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Types of Automotive Braking Systems

Drilled Brake Rotor & Caliper

Brakes are essential to safely operating a motor vehicle. Without the ability to slow and stop our vehicles, accidents would occur at every stoplight, yield sign and drive-thru in America. The way brakes are built has evolved over time, but modern braking systems are comprised of service brakes, parking brakes and emergency brakes. Each type of brake is involved in particular activities in a motor vehicle, and drivers should be familiar with how to operate each safely.

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to another's negligence or a braking malfunction, you may be entitled to compensation. The Edwards Law Firm - a personal injury law firm in Tulsa - can help accident victims determine whether a braking system was at fault for injuries you may have sustained. Contact one of our auto accident attorneys today to learn about your rights and how we may be able to help you seek legal recourse.

Get started now, contactour attorneys today by calling 1-800-304-9246

Brake Components

Before learning about the different types of brakes that make up modern braking systems and the different systems that an automobile can have, its helpful to know some of the parts that comprise a typical automotive braking system.

This list includes:

  • Brake Pads: steel backing plates used in disk brakes; friction material is bound to the surface facing the rotor and is usually made of ceramic, metal or other hard-wearing composite materials
  • Brake Shoes: 2 pieces of sheet steel welded together that carry the brake lining
  • Brake Drum: rotating drum-shaped component used in drum brakes
  • Brake Lining: heat-resistant, soft but tough material with a high friction characteristic housed inside a brake shoe
  • Rotor: cast iron brake disc connected to wheel and/or axle; sometimes made of reinforced carbon-carbon, ceramic matrix or other composite
  • Piston: a moving component contained by a cylinder
  • Caliper: a device on which brake pads and pistons are mounted
    • Floating Calipers:  moves relative to rotor; uses a piston on a single side of disc to push inner brake pad into braking surface before pulling caliper body in to apply pressure on opposite side of disc; also known as a sliding caliper
    • Fixed Calipers: does not move relative to rotor and is sensitive to imperfections; uses one or more single pairs of opposing pistons to clamp from each side of the rotor
  • Master Cylinder: a device that converts the non-hydraulic pressure from your foot into hydraulic pressure and controls slave cylinders at the opposite end of the hydraulic system
  • Vacuum Servo/Brake Booster: a component used to enhance the master cylinder and augment pressure from a drivers foot through the use of a vacuum in the engine intake; only effective while vehicles engine is running

These mechanical terms are used when we describe how brakes work. Understanding the parts that can compose a brake will help when learning about the different types of brakes used in a modern braking system.

Proper maintenance can prevent brake failure by stopping causes of sticking, corrosion and piston failure. If you have been injured by another's negligence concerning brake maintenance, an experienced auto accident attorney can help you determine the most appropriate course for legal action.

Service Brakes

When you think of your vehicles brakes, you are most likely thinking of service brakes. These are the components of your braking system that control speed, stop your vehicle and allow the automobile to remain stationary at intersections. You operate the service brakes by using the left pedal beneath your steering column.

Service Brake Characteristics

There are three common characteristics of service brake systems that can be found in modern day vehicles, including:

  • Friction

The most common configuration in service brakes used today employs one of two components to create friction: shoes or pads. Both include a rotating device with a stationary pad and rotating wear surface.

  • Pumping

This type of brake includes a pump within the machinery and may use an internal-combustion piston motor to cut off the fuel supply to the vehicle, leading to internal pumping losses to the engine, that in turn causes braking.

  • Electromagnetic

This type of brake may use an electric motor already built-in with the vehicle. Many hybrids use this technology for regenerative brakes. Some buses may also use a generator with an internal short circuit called a secondary retarder brake.

Modern braking systems will employ one of these types of brakes. There is a variety of different braking systems that can be found on a vehicle, depending on its use, size and weight.

Types of Service Brake Systems

Depending on the vehicle you are driving, there are different types of brake systems. For instance, many modern passenger cars use an antilock brake system, whereas semi-trucks and trailers may require an air brake system.

