, your car must also multiply the force of your foot. It does this in two ways

Mechanical advantage !le"erage# Hydraulic force multiplication

$he brakes transmit the force to the tires using friction, and the tires transmit that force to the road using friction also. Before we begin our discussion on the components of the brake system, we%ll co"er these three principles

&e"erage Hydraulics 'riction

How Power Brakes Work


If you%"e e"er opened the hood of your car, you%"e probably seen the brake booster. It%s the round, black cannister located at the back of the engine compartment on the dri"er%s side of the car. Back in the day, when most cars had drum brakes, power brakes were not really necessary (( drum brakes naturally pro"ide some of their own power assist. Since most cars today ha"e disc brakes, at least on the front wheels, they need power brakes. Without this de"ice, a lot of dri"ers would ha"e "ery tired legs. $he brake booster uses vacuum from the engine to multiply the force that your foot applies to the master cylinder. In this article, we%ll see what%s inside the black cannister that pro"ides power braking.

The Booster in Action


$he "acuum booster is a "ery simple, elegant design. $he de"ice needs a vacuum source to operate. In gasoline(powered cars, the engine pro"ides a "acuum suitable for the boosters. In fact, if you hook a hose to a certain part of an engine, you can suck some

of the air out of the container, producing a partial "acuum. Because diesel engines don%t produce a "acuum, diesel(powered "ehicles must use a separate "acuum pump. )n cars with a "acuum booster, the brake pedal pushes a rod that passes through the booster into the master cylinder, actuating the master(cylinder piston. $he engine creates a partial vacuum inside the "acuum booster on both sides of the diaphragm. When you hit the brake pedal, the rod cracks open a "al"e, allowing air to enter the booster on one side of the diaphragm while sealing off the "acuum. $his increases pressure on that side of the diaphragm so that it helps to push the rod, which in turn pushes the piston in the master cylinder. *s the brake pedal is released, the "al"e seals off the outside air supply while reopening the "acuum "al"e. $his restores "acuum to both sides of the diaphragm, allowing e"erything to return to its original position.

How Anti- ock Brakes Work


Stopping a car in a hurry on a slippery road can be "ery challenging. *nti(lock braking systems !*BS# take a lot of the challenge out of this sometimes ner"e(wracking e"ent. In fact, on slippery surfaces, e"en professional dri"ers can%t stop as quickly without *BS as an a"erage dri"er can with *BS. In this article, the last in a si+(part series on brakes, we%ll learn all about anti(lock braking systems (( why you need them, what%s in them, how they work, some of the common types and some associated problems.

How !ngine Brakes Work


,ou either lo"e it or hate it $he sound of a big rig hitting the brakes. $he rumbling sound may be familiar, but what e+actly is going on in there? !ngine brakes are used in hea"y duty and commercial "ehicles (( like semitrailers and buses (( to increase speed control. -ngine brakes are commonly known as .ake brakes because the largest manufacturer is .acobs /ehicle Systems 0source .acobs /ehicle Systems1. Braking causes friction, which in turn causes heat. !2ead How Brakes Work to get a better understanding of the process.# $oo much heat, like what is produced when a big rig tries to maintain speed and control on steep downhill grades, can cause brakes to o"erheat and fail. 3ownshifting the transmission on steep grades helps passenger "ehicles more than big rigs due to the substantial weight difference.

-ngine brakes reduce the occurrence of brake failure by using the engine to slow the rig. $hey increase the effecti"eness of braking, sa"e money by reducing wear and tear on the tires and brake system, and increase safety. $hough engine brakes are a "ery important component to maintaining safety on the open road, they are often met with opposition in populated areas. *nd signs prohibiting their use can be found all across the country.

"ould anti-lock brakes detect a flat#


*n AB$ !anti(lock braking system# is a system that helps a dri"er to a"oid skids during panic stops. In a car with a normal braking system, all four wheels will lock and cause the car to skid if the dri"er 4ams on the brakes in a panic situation. $he problems with skidding are 5. $he car will actually take longer to stop. 6. $he dri"er loses all control of the "ehicle. *n anti(lock braking system lets a computer monitor the wheels. If one of them locks, the computer can pulse the brake on that wheel so that the wheel keeps spinning. Because the wheels continue to spin, the dri"er can continue to control the car with the steering wheel. $he computer senses rotation using a rotation sensor on each wheel. If the computer were programmed correctly and if there were a light on the dashboard, then the computer could detect a flat tire. What the computer could do is look at different rotational speeds for one out of the four wheels. * flat tire would spin faster than a properly inflated tire, so the computer would look for one tire spinning faster than the other three, on a"erage, o"er the course of a period of time. $hen it could warn the dri"er by acti"ating the light on the dash. $here are se"eral production cars that use this technique. Starting with 6778 models, the 9H$S* !9ational Highway $ransportation Safety *dministration# requires that all cars ha"e a tire pressure monitoring system.

How !mergency Brakes Work


-mergency brakes are a secondary braking system installed in motor "ehicles. *lso known as e(brakes, hand brakes and parking brakes, emergency brakes are not powered by hydraulics and are independent of the ser"ice brakes used to slow and stop "ehicles. $here are state and federal laws requiring emergency brakes for motor "ehicles 0source 9H$S*1. $here are four types of emergency brakes

Stick le"er, which is generally found under the instrument panel !found in older( model "ehicles# :enter le"er, which is found in between separated front seats ;edal, which is found to the left of the floor pedals -lectric or push button, which are found amongst the other console controls

Because most modern braking systems ha"e failsafe measures and warning systems, such as on(dash brake(warning lights and low(fluid sensors, the emergency brake is most often used as a parking brake de"ice. But the e(brake is called an emergency brake for a reason (( using it can sa"e your life.

