GUIDE TO THE BRAKES You just can’t take your brakes for granted. Here’s how they work. INTRO Brakes are possibly the single most important part of any car. After all, if you don’t have them, you can’t stop. A pretty important part of driving, we’re sure everyone would agree! Unfortunately though, many people take them for granted, and only notice faults with them when something goes wrong. As such, we’ve prepared this guide aiming to illustrate how your brakes work, hopefully it’ll give you a better understanding of them, and will alert you to potential issues quicker. BASIC PRINCIPLES A lot of people don’t understand how putting pressure on your brake pedal can lead to your car stopping. That’s fair enough! In short, when you put pressure on a brake pedal, this transmits this force to your car’s brakes through a fluid. Your car transmits this force through both leverage and hydraulic force multiplication. Want that in something closer resembling layman’s terms? Read on… TIRES The force from your brake pedal is transferred to your tires using friction, just like the tires transmit that force to the road surface itself using friction. Naturally, the harder your press on your pedal the stronger the reaction from your brakes. BRAKE PEDAL The brake pedal is designed in such a way that the that it absorbs the force of your foot. This pressure is then transferred to your hydraulic system. Despite everyone knows the principle of a brake pedal, taking the time to stop and look at it’s design shows just how clever it is. HYDRAULIC SYSTEM The hydraulic system transfers the pressure from your foot to your tires. The most basic way to describe a hydraulic system would be this: force applied at one point is transmitted to another using an incompressible fluid (usually some sort of oil). These two points usually consist of two pistons which are fitted into glass cylinders full of oil. Force is transferred between these pistons through downward force being applied to one (through the brake pedal). LEAKAGE A potential problem with a brake system that relies so heavily on fluids is leakage. If fluid leaks, eventually there won’t be enough fluid left to fill your brake cylinder, resulting in non- functioning brakes. Fortunately, most modern cars are designed to deal with these potential failures. However, it’s worth finding out a little more about them – you can never be too careful. ANTI-LOCK BRAKING SYSTEMS Many modern cars are fitted with Anti-Lock Braking Systems (or ABS for short), which aims to help cars stopping on a slippery road. A very simple ABS system would have a controller which monitors speed sensors at all times. If it finds decelerations in the wheel that are out of the ordinary, it reduces the pressure to that brake until it sees an acceleration, then increases the pressure until it sees a deceleration. The upshot of this is that the tire slows down at the same rate as the car, with the brakes preventing the tires from locking up. THINK YOU’VE GOT A BRAKE PROBLEM? Then get it looked at either way. While it might seem like a no-brainer for some, other people might be tempted to drive it to a garage – don’t do it! Get a mechanic to come and look at it where you are, or call to get your car towed. Driving with bad brakes isn’t worth it – if you crash, the best case scenario is dealing with cracked windshield repair, the worst is life itself. Get them looked at!