Your Car’s Braking System and its Need for Maintenance
All drivers know that when they push their foot on the brake pedal, the car will slow down to a stop. However not many drivers are aware of the mechanics behind this braking system, how this system could potentially fail, and why maintenance is so important. Whether you are driving a BMW, Audi, Mercedes or Porsche, it is useful to understand the science and technology responsible for slowing down your car.
The Braking System Explained
Modern cars have brakes on all four wheels which are operated by a hydraulic system. The brakes may be either disc brakes or drum brakes. A disc brake is more efficient and is used on the front wheels, since the act of braking throws the weight of the car forward. When you push down on the braking pedal, a pad of hard-wearing metal clamps onto the brake disc and rubs it, cause it to slow down. Drum brakes are used on the back wheels and cause the shoes inside the hollow wheel hub to press outwards, thereby causing friction and slowing the car down. High performance cars typically use the disc system on all four wheels.
A hydraulic brake circuit entails a system of fluid-filled pipes that can multiply force and transmit it easily from one place to another. This is necessary since pressing your foot on the brake pedal would not supply nearly enough force to bring something as heavy as a car to a standstill. In terms of this system, pushing the brake pedal depresses a piston in the master cylinder, forcing fluid along the pipe. This fluid travels to the slave cylinders at each when and fills them, forcing the prisons out to apply the breaks.
In addition to the hydraulic braking system, cars also have a mechanical handbrake which acts on the rear two wheels. It provides limited braking if the hydraulic system fails completely. However its main function is to act as a parking brake.
Modern Braking Aids
Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) is the wide term used for modern automobile braking technology that increases the braking pressure during emergencies. The braking system is designed to interpret both the speed and the force with which you push down on the braking pedal. By doing this the system will be able to determine when you are executing an emergency stop. If you are, but the brake pedal is not fully applied, the system will override and fully apply the brakes until the anti-lock braking system (ABS) kicks in to stop the wheels from locking. This ensures that you are still able to steer the vehicle and also shortens the braking distance on slippery surfaces.
Why Maintenance is So Important
There are several things that can cause problems for your braking system and it is important to be able to identify the warning signs. The first problem is too much heat. A significant amount of heat is produced when the brake pads press against the brake disc. In order to deal with this heat, the disc is ventilated with internal vanes that pull cool air to the outer edges. This ensures that brakes do not ‘fade.’ Faded brakes are overused and overheated brakes. This could potentially lead to a loss of braking ability.
Another reason to ensure that your brakes are well maintained is that brake fluid is hydroscopic. In other words it attracts moisture. Moisture is bad for several reasons. It reduces the boiling point of the brake fluid and corrodes metal components within the braking system, both of which could cause your brakes to fail. In order to avoid this, it is important for you to change your brake fluid as recommended by the manufacturer which is typically every two years.