How Brakes Work
Most cars now have brakes on all four wheels that are operated by a hydraulic system. Depending on the type of vehicle, the brakes may be disc type or drum type. The front brakes actually play a larger role when it comes to stopping the car than the rear ones, because braking throws the car weight forward to the front wheels. For this reason, many cars will have more efficient disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in rear.
On the surface, the way modern brake systems work is pretty simple. You press down the pedal, and the pedal depresses a cylinder that forces fluid to each brake. The fluid then fills a cylinder at each brake, which forces a piston to apply the brake pads and slow the wheels. Most cars now have twin hydraulic circuits with two master cylinders in case one should fail, as added protection that you can slow down and stop your vehicle.
Anti-Lock Braking Systems
Stopping a car in a hurry on a slippery road can be very challenging. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) allow you to keep control while braking by maintaining some of your ability to steer the vehicle while slowing down. When you apply the brakes in slippery conditions, wheel sensors detect when your car’s tires begin locking up. Then, they rapidly apply and release (pulse) the brakes to keep your tires from skidding. The hydraulic brake system still stops the car, but the ABS prevents the car from sliding all over the place.
When Is a Brake Inspection Needed?
Whether your car has an anti-lock braking system or not, keeping the brakes themselves and the ABS in top working condition is critical to your safety. With the braking system itself, there are several warning signs that indicate you should have your brakes inspected as soon as possible. These include: hearing a screeching noise when you use your brakes, feeling vibration in the brake pedal, decreased brake responsiveness, or your car is pulling to one side or the other when you hit the brake pedal.
Even if you don’t notice any of the warning signs that indicate your brakes need to be repaired, we recommend bringing your car into HEART Certified Auto Care for a brake inspection at least once each year. Our technicians will review all areas related to your brakes and can spot signs of brake problems before they turn into larger, more dangerous, and more expensive problems.
Signs You Should Replace Your ABS
The anti-lock braking system (ABS) is now key to vehicle safety. While some ABS problems can be fixed easily, others mean that it is time to replace the entire system. A major sign that you may need a new ABS is when your system kicks in randomly, even under normal driving conditions. Also, if your wheels lock up as you apply the brakes on slippery surfaces, it means that your hydraulic brake system is working fine, but the ABS is not functioning properly. And finally, in the majority of modern vehicles with anti-lock braking systems, a problem with the system will trigger a warning light on your dash.
The problem might be related to the ABS itself, or it might be a problem with your car’s engine computer, wheel speed sensor, wheel bearing, axle toner ring, abs pump or control module. A HEART certified mechanic can run the necessary diagnostics to determine what is causing the problem with your anti-lock brakes.
Whether your car only has traditional hydraulic brakes, or it has hydraulic brakes with an anti-lock braking system, it is critical to your safety that they function properly. If you notice any problems with your brakes, bring your car by HEART Certified Auto Care in Evanston, Northbrook, or Wilmette.