Guide To Car Brakes

A vehicle’s brakes are essential for safe driving, and every driver uses them. Yet not every driver understands how they work or how to look after them. The good news if you can read all about these issues in the post below.

How do car brakes work?

Car brakes use a system of interconnected components that work together to bring your vehicle to a stop. Triggered by the driver depressing the brake pedal, which creates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder, which is filled with brake fluid.

This pressurised fluid is transported to the pistons in each wheel’s hub assembly, which causes the brake rotors (also known as shoes, pads, drums) to push against the wheel cylinders causing the car to stop.

Parts in a braking system

Below you will find each element of a braking system, along with a brief description of the role it plays in the process.

• Brake pedal - this is what the driver depresses to active the brakes.

• Master Cylinder - transforms the non-hydraulic pressure into hydraulic pressure needed to apply the brake pads to the wheel cylinders.

• ABS Control Module - used to counter wheel locking when braking. Calculates the exact pressure to be applied to each wheel.

• Brake Booster - Lowers the pressure required to operate the brakes.

• Disc Brakes - Front-wheel brakes that use pads against a disc to bring your car to a halt.

• Drum Brakes - Rear-wheel brakes using shoes and a drum to stop your car.

How long do brakes last?

The exact lifespan of your vehicle's breaks cannot be predicted, because it will depend on the way you drive, and the conditions you most frequently find yourself in. However, on average you can expect your brakes to last between 25,000 and 65,000 miles.

When to replace brakes?

Brake pads and shoes usually need to be replaced between every 25,000 to 65,000 miles. Brake Rotors however will also need replacing between 30,000 to 70,000 miles. Bear in mind this is all dependant on the rate of wear and tear, driving styles and conditions ect.

Replacing brake fluid

Every two years you will need to replace and flush your vehicle's brake fluid. Whilst you can do this yourself, using our instructions below, brake fluid contains toxic diethylene glycol (fatal to humans in amounts as little as 100ml) so we would always advise that you book in with one of our service teams especially if you’re not confident with the process.

Another thing to point out if you do plan to change your brake fluid yourself is that the brake fluid needs to be protected from moisture in the environment. This is because the more moisture it absorbs the lower its boiling point, which raises the risk of brake failure and so the safety of the vehicle.

Steps to replace your brake fluid:

1. Siphon out the dirty fluid from the master cylinder. The easiest way to do this at home is to use a kitchen baster.

2. If you can gain access, wipe out the master cylinder reservoir with a lint-free cloth.

3. Top up the master cylinder reservoir with fresh, clean brake fluid up to the full line. Screw the cap back on.

4. Bleed the brakes so the new clean fluid flushes the old dirty fluid out of the system. Bleed until you see clear and clean fluid coming from the bleeder screw.

Causes of brake wear and brake problems

One of the top causes of brake problems and reduction in brake performance is wear. Read on for the most common issues that can cause your brakes to wear down before their time:

• Sticky Calliper Pistons: Rust or dirt on the pistons makes them sticky, causing uneven contact and wear.

• Calliper Failure - Callipers include a rubber seal which can decay and result in a constant force on the brake rotors, causing uneven wear to the affected side.

• Slide Pins - If slide pins get corroded, they stick in a single position, causing increased wear to that side.

• Variation in Disc Thickness - if the rotors are of varying thickness the brake pads will wear out faster and unevenly.

• Misalignment - This is when the pads are not aligned correctly. This issue is often noticed after brake pad replacement and causes uneven wear.

Get in touch if you require any assistance with your brakes

Brake functionally is crucial to the safety of you, your passengers, your vehicle, and other road users. If you are concerned about any of the issues mentioned above contact our service experts at Swansway, today!