An Easy Guide to Car Brakes

An easy guide to car brakes and how they work

It might sound strange to consider that top quality brakes actually improve your car’s overall performance, but it’s true. With car brakes in top condition you can trust them to do their job when you press the brake pedal, meaning that you don’t just avoid any potential incidents but you can get back on the accelerator more quickly.

The problem is that when you do use your brakes, you actually wear them away ever so slightly every time. The various parts in your brake system come together to bring each wheel to a halt as efficiently as possible, and it is this coming together that actually compromises the performance of your brakes.

It is important to add here that you should not stop using your car brakes, but you should be checking their condition on a regular basis. As the brake pads and discs start to wear down over time it takes longer to bring your car to a stop for a junction or in the case of an emergency and this compromises the safety of everyone around you, not to mention your fellow passengers.

How Car Brakes Work

It is more likely that you will start to experience problems with the brakes at the front of your car before those at the back, because the force exerted under braking throws the weight of the car forwards (which is why you can feel the bonnet dipping slightly when you apply the brakes suddenly).

Put in the simplest terms, your car brakes work through converting kinetic energy into heat energy by friction. Every time you press the brake pedal in your car, it depresses a piston in the master cylinder which in turn forces fluid along the pipe. This fluid then travels to a slave cylinder in each wheel, filling them and forcing pistons out in order to apply the brakes.

With disc brakes, you find brake calipers that wrap around the brake disc itself. The pistons inside the brake calipers press on the brake pads and this pressure slows the wheel – and car – to a safer speed or to a standstill.

Checking for Signs of Brake Wear

There are a number of different signs to look out for when it comes to worn or damaged brake parts.

How to look after car brakes

The first, and most obvious, is a noise when you apply the brake pedal. This could be anything from a grinding sound to a high-pitched screech, and may be indicative that the brake pads are wearing thin and the calipers are squeezing against the brake discs.

Not only does that affect brake performance but it will also seriously affect the discs and calipers, which may prove to be an expensive fix if you don’t resolve the issue as soon as possible.

It is important to add that squeaking brakes may not be a sign of wear, simply that corrosion may have developed on the brakes but this can be cleaned off. A grinding noise would need to be checked and repaired.

Another of the most common warnings signs is when the vehicle pulls to one side under braking. You have brakes on each wheel, but if you find that the car veers one way or another when you try and release the brakes, it may be because one brake is sticking because your wheel alignment is no longer consistent. This can be resolved quickly and easily these days in a garage or workshop by using laser alignment.

The Handbrake

The handbrake is a completely different part of your car’s brake system. The lever – or button in some modern cars –is pulled upwards when the car is parked or stopped on a hill as a second form of stability.

It works by pulling on the handbrake cables which are connected to the brakes; and the levers, pulleys and guides that join the handbrake to the brakes themselves work together to hold the vehicle in place.

For more information on specific car parts and systems, continue to check back to the Euro Car Parts blog. In the meantime, feel free to browse through our range of car parts and accessories suitable for all makes and models. Should you require any information, please get in touch with one of our experts.