How %isc Brakes Work


<ost modern cars ha"e disc brakes on the front wheels, and some ha"e disc brakes on all four wheels. $his is the part of the brake system that does the actual work of stopping the car. $he most common type of disc brake on modern cars is the single-piston floating caliper. In this article, we will learn all about this type of disc brake design.

%isc Brake Basics


Here is the location of the disc brakes in a car $he main components of a disc brake are

$he brake pads $he caliper, which contains a piston $he rotor, which is mounted to the hub

$he disc brake is a lot like the brakes on a bicycle. Bicycle brakes ha"e a caliper, which squee=es the brake pads against the wheel. In a disc brake, the brake pads squee=e the rotor instead of the wheel, and the force is transmitted hydraulically instead of through a cable. 'riction between the pads and the disc slows the disc down. * mo"ing car has a certain amount of kinetic energy, and the brakes ha"e to remo"e this energy from the car in order to stop it. How do the brakes do this? -ach time you stop your car, your brakes con"ert the kinetic energy to heat generated by the friction between the pads and the disc. <ost car disc brakes are vented. /ented disc brakes ha"e a set of "anes, between the two sides of the disc, that pumps air through the disc to pro"ide cooling.

How %rum Brakes Work


3rum brakes work on the same principle as disc brakes $hoes press against a spinning surface. In this system, that surface is called a drum. <any cars ha"e drum brakes on the rear wheels and disc brakes on the front. 3rum brakes ha"e more parts than disc brakes and are harder to ser"ice, but they are less e+pensi"e to manufacture, and they easily incorporate an emergency brake mechanism.

The %rum Brake


$he drum brake may look complicated, and it can be pretty intimidating when you open one up. &et%s break it down and e+plain what each piece does. &ike the disc brake, the drum brake has two brake shoes and a piston. But the drum brake also has an ad&uster mechanism, an emergency brake mechanism and lots of springs. 'irst, the basics 'igure ( shows only the parts that pro"ide stopping power. When you hit the brake pedal, the piston pushes the brake shoes against the drum. $hat%s pretty straightforward, but why do we need all of those springs? 'igure () %rum brake in operation

$his is where it gets a little more complicated. <any drum brakes are self-actuating. 'igure > shows that as the brake shoes contact the drum, there is a kind of wedging action, which has the effect of pressing the shoes into the drum with more force. $he e+tra braking force pro"ided by the wedging action allows drum brakes to use a smaller piston than disc brakes. But, because of the wedging action, the shoes must be pulled away from the drum when the brakes are released. $his is the reason for some of the springs. )ther springs help hold the brake shoes in place and return the ad4uster arm after it actuates.

How does payload affect braking#


;ayload is the amount of weight a "ehicle can safely hold, and those numbers are not arbitrary. )"erloading a truck can change how it steers and brakes. -"en a hea"ier payload that is within a safe amount puts a strain on brakes because there is a higher

braking temperature 0source ;roStreet1. Steering can also be more difficult, as the "ehicle is now hauling much more weight. Imagine how quick and nimbly you could mo"e and stop when holding an empty cardboard bo+. 9ow imagine trying those quick mo"es with 677 pounds in that cardboard bo+. $he same concept applies to a "ehicle%s payload. ;ayload%s affects on braking also apply not only to weight but also to the distribution of the cargo 0source Happian(Smith1. ;ayload can effecti"ely shift the center of gra"ity in a truck by placing a lot of weight in the back. Howe"er, because the same weight will not always be distributed in the same way in the back of the truck, brakes and steering can still be affected differently depending on what actually constitutes the payload. )ccasionally, a hea"y or oddly distributed payload can cause brakes to lock up. In addition, the payload can shift during dri"ing, further affecting steering and braking 0source <ills1. :argo should always be properly secured, with padding added as necessary to keep the payload from mo"ing, which could put strain on the brakes as well as damage the cargo. $aking e+tra care while dri"ing and a"oiding sudden or hard stops while dri"ing with a hea"y payload can keep the strain on brakes to a minimum.

What are the different types of brake fluid#


$he three main types of brake fluid now a"ailable are 3)$?, 3)$@ and 3)$>. 3)$? and 3)$@ are glycol(based fluids, and 3)$> is silicon(based. $he main difference is that 3)$? and 3)$@ absorb water, while 3)$> doesn%t. )ne of the important characteristics of brake fluid is its boiling point. Hydraulic systems rely on an incompressible fluid to transmit force. &iquids are generally incompressible while gases are compressible. If the brake fluid boils !becomes a gas#, it will lose most of its ability to transmit force. $his may partially or completely disable the brakes. $o make matters worse, the only time you are likely to boil your brake fluid is during a period of prolonged braking, such a dri"e down a mountain (( certainly not the best time for brake failureA

%*T+, %*T- and %*T(


*s a 3)$? or 3)$@ brake fluid absorbs water, its boiling point decreases. It can absorb water from the air, which is why you should a"oid opening your car%s brake fluid reser"oir. 'or the same reason, you should always keep containers of brake fluid tightly sealed.

3)$> fluid does not absorb water. $his means the boiling point will remain relati"ely stable, but it also means that any water that does get into your brake system will tend to form pure water pockets, which could cause brake corrosion. $wo other important things about brake fluid 3)$? and 3)$@ eat paint, so don%t spill either of these on your car. *lso, none of the different types of brake fluid should be mi+ed. $hey can react badly with each other and corrode your brake system.