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Braking System Basics

by | Nov 26, 2021 | Best Western Transmission

One of your vehicle’s most essential safety mechanisms is your braking system.  Every time you get on the road, you use your brakes – and nothing is more important than having them work when you must stop suddenly to avoid a collision.  In this month’s blog, we look at the basics of your vehicle’s braking system, and review ways to keep your brakes maintained from the usual wear and tear of driving.

The Basics of Brakes

For the driver, braking starts with the brake pedal.  But exactly what happens when you depress the brake pedal?

To better understand what can go wrong with your brakes, it’s helpful to know the basics of how your braking system works:

  1. Depressing the brake pedal results in pressure on the brake lines, which hydraulically release brake fluid to engage with the brake parts. Brake lines are metal tubes that carry brake fluid through the system.
  2. The brake fluid exerts enough pressure to transfer power to the calipers. Calipers are a type of clamp or bracket that are on both sides of the brake rotor.
  3. Calipers engage the brake pads, which push against the rotor. Think of the brake rotor as a metal disc that is attached to your vehicle’s wheel, and it rotates when the vehicle is in motion.
  4. The pressure and friction of the brake pads on the rotors, slow and eventually stop the wheels from spinning.

This is a simplistic explanation of how your brakes work – the bottom line is that if there is a malfunction of one or more of these components, it can impact your vehicle’s braking ability.

So, what can impact the function of your braking system? 

Braking System Issues

Your vehicle’s brakes are continuously subjected to a lot of hazards, which include bad road conditions, heat, motion, and dirt.  These hazards can contribute to damage and eventual failure of your braking system components.

Three of the more common issues for the braking system include:

  1. Fluid Leaks or Low Fluid: Sometimes your brake lines may have a leak, resulting in the loss of vital brake fluid.  Because brake fluid is so critical to creating power for the brake components, you will notice several things when there is a leak, or your braking system is low on brake fluid:
    • Soft, squishy, or cushiony sensation when depressing the brake pedal. It will feel like there is air in the lines.
    • No pressure or resistance when depressing the brake pedal.
    • Brake Light illuminated on the dashboard.
    • Significant reduction in brake performance.
    • Visible pools of brake fluid beneath the vehicle.
    • Burning smells.
  1. Wear and Tear: Your braking system takes a lot of abuse every time you drive.  Even with careful driving habits, your brakes are subjected to a considerable amount of wear and tear over time.  Your brake pads may wear down, or your rotors can begin to develop grooves from frequent pressure on them.  Regardless, brake components will eventually need to be maintained over the lifetime of your vehicle.  Keep an eye out for these symptoms of braking wear and tear:
    • Vibration or shuddering when you depress the brake pedal.
    • Various noises, including screeching, squealing, or grinding when using the brakes.
    • The vehicle pulls to one side when braking.
    • Longer stopping distances.
  1. Accumulation of Dirt: Road dirt and brake dust can accumulate on your braking components, causing them to fail or diminish the braking performance.

Brake System Maintenance

Keeping your braking system maintained is important if you do a lot of driving.  If you notice any typical braking system symptoms, make sure to get your vehicle scheduled for a full brake inspection at Best Western Transmissions.

Maintaining your braking system may include:

  • Visual inspection of braking system components
  • Repair or replacement of worn parts, such as brake pads or rotors
  • Periodic brake fluid flushes and replacement
  • Bleeding the brake lines of air

Don’t let your brakes become a safety hazard.  Keep them well-maintained for the life of your vehicle.

Contact a service professional today at Best Western Transmissions to schedule a brake inspection, maintenance, or repairs.  We will also help you come up with an ongoing maintenance plan and schedule for this important vehicle mechanism.