A Class on Function and Warnings
Without being too complicated, let's look at the primary brake function. Understanding your auto's braking system helps you know the necessary maintenance and repairs. While the idea is to press the brake pedal and have your vehicle stop, there's an enjoyable scientific process that happens in between. As you apply pressure to the pedal, it moves a lever and piston, using force to brake fluid in the master cylinder. This compression sends the hydraulic fluid through brake lines to additional cylinders near each wheel. Pressure in these areas moves the calipers (on disc brakes) such that metal brake pads attached to the calipers contact the rotors. Also called discs, these are large metal plates located just to the inside of each wheel. The friction generated from the contact between pad and disc enables your car to slow and stop. A brake shoe makes contact with the metal drum turning inside the wheel for drum brakes. Similar to its counterpart, the metal-to-metal frictional contact facilitates the stop. Newer automobiles typically have disc brakes, at least on the front wheels. Older transportation tends to have drum brakes, and that type of stopping mechanism is also often found on the rear wheels of modern autos. That's because the manufacturers sometimes try to reach a balance. Disc brakes offer better control, but they're much more expensive to produce. Drum brakes are more cost-conscious, but they don't provide better performance and anti-lock ability. Therefore, while some luxury or performance models go for the gold with disc brakes all around, others balance cost and control with the combination package. Regardless of your vehicle's package, be aware of potential brake trouble warning signs and bring your auto to us if you recognize one of the signs. These clues may include odd noises (squealing, squeaking, or grinding) when you brake or pull to one side as you try to stop. Also, you may notice a shimmy or shaking feeling in the steering wheel during braking. Finally, beware of the feel of a soft or spongy pedal as you apply pressure.