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Car Care Advice

5 Brake System Types (+Signs Of Wear & Maintenance Tips)

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The brake system is the most crucial safety feature in your car.
A brake failure could endanger your passengers, other drivers, and your life.

But is there more than one type of brake system?
How does a brake system work? 

In this article, we’ll discover the basics of a brake system, the five types of braking systems, and their key components. We’ll also explore handy tips on maintaining the brake system and signs your brake system parts are wearing out

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Let’s start.

The Basics Of A Car Brake System

Whether it’s a car, motorcycle, or airplane, the brake system is critical in slowing down your motor vehicle. Depending on the type of vehicle, there are many different braking systems.

A brake system comprises various components that create friction between the brakes and wheels. But first, let’s take a closer look at the basics of a hydraulic brake system — the one you’ll most likely find in your car:  

As a result, the kinetic energy gets converted into heat via friction. 

Now let’s explore the different brake system types. 

What Are The Types Of Braking Systems?

Here are five popular braking systems: 

1. Hydraulic Brake System

The hydraulic brake works by transmitting hydraulic pressure throughout the braking system.

Pressing the brake pedal forces the brake fluid from the master cylinder into the wheel cylinders (or brake caliper) through pipelines. The wheel cylinder piston pushes the braking material against the brake drum (drum brakes) or rotor (disc brakes) to bring the vehicle to a halt.

2. Mechanical Brake System

In the mechanical brake system, various mechanical linkages carry forward the force applied on the brake pedal through to the final brake drum. 

While older vehicles still use this system, it’s mainly used to power the emergency brake in modern vehicles. 

3. Anti Lock Braking System

Anti lock brakes (ABS) work on pressure modulation, preventing your wheels from locking.

The ABS control module diagnoses and processes information from the wheel-speed sensors, determining when to release braking pressure. So when you hit the brakes, it quickly adjusts the pressure at the wheels (15 times per second.) 

That’s how the anti lock braking system prevents the wheels from locking while bringing the vehicle to a comfortable stop.

4. Air Brake System

Heavy vehicles like trucks, buses, and trains use the air brake system. This braking system uses compressed air instead of hydraulic fluid.

How?
When you press the air brake pedal, the brake valve pushes compressed air into the brake chambers, applying the brakes. 

On releasing the brake pedal, the master cylinder piston returns to its original position, dropping the pressure and releasing the brakes.

5. Electromagnetic Brake System

This brake system functions via frictionless braking, increasing its lifespan and reliability. 

Wondering how this works?
An electrical current passes through the brake coils, creating an electromagnetic field. This field turns the coil into an electromagnet, which attracts the armature attached to the rotating shaft (of a wheel.) This magnetic attraction brings the rotating shaft to a quick halt. 

You can find this brake system in modern or hybrid vehicles, but they’re typically used in trams and trains. 

Brake systems are complex, and they comprise many key components.
Let’s have a look at these parts. 

What Are The Key Components Of A Brake System?

Here are some key components and their respective functions: 

1. Disc brake: The disc brake is a service brake found on the front wheels (and on all four in some modern vehicles.)
Disc brakes feature:

2. Drum brake: Older or heavy vehicles use drum brakes as foundation brakes. But you can also find them on the rear wheel of some modern vehicles.
They comprise: 

3. Brake pedal: The brake pedal is the part you press with your foot to activate the brake system.

4. Master cylinder: The master cylinder transmits hydraulic pressure from the brake pedal to the braking mechanism.

5. Brake line: The brake line is responsible for carrying brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir to the wheels.

6. Brake booster: The brake booster uses an engine vacuum to amplify the force from the pressed brake pedal. It’s usually found in a hydraulic brake system.

7. Emergency brake: The emergency brake (parking brake, hand brake, or e-brake) is used to secure the vehicle from moving. On the other hand, a service brake is what you normally use to slow down or stop your vehicle. 

Brake wear and tear is common. But here’s how you can maximize its life span and prevent a catastrophic brake failure.

How To Maintain A Brake System

Here are some general maintenance tips to keep your brake system safe for the road: 

With brakes being such an important safety feature, spotting signs of brake wear and tear is critical. 

How To Tell If Brake System Parts Are Wearing Out?

Here are some obvious signs that something’s wrong with your brakes:  

1. The Steering Wheel Vibrates

The friction and heat from the braking process cause the brake rotors to bend over time, resulting in the brake pads pressing unevenly against the surface. 

When this happens, you may notice the steering wheel vibrating when you press the brakes. 

2. Brake Inefficiency

Another common sign is a stiff brake pedal or brake fade (the inability to reduce the vehicle’s speed.) 

3. Odd Noises

Have you noticed screeching or squealing noises while braking? 
If so, it’s time to get your brake pads or brake shoes checked and replaced.

4. Car Pulling To One Side

When the brake pads wear out unevenly, you may notice your car dragging to one side while braking. 

The causes include friction problems, rear brake imbalance, misalignment, and many more. In such a situation, it’s best to have your vehicle diagnosed by a certified auto repair technician. 

5. Brake Light Flashing

The brake light on your dashboard is a sure sign of a faulty brake system and must not be ignored. 

6. Brake Overheating

The brake overheating could be due to an incorrectly installed or worn-out brake pad or a faulty braking system.  

7. Pool Of Fluid Under Your Car

A worn-out brake pad, rotor, or drum, could cause the caliper piston or wheel cylinder piston to hyperextend. 

This could break the piston seal, resulting in a pool of fluid under your vehicle. A brake fluid leak could also happen due to broken brake lines. 

8. Air Bubbles

The modern braking system is a closed-loop system, but brake fluid is hygroscopic (prone to absorbing water from the atmosphere.) Steam from boiling brake fluid could also lead to air in the brake lines. 

When that happens, you’ll find the brakes feeling soft or spongy.

Final Thoughts

Brake systems are integral to any vehicle and need regular care and maintenance to avoid unwanted incidents. 

If you suspect a malfunction with your braking system, contact RepairSmith.

RepairSmith offers a convenient mobile auto repair service that you can book online in just a few clicks. We also offer upfront pricing and a 12-Month, 12,000-Mile warranty on all our repairs.

Contact us, and our mechanics will drop by to diagnose and fix your brake problems in your driveway!