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How the Brake System Works

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Understanding the Stopping Power of Brakes

From running errands around town to hitting the open road, you rely upon your brakes every time you get in the driver’s seat. To most people, braking is a simple process. Press down on the brake pedal and the vehicle comes to a stop. However, like many systems in your vehicle, the brake system relies upon a series of interconnected parts to bring your car to a stop

Brake Basics

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There are two types of brakes in use: disc brakes and drum brakes. Disc brakes feature brake pads that press against a rotor when the brake pedal is applied. Drum brakes use brake shoes forced into the brake drum to bring the vehicle to a stop.

Most vehicles on the road today have brakes on all four wheels. Since the braking process shifts the vehicle’s weight forward, the brakes on the front of the vehicle does most of the work. Depending on your vehicle’s configuration, it may have disc brakes on all four wheels or it could use disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the rear.

Brakes in Motion

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Brake pedal icon

The brake pedal, when depressed, directly operates the master cylinder, located in the engine compartment (under the hood). It is connected to the brake booster.

Brake booster icon

The brake booster, which is connected to the master cylinder by a pushrod, adds additional force to the master cylinder. The brake booster uses engine vacuum, by way of a vacuum hose and check valve.

Master cynlinder icon

The master cylinder directs the brake fluid. It delivers brake fluid pressure to each of the four wheels through metal tubes and braided hoses. When the fluid pressure increases in the system, slave cylinders known as wheel cylinders and brake calipers are activated.

Brake caliper icon

When the brake calipers are activated, the disc pads compress against the brake discs or rotors, located inside the wheels of the vehicle. This compression causes friction and eventually slows the vehicle to a stop.

Brake shoes icon

When brake shoes are activated, they spread out against the brake drum, inside the wheels, causing friction what, too, slows the vehicle to a stop. Over time, pads, discs/rotors, shoes and drums become subject to wear.


Learn more about quality brakes, find your car part, or find where to buy your auto part today.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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