It is not unusual, that the majority of men and women who go out to buy a new car have no idea how automotive brakes work. Rather than admit it and ask for an explanation they just nod and agree when the sales person launches into their rehearsed speech about the technical details, including the brakes. Buyers of new vehicles are often more interested in the look of the car, how much it costs and what additional gadgets they can get with the car, than in what is under the bonnet and what type of automotive brakes system the vehicle has.
However, even those who are not interested in the mechanical details will at least have heard of ABS to give it a full title, even if we do not understand how it works. Quite simply it is an adaptation of a safety system that was originally designed by a German designer for use in aircraft. The aim was to allow the pilot to retain control over the planes movements when he applied the brakes.
In cars and other types of road vehicles, an anti-lock brake system is used to prevent the wheels from locking when you apply pressure to the brake pedal. Without this type of braking system, the wheels could lock, and you would be unable to steer and control the vehicle. At worst, the car could go into a spin which could have disastrous consequences for you, your passengers and perhaps for other road users or pedestrians.
Other advantages you gain from having the anti lock brake system fitted to your car is that it can decrease your stopping distance when road conditions are too dry or have become slippery. On the other hand, if the road surface is covered in snow or is gravel topped applying the brakes will require a much longer stopping distance. So even with this safety system fitted, you need to be aware of the road conditions and surfaces and adjust your braking time accordingly.
The standard anti-lock braking system is now available in many modern vehicles and has undergone some changes since it was introduced as an automotive braking system. Depending on the version installed in your vehicle you may find that in addition to preventing wheel locking, the latest model can electronically control the front-to-rear break bias, to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle.
There are several types of automotive braking systems, including the vacuum assisted brake system also found in modern vehicles. When the engine is running it creates a vacuum which combines with the pressure you apply to the brake pedal and increase the car’s ability to stop quickly, reducing the stopping distance. However, if the engine is revving, the vacuum weakens and reduces braking power, increasing the stopping distance and slowing down the cars progress towards a stop.
Automobiles have friction brakes that use friction to create kinetic energy. The vehicle begins to slow down and eventually stop, and the heat energy is released into the air. The brake pedal creates the friction by working with the road wheel hubs, or in some models with the axles or the transmission.
Drum brakes are connected to the rotating road wheel hub and when the brake shoes connect with the inner drum surface, it creates friction that gradually slows down the vehicle. It is this friction that causes the brake shoes to need replacing. As any good driver will tell you the more frequently you use the breaks and the harsher you are in applying them, the more often the break shoes will wear out.
A disc or rotor break is connected to wheel or the axle of the vehicle to help slow it down and eventually stop. This disc connects with the brake pads causing friction and slowing down the vehicle. You may be surprised to find that slowing down or stopping your vehicle is quite as complex, but if you take time to consider the size and power of any car moving at a speed, slamming the brakes on perhaps to avoid an accident requires a great deal of instant energy to slow it down.
You may well have read in the papers or seen on the news, what can happen when breaks malfunction. It may be that the driver has misjudged the situation and not applied their brakes swiftly enough, or it could be a mechanical fault, but the results can be fatal. That is one of the best reasons why we all need to ensure our automotive braking system is fully functional and is services regularly.