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Understanding your Car braking System and Types of Brakes

Updated on November 15, 2011

Braking system is the term used to describe all vehicle's components that work together to reduce speed, bring the vehicle to a complete halt, or that are able to hold the vehicle stationary on a gradient. The components that makes up the braking system are divided into three as shown below,

1. The service brakes - This is the primary brake that is frequently used to control speed and to stop the car.

2. The emergency braking system - This is a support system that could help to stop the car at a reasonable distance in case of failure of the service brake.

3. Mechanically operated parking brake - This is commonly called the "hand brake" or "parking brake". It allows a parked vehicle to remain stationary on a flat surface or slope. It is also helpful in the process of starting the vehicle on a hill.

Before we proceed, we should introduce the phenomenon of 'servo brakes'.

Servo brakes

Most modern cars are fitted with a new kind of braking device called "Servo brakes". This helps to augment the pressure the driver applied to the brake pedal. Here, the vacuum present in the inlet manifold is used to generate the extra pressure needed. But you should know that the system is only effective when the car engine is working.

Brake pads to reinforce your braking system

The hydraulic brakes

Before discussing the hydraulic braking system, we must briefly consider the disc braking systems. Here, the braking effect is produced by the friction generated when two pads are forced against the surface of a hub mounted disc by special hydraulic calipers.

Both the disc braking system and the hydraulic braking system are are the primary brakes of vehicles called the service brakes. But hydraulic system is composed of a double acting hydraulic pump, otherwise called 'the master cylinder'. It is fed by a reservoir of hydraulic brake fluid and connected by a series of metal pipes (brake lines) and rubber fittings to the wheel cylinders, where each wheel contains two opposing pistons located between the brake shoes on each wheel (ie. on drum brakes)

Using your foot to exert pressure on the brake pedal will generate pressure in the brake circuit which will push piston apart the two piston in the wheel cylinder so that they force against the brake shoes. the high frictional lining of the brake shoes are then brought into contact with the revolving inner face of the wheel drum, thus producing a braking effect.

The Anti-lock braking system (ABS)

The primary function of the ABS is to prevent the Wheels from locking when braking. The system improves driving by increasing the tyre grip on the road and directional stability that also extends to roads with poor grip.

ABS especially helps to prevent locking of wheels when driving on slippery roads such as icy roads or those that are wet due to rain. Here it reduces the risk of losing control of the vehicle and also might might decrease the stopping distance.

The principle by which ABS works is as a result of transmittance that follows three simple processing steps as represented in,

1. Sensors - Calculates the speed of the vehicle and the difference between the rotational speeds of the braked wheels and convert the information into electrical signals. The signals are then transmitted to the Central Management Unit.

2. The Central Management Unit - Here the signal is received and compared to detect whether the Wheels are about to lock. If in the affirmative, it will send a command in the form of another signal to the third phase which is the electro-hydraulic control unit.

3. The Electro-hydraulic Control Unit - This is the exact place where the brake circuit is controlled. The information so received from the central management unit is used to reduce the hydraulic pressure to the wheel thus preventing locking. Here the driver will observe the brake pedal pulsing slightly under the foot.


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    • James Agbogun profile image

      James Agbogun 5 years ago

      Hello soneblom! I wanted to vote your comment as 'funny' but couldn't find a place to vote. Easy ways to check why a car suddenly gets stuck while driving? That's complex! OK, I hope to come up with something useful. I appreciate your comment.

    • soneblom profile image

      soneblom 5 years ago from South Africa

      Great hub! Thanks for explaining it so well even I understand what goes on when a car is brought to stand still... keep it coming us ladies wont bother the men in our lives ever again! hehe... how about a hub about easy ways to check see why a car suddenly gets stuck while driving (hope I make sense)

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