Brake it down


One integral system of the automobile that we need to look into is the braking system. This part of the automobile is often overlooked as most of the time, we just load-up with gas and keep on driving. We would usually remember to have it serviced only when we suddenly hear a screeching noise whenever we step on the brake pedals.

The modern brake structure uses a hydraulic system. With this system, metal tubes are filled with hydraulic fluid, as the means of transferring movement. Some of the first automobiles used levers and cables to activate the brake mechanism, those were cumbersome and unreliable, however. With the introduction of the hydraulic brake system, braking units became more reliable.

A hydraulic system works by having a cylindrical chamber filled with hydraulic fluid, being pushed by a piston at one end. On the other end of the cylinder is a metal tube, with a smaller diameter, which connects to another cylinder. As the piston pushes the fluid, it is compressed, and the fluid passes through the tube and exits to the other cylinder moving the piston inside it. With the same dimensions on both cylinders, the same amount of force is transferred to the other cylinder with the same force. But they may not be in line of sight of each other. By changing the dimensions of the cylinders, one can vary the amount of force transmitted. Think of a small hydraulic bottle jack lifting a car.

In our cars, we have the brake master, which also acts as the reservoir that is connected to the brake pedal. As we depress the pedal, it pushes the piston inside the brake master. The fluid is compressed and pushed through the tubes going to the wheels. At the receiving end, the fluid enters another cylinder on each wheel. The piston inside the cylinder pushes on the brake pad or the brake shoe. On most cars nowadays, the front system uses a disc brake—a metal disc, called a rotor, which is bolted-on to the front wheel. A piston located in the caliper housing pushes a pair of pads toward each other with the disc in between. As the pads make contact with the disc, it slows it down. Imagine your hand trying to stop a bicycle wheel.

At the rear, you usually have a drum-type brake system. A cylinder with two pistons moves outward. It pushes outward on two brake shoes, which make contact with a drum. The drum is where the rear wheels are bolted to.

The brake master is mounted to a hydrovac. This device uses vacuum pressure to help lessen the amount of force needed to apply on the brake pedals. The vacuum pressure is taken from the engine.

Another helpful device is the ABS or anti-lock braking system. This distributes the braking force evenly to all four wheels, to prevent loss of traction—very useful when the roads are wet and you need to slam on the brakes.

In case you need to have your brakes serviced, using the correct brand of brake pads is very vital. Some pads tend to lose their stopping ability when the temperature between the brake material and the rotating surface is too high. Using the proper brake fluid and replacing it periodically is also vital. Some brake fluids tend to wear out the rubber parts of the brake system and fail when it is cycled through high temperatures. But most important, the brake system works best when you practice caution on the road. Your road-worthy sedan is not a race-car and it can’t read the minds of the other drivers on the road. Even if the car has all the high-tech gadgets on board, it is not a sure thing that you will be able to stop on time.

If the car becomes too smart for the driver, then you don’t need to drive anymore. You are just a passenger, so it is illogical to blame the car if you get into an accident.


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