Braking Systems: Everything you need to know 

Rally drivers depend on extraordinary braking systems to enable them to reduce speed near a turn. And while everyday drivers take braking systems lightly, knowing how it works, being aware of the telltale signs of an imminent brake failure, and keeping it in good condition can be the difference between life and death.

You see, it doesn’t matter how well your car is performing or how fast it is if you can’t be able to bring it to a complete stop before a disaster strikes. The braking system is one of the key pieces of a car and the most important active safety item.

Here‘s your ultimate guide to understanding the types of brakes and braking systems. It is important to understand which ones fit your car for easy troubleshooting. 

Types of braking systems

1.      Hydraulic braking system

Hydraulic braking systems run on brake fluid, cylinders, and friction. It works by creating pressure within the system, which forces the brake pads to stop the wheels from moving.

Hydraulic braking systems are regarded as one of the most effective braking systems for modern cars. They generate more force compared to mechanical braking systems, and their chances of failure are minimal.

2.      Electromagnetic braking system

They are mostly used in hybrid cars. An electromagnetic braking system uses an electric motor to bring the car to a stop. They use the principle of electromagnetism, which makes braking frictionless.

Benefits of electromagnetic braking systems

  • Frictionless braking which increases their life span
  • Braking is fast and cheap
  • The capacity (like heavy loads, higher speeds) of an electromagnetic braking system can be improved
  • Less heat is generated at brake shoes compared to mechanical braking systems. Overheating can lead to brake failure

3.      Servo braking system

Also referred to as Vacuum-assisted braking, the servo braking system augment the pressure applied to the brake pedal by the driver. They use the vacuum produced in engines to generate extra pressure required for braking. It is also good to note that servo braking systems are only effective when the engine is still running.

4.      Mechanical braking systems

They use cables and levers where the driver must apply mechanical force to force the wheels to stop.

Types of brakes

1.      Disc brake

Most new cars come with disc brakes. A disc brake is usually made of calipers, rotors, and brake pads located on both sides of the rotor. The brake pads are forced against the disc to slow or stop the wheels from rotating,

2.      Drum brakes

Drum brakes are similar to disc brakes except with drum brakes brake pads move outwards from the midline to get in contact with the brake drum. These types of brakes are less expensive and easy to repair. Drum brakes are, however, less effective compared to disc brakes. They tend to get hot when used frequently, which reduces their ability to stop the vehicle.

 How do brakes work?

We all know hitting brake pedal slows the car down. But how does it happen? What goes on under there?

For the braking system to work, all brake components must work properly; each part depends on other parts to function effectively. In a nutshell, here’s how brakes work: By pushing down the pedal, you activate the cylinder, which delivers brake fluid to the calipers, which in turn engages the brake pads. The brake pads exert pressure on the rotors, thereby creating friction, which turns the kinetic energy (a car in motion has a lot of kinetic energy) into heat. And that is how a car stop.

Brake inspection

We all want to feel safe on the road. The braking system is the most important safety component in a car. Brakes should always be in excellent condition. Regular brake inspection ensures your brakes are in good condition, which helps to keep you out of trouble. You should have your brakes inspected by a professional every six months. However, you may need to have your brakes inspected more frequently, depending on the kind of traffic you endure or how you drive your vehicle. In case of warning signs, you should have your brakes inspected right away. Signs of impending brake failure include:

  • Vibrations
  • Loud sounds
  • Reduced responsiveness

Brake inspection involves checking the following:

  • Brake pads
  • Adjusters and springs
  • Fluid condition
  • Wheel cylinders
  • Grease seals and wheel bearings
  • Master cylinder fluid exchange
  • Condition of brake fluid
  • Calipers
  • Brake lines
  • Rotors
  • Parking brake cables

Key components

Brake pads

Brake pads contact the rotors to cause friction, which helps to slow the vehicle. Your brakes may not function effectively if the brake pads are worn thin. If you hear grinding noise when you apply brakes, that is a sign you need to replace your brake pads.


Every tire is directly connected to a rotor. The rotors must stop spinning for the car to stop. The brake pads rub against the rotors to stop the car.


Calipers apply pressure to the brake pads.

Master cylinder

The master cylinder holds the brake fluid. Pushing down the brake pads activates the master cylinder, which pushes the brake through the brake lines.

Brake lines

Brakes lines carry the brake fluid from the master cylinder to the calipers.

Brake fluid

Brake fluid is a crucial component of the braking system. It makes the brakes function effectively. Brake fluid functions as an incompressible medium that transmits pressure from the master cylinder through the brake lines to the calipers, forcing the brake pads against the rotors.

Additionally, brake fluid lubricates other moving parts of the braking system. This prevents corrosion and keeps the brakes functioning as they should.

Fresh brake fluid is completely incompressible, which allows the braking system to work well — overheating causes the brake fluid to boil, which leads to a ‘soft’ pedal. Brake fluid is only effective when it is in liquid form. The boiling point of your brake fluid is, thus, critical on how effectively your braking system functions.

In the long run, brake fluid attracts moisture, which reduces its boiling point. Brake fluid should be changed every two years or after 2,500 miles, whichever comes first.


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