Blog Car Care Advice 10 Crucial Brake Components And Their Functions (+4 FAQs)
Car Care Advice

10 Crucial Brake Components And Their Functions (+4 FAQs)

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Without brakes, everything would go downhill fast! 

While many people know that pressing the brake pedal slows the car, not everyone is aware of the intricate parts that make up the braking system.

Understanding how brake systems work will offer you greater insight into brake maintenance and help prevent brake issues down the road. And if brake trouble does cruise its way into your life, you’ll be able to see it a mile away!

This article will cover the 10 important brake components and their functions and some helpful FAQs to stay ahead of brake trouble. 

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10 Important Brake Components (And Their Functions)

Beyond brake pads and pedals, brake systems have a lot of brake components that help your car perform better and drive safer. 

Here are ten important brake parts:

1. Brake Pedal 

When you press the brake pedal, a mechanical force is generated. This force is translated by the brake booster and master cylinder, pushing brake fluid through the brake lines. When this fluid goes into the drum brake wheel cylinder or disc brake calipers, the brakes engage.

Now, depending on how hard you press the brake pedal, different levels of brake fluid pressure are applied to the drum brake wheel cylinder or disc brake caliper.

For example, a slowly pressed brake pedal causes a gradual stop, while slamming on the brakes can lock the wheels.

2. Brake Booster

As the name suggests, the brake booster helps boost the brakes’ performance without the driver needing to apply extreme pressure to the brake pedal. 

Located between the brake pedal and the master cylinder, the brake booster multiplies the pressure of the brake pedal further. It does this by using the power of an engine’s vacuum to intensify the force from a pressed brake pedal.

3. Master Cylinder

The master cylinder is the center of the brake system. Its purpose is to convert the force from a pressed brake pedal into hydraulic pressure.

The master brake cylinder uses this hydraulic pressure to send hydraulic fluid through the brake lines and into the pistons of the slave brake cylinder (in the brake caliper or wheel cylinder.)

4. Brake Lines And Brake Hose

When you press the brake pedal, brake fluid is pumped into the brake lines, which travels down toward the calipers. Brake lines only carry the brake fluid a portion of the way, which is where the brake hose comes in.

The brake hose is a rubber tube connected to the brake lines that carries the brake fluid into the calipers. When the brake fluid is pumped from the brake hose into the caliper, the caliper clamps shut, engaging the ‘brakes.’

So in a way, brake lines and brake hoses are like the ‘nerves’ of the brake system, carrying hydraulic signals to and from the other brake components. 

5. Brake Caliper

The brake calipers hold the disc brake pad and pistons.

When the brake fluid pumps into the brake caliper, the pistons push the brake pads, squeezing them against the disc brake rotors, slowing down the vehicle.

6. Brake Pad

Brake pads are organic or metallic pads housed by the brake caliper. 

These organic or metallic pads sit between the brake caliper and disc rotor, and act as the friction material when the brakes are engaged. The friction with the disc rotor is what slows the car down, generating heat and brake dust.

7. Brake Rotor 

The brake rotor (also known as a “brake disc”) is a metal disc attached to each wheel. Brake calipers are positioned, so the disc brake rotor rim sits between the two brake pads. 

The disc brake pad then clamps down onto the disc brake rotor to cause friction.

Tip on disc brake rotors: Disc brakes can collect brake dust and rust over time. Cleaning brake dust from disc brakes during servicing help maintain healthy brake function.

8. Brake Drum 

Drum brakes are a type of brake used in older vehicles. The wheel cylinder and brake shoes are housed within a ‘drum.’ When the brakes are applied, the wheel cylinder pushes each brake shoe against the inside of the drum brakes.

The brake shoe is a long, curved brake pad specifically made to fit inside the rim of the brake drum. The brake shoe acts as the friction material which slows down the vehicle. 

Drum brakes are commonly found in older vehicles and modern entry-level vehicles.

Did you know: There is a another form of the braking system — the air brake. Instead of using hydraulic pressure, air brake systems use compressed air to engage the drum brakes. Air brakes can be found in most large vehicles, such as school buses or fire trucks.

9. Anti-Lock Braking System And ABS Module

The anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard in all new cars. ABS prevents wheel lock-up when you apply the brakes with full force.

The ABS module in a braking system senses when a wheel is about to lock and rapidly increases and decreases the pressure applied to the brakes. This allows the car to slow down quickly without losing traction or control.

Note: ABS is found in both drum brakes and disc brakes.

10. Emergency Brake (Hand Brake)

The emergency brake, also known as the ‘hand brake’ or ‘parking brake,’ prevents the car from moving when parked. It pulls a cable that engages the two rear brakes, locking each rear wheel. 

As the name suggests, the emergency brake can be used while driving when the primary brakes fail (but please don’t do this at speed.)

If you need to use the emergency brake while driving, it is crucial to always hold the hand brake button. If you pull the handbrake up, like when parking, the rear brakes will lock, and the car will lose control.

Note: Holding the button in allows you to control the tension of the cable connecting to the brakes — and, therefore, how much brake pressure is applied.

Now that you better understand braking system components, let’s cover some related FAQs.

4 FAQs About Brake Components

From brake wear to routine checks — these FAQs will bring brake confusion to a stop.

1. What Are Some Common Brake Part Faults And Their Symptoms?

Failed brake parts are to be avoided at all costs! 

Here are the four most common brake component failures to look out for:

A. Worn Brake Pad: Brake pad wear will limit your car’s ability to stop, and will cause damage to the disc brakes. Symptoms of brake wear include:

B. Warped Brake Rotor Or Disc: A warped brake disc can lead to a complete braking system failure. So it’s crucial to replace the brake disc if you suspect it is worn out. Symptoms include:

C. ABS Electrical Issues: Since the ABS module is controlled electronically, electrical issues can cause it to malfunction. Some symptoms include:

D. Brake Fluid Leak: Leaking brake fluid will decrease the pressure applied to brakes — preventing them from working correctly. Here are the symptoms to look out for:

2. Are Ceramic Brake Pads Better Than Semi-Metallic Brake Pads?

While both effectively slow down a car, ceramic brakes are believed to be the better choice. Ceramic brake pads last longer than semi-metallic ones, make less noise, and cause less damage to the brake rotor.

3. How Often Should I Change My Brake Pads?

The average milestone for changing brake pads is every 10-20 thousand miles — or every major service for optimum performance.

4. How Much Does It Cost To Repair Car Brakes?

Brake repair costs depend on how many brake system components need replacing. A typical brake repair (brake pads, brake rotor, and calipers) costs between $150 – $800

Closing Thoughts

Brakes that don’t work are terrifying! And finding the cause of brake failure can seem like an uphill battle, especially when you don’t know what to look for. 

So when the clock is ticking, and driving isn’t an option, the best thing to do is call the professionals for help.

Why not call AutoNation Mobile Service?

AutoNation Mobile Service is a convenient mobile vehicle repair and maintenance solution. Expert mechanics execute vehicle inspection and servicing, and brake system repairs can be made right in your driveway with high-quality tools and replacement brake parts.

Contact us here for an accurate estimate of the cost of your brake repairs and maintenance.