  • Disc Brakes: A friction system using a wheel brake to slow the rotation of the automobiles wheels; brake pads are pushed against the brakes rotor with a set of calipers
  • Drum Brakes: A friction system using a set of shoes or pads to press against a brake drum
  • Single-Circuit Hydraulic Brakes: A master cylinder fed by a reservoir of hydraulic brake fluid and connected by a system of metal pipes and rubber fittings attached to wheel cylinders; each wheel has opposing pistons on band or drum brake; pressure is produced to push pistons apart and force brake pads into wheel cylinder
  • Dual-Circuit Hydraulic Brakes: consists of a command circuit that activates when brakes are pressed, and a second circuit controlled by the cars computer that calculates applied force and applies it to the hydraulic pump system
  • Brake-by-wire: a system of electronic wires that, when brake pedal is pushed, measures electrical resistance and sends signals to the cars computer, which calculates applied force and applies it to the hydraulic pump system
  • Antilock Braking System (ABS): an electrical control unit, hydraulic actuator and individual wheel speed sensors that work together to prevent brakes from locking up when they are slammed on by rapidly pumping brakes when a potential lockup is detected; each wheel is controlled individually to maintain traction
  • Power Brake Booster: a system utilizing the vacuum power naturally produced in an engine to amplify a drivers foot pressure to stop even very heavy vehicles
  • Air Brakes: a system using air instead of hydraulic fluid to activate a standard disc or drum brake, usually used in buses, trucks and trailers
  • Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS): an autonomous safety system that employs sensors to monitor a vehicles proximity to others in the vicinity and automatically applies emergency braking mechanisms to avoid an imminent collision

Brake systems, whether powered by air, hydraulics or computer, are engineered for automotive safety. Service brakes allow drivers to stay safe while maneuvering their vehicle in ordinary driving situations. Another form of brakes makes up the system in a passenger vehicle, in order to protect from a collision while stopped parking brakes.

Parking Brakes

A parking brake allows for a vehicle to remain stationary when parked on an incline or flat surface, and prevents rolling while a vehicle is not in operation. The parking brake is usually operated by a small pedal near the drivers side door beneath the steering column, or by a lever in the center console, either requiring mechanical force to operate. Some newer-model vehicles have replaced these devices with a simple button.

The mechanism uses a latching system with a cable that directly connects the brakes to the pedal or lever inside the vehicles cab, which in turn uses a ratchet-locking device. Usually, the cable used in a parking brake will bypass the service braking system to ensure the vehicle is able to stop in the event of service brake failure.

Emergency Brakes

The parking brakes double as emergency brakes, so the mechanisms used to control both are the same. The difference in the terms is situational, and the way the vehicle responds when using the parking brake as an emergency brake can be extremely different than using service brakes.

When the parking/emergency brake is applied in a vehicle, the cable connecting the device and the brake system passes to an intermediate lever, which causes the force to increase while passing through a part called an equalizer. The equalizer then splits the cable in two, and divides the force between the rear wheels to slow the automobile.

Because emergency brakes are only applied to the rear wheels, when they are used while a vehicle is in motion, it is likely that the brake balance of the car may be upset, which can contribute to loss of control. It is also probable that the force applied by the emergency brake may not be sufficient to stop the vehicle. Emergency brakes are intended for use in cases of service brake failure as a means of backup.

The type of braking system used often depends on the size and weight of a vehicle, as well as the vehicles intended purpose. It is possible for a vehicle to possess more than one of these types of service brakes, working in unison to create a stronger, more effective system. Your mechanic will be familiar with the different mechanisms used on your car, and how to properly maintain your braking system to keep you, your passengers and others on the road safe from harm.

How an Accident Attorney Can Help You

Attorney Mark EdwardsMaintenance of braking systems is essential to automotive safety. When it comes to the rights of Oklahoma residents, The Edwards Law Firm is dedicated to your defense. If you have been a victim of an auto accident as a result of failed brakes, negligence or other causes, we are here to help. Accident victims may be entitled to compensation for damages related to the incident such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

One of our experienced attorneys can review the facts of your case your evaluation is always free and 100% confidential. We operate on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no cost to you until we obtain a favorable outcome for your claim.

Call us today at 1-800-304-9246 for a free review of your case. One of our lawyers will assess the merits of your claim during your evaluation, and offer you the guidance you deserve when it comes to the best course for legal action.



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