The Various Brake Types Installed in Vehicles

Written by Godfrey on . Posted in Blog

All motor vehicles have brakes, but the brakes they have aren’t all the same. Learn about the several different types of brakes used on vehicles of various types and sizes.

Disc Brakes: Common on Many Vehicles

Disc brakes are one of the most common types of brakes, and they’re found on many personal vehicles. Most cars at least have disc brakes up front, if not on all four wheels, and the majority of pickup trucks have them. Box trucks and full-size vans frequently also feature these brakes.

Disc brakes are so-named because they have a metal-shaped disc, which is also known as a rotor. The other major parts are a pad, which is held near the rotor in a clamp, and a caliper, which controls the pad.

The disc is directly connected to the wheel and spins as the wheel spins. When the driver presses the brake pedal, the caliper pushes the pad against the disc to create friction. The friction forces the disc to slow, and the connected wheel also slows as a result.

Drum Brakes: Also Common But Slightly Reduce Performance

Drum brakes are also extremely common, and they’re found on the same array of vehicles as disc brakes. Cars, pickup trucks, box trucks, and vans can all have drum brakes.

These brakes work a lot like disc brakes, spinning a disc-like component with the wheel and pressing a pad against it to slow the wheel. The spinning component is thicker than a disc, though, and everything is contained within a metal drum.

Generally speaking, disc brakes provide higher performance than drum ones do. For this reason, disc brakes are commonly installed on the front wheels, which is where a vehicle’s momentum directs most of the braking force. Drum brakes are suitable for rear wheels, which see much less braking force when you step on the brake pedal.

Trailer Brakes: Any Brakes Installed on Trailers

Trailer brakes can be any type of brake that’s installed on a trailer. Small trailers don’t need their own brakes, but large and heavy trailers — especially commercial trailers pulled by trucks — carry so much weight that they need an independent braking mechanism on their wheels. Without these, it would take too long for even a powerful truck to slow a fully loaded trailer.

Trailer brakes are connected to your towing vehicle’s brake pedal via wiring, so they stop or slow the trailer whenever you reduce the vehicle’s speed.

Hydraulic Brakes: Closed and Pressurized Delivery Method

Hydraulic brakes don’t have anything to do with the actual components that are used to create friction at the wheel. Instead, this phraseology references the method of activating whatever components slow the wheel. The brakes are activated via a hydraulic system.

In hydraulic vehicle brakes, the system uses brake fluid that runs through hoses to create the pressure that’s needed. When you step on the brake pedal, a hydraulic system immediately creates pressure. That pressure is transferred to the calipers that press the disc to create friction. The process occurs nearly instantly so the vehicle begins slowing the moment you step on the brake pedal. Also, stepping on the pedal harder creates more pressure that results in greater braking power.

Hydraulic brakes are used in almost all vehicles, including cars, pickup trucks, box trucks, vans, and tractor trailers. For many models, this is the default — and often only — braking system.

Air Brakes: Open and Highly Pressurized Delivery Method

Air brakes rely on a different power delivery method. Rather than using a closed system to create pressure, these brakes use springs contained in cylinders to build up large amounts of pressure. When needed, that pressure can be released to powerfully activate the brakes.

Air brakes are reserved for large vehicles, such as tractor trailers.

No matter what type of brakes your truck has, make an appointment at Godfrey Brake Service & Supply when you need brake service performed.


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