When it comes to car brakes, nothing is as straightforward as you may have thought. There are a number of forces at play which ensure your car stops when you need it to. In this article we’ll take you through the most common braking systems found in cars, as well as the two types of service brake in use today.
What is the difference between a brake and a braking system?
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.
Types of braking systems
The following are the most common types of braking systems in cars today. It’s always good to identify which ones apply to your car for easier troubleshooting and repairs.
- Hydraulic braking system: This system works on brake fluid, cylinders, and friction. By creating pressure within the system it forces the brake pads to stop the wheels from moving.
- Electromagnetic braking system: Electromagnetic braking systems can be found in many new and hybrid vehicles. Electromagnetic brakes force the car to a stop by using an electric motor.
- Servo braking system: Also known as vacuum or vacuum assisted braking. With this system, the pressure applied to the pedal by the driver is augmented.
- Mechanical braking system: This system is one that powers the hand brake or emergency brake. Brakes are applied through mechanical linkages.
Types of brakes
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.
- Disc brakes: Disc brakes are made up of a disc brake rotor, calliper, and brake pads. When pressure is applied through a hydraulic system the brake pads are pushed against the brake rotor, which causes the car to stop.
- Drum brakes: The main parts of a drum brake system are the brake drum, brake shoes, wheel cylinder and brake springs. The brake shoes are contained within the brake drum, and when pressure is applied to the wheel cylinder, the brake shoes press against the drum, which cause the car to stop. The brake springs reduce drag by pulling the brake shoes back away from the drum when you take your foot off the brake pedal.
What are anti-lock brakes?
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.