How To Know What Brake System Your Car Has – South Africa

How To Know What Brake System Your Car Has – South Africa

Brakes are one of the most important safety features on any vehicle. There are different types of brakes, between and within vehicles, and knowing the difference will help you in the long run to ensure you know how to maintain and care for your vehicle. This will also ensure a safer driving experience.

“There are three types of brakes used in automobiles:

  1. Mechanical brakes
  2. Hydraulic brakes
  3. Air Brakes and related type of brakes

1. Mechanical brakes

Mechanical brakes are used in Hand brakes (or parking brakes). Here, a lever is provided near the driver seat and through steel wire connections it is connected to brakes at the rear of the vehicle.

When the hand brake is engaged, tension is created at the brakes and the brake shoe holds the drum from rotating and hence the movement of the vehicle is restricted, even if parked in a slightly inclined surface.

2. Hydraulic Brakes

The hydraulic brake system uses brake fluid to transfer pressure from the brake pedal to the pads or shoe. By exercising the pedal, brake fluid transfers this pressure to the brake pads. This transfer of pressure is reliable and consistent because liquids are not compressible, i.e. pressure applied to liquid in a closed system is transmitted by the liquid equally to every other part of system.

A hydraulic brake system apart from liquid pipes mainly consists of Brake pedal, Master cylinder, wheel cylinder and brake pads/shoe connected at the wheel. The function of the Master cylinder is to distribute pressure to lines leading to front or rear wheels as required. At the wheel cylinder, a small piston is provided which is operated due to pressure application through brake fluid. The operation of the piston is converted to movement of brake liners.

In brief, when a driver applies pressure at the brake pedal, the mechanical force (stepping of driver on pedal) is changed to hydraulic pressure which is transmitted through liquid to respective wheel cylinder and changed back to mechanical force (operation of brake pads, shoe).

Power Brakes – Power brakes are nothing more than a standard hydraulic brake system with a booster located between the brake pedal and master cylinder to help activate the brakes. This could be in case the fluid pressure required would be too high.

There are two basic types of power assisted mechanisms used, vacuum assisted and hydraulic assisted.

Vacuum assisted system use engine vacuum pressure to help apply the brakes.

Hydraulic assist is largely found on heavy vehicles. This system uses hydraulic pressure developed by the power steering pump or other external pump to help apply the brakes.

3. Air Brakes

Air brake system consist of components like air compressor, air reserve tank, check valves, safety valves etc. The working is very similar to the working of hydraulic brakes. The key difference is that mechanical force is transmitted to wheel ends through air pressure, instead of fluid pressure. Airbrakes are most preferred in heavy vehicles.”

How To Know What Brake System Your Car Has – Drum Brakes Vs Disc Brakes

There have been only 2 predominant types of brakes in the past few decades, namely drum and disc brakes. They work in much the same way.

“Drum Brakes

Drum brakes predate disc brakes by many years, but they are still a reliable and affordable braking technology. However, because drum brakes do not dissipate heat as well as disc brakes, they are often only found on the rear two wheels of vehicles. Drum brakes essentially consist of two rounded brake shoes housed inside a round drum that spins with the wheels of a vehicle. When the brake pedal is applied, fluid pushes the two brake pads out against the drum where they create friction and slow the vehicle.

Disc Brakes

A car’s disc brakes work much like those of a motorcycle or bicycle. A calliper that houses two brake pads is mounted over a thin disc shaped rotor. The rotor spins with the wheels while the brake calliper remains stationary. When the brake pedal is applied, the two brake pads in the calliper squeeze the rotor to create friction and slow the vehicle.”

Other Brake Types To Look Out For

Emergency Brakes

Emergency brakes, also known as parking brakes, are a secondary braking system that work independent of the service brakes. While there are many different kinds of emergency brakes (a stick lever between the driver and passenger, a third pedal, a push button or handle near the steering column, etc.), almost all emergency brakes powered by cables which mechanically apply pressure to the wheels. They are generally used to keep a vehicle stationary while parked but can also be used in emergency situations if the stationary brakes fail.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are found on most newer vehicles. If the stationary brakes are applied suddenly, ABS prevent the wheels from locking up in order to keep the tires from skidding. This feature is especially useful when driving on wet and slippery roads.”

How To Know What Brake System Your Car Has – South Africa

“When ordering brake parts for your car or truck, you will be asked if it has disc or drum, power or anti-lock brakes. It is possible to make the determination of your car’s brakes without jacking up your vehicle and removing any wheels.

  • Look through one of the holes at the top of the front wheel. If your car has front disc brakes (most do), you will see the brake rotor, a shiny smooth surface an inch or two behind the wheel. If it does not have front disc brakes you will see a round rusted-looking brake drum.
  • Look through one of the holes in the top of one of the rear wheels. You will either see a brake rotor, which will be smooth, shiny and flat, or a brake drum, which will be round, rough and very likely quite rusted-looking.
  • Look at the back side of the wheel and tire if you cannot see clearly enough through a hole in the wheel. A disc brake will have a rubber hose from the axle or body to the brake calliper; a drum brake will have a metal tube.
  • Determine if your car has anti-lock brakes by one of these methods: 1) Turn the ignition key to on and look at the warning lights on the instrument panel. If your car has anti-lock brakes there will be an “ABS” or “Anti-lock” light illuminated. 2) Look for a wire at the back of each wheel. Check both front and back as some vehicles only have front ABS, while others may have front and rear. 3) Call your dealer with your VIN number and ask.
  • Open the hood and look for a large round metal can about 10 or 12 inches in diameter on the rear of the driver’s side of the engine compartment. This is the power brake booster. If you have one of these, your car has power brakes.”

Remind yourself that your BRAKES are important – Be Responsible and Always Keep Everyone Safe!

Related Tags: Brake Booster Repair

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