Albany Auto Repair

How do Brakes Work?

Your car may run great, but you have to slow down and stop at some point. That's where brakes come in!


When you step on the brake pedal in your car or truck, you expect your vehicle to slow down and eventually come to a complete stop, but do you know how that process works? 


In your car or truck, brakes work off something called hydraulic pressure. Your brake pedal is attached to a booster that takes the pressure you apply to the pedal and amplifies it. 


The booster then takes that increased pressure and compresses the fluid in your brake system, which sends that pressure into your brake calipers or drums.


A caliper uses hydraulic pressure to drive a piston that squeezes a brake pad into the rotor to slow it and the wheel down. The brake pads are mounted into the caliper and sit on each side of the rotor so that it can clamp onto both sides evenly.


The rotor is a large disc that sits behind your wheel and is connected to the wheel and axle of your vehicle. It is typically made of thick steel and the brake pads are made of a high friction material. When the pads clamp down on the rotor the extreme friction causes your car to slow down. The speed at which you slow down depends on how hard you step on the pedal.

Race and high performance cars have started to use other types of material for the pads and rotors but still operate similarly.


Drum brakes are an older style of brakes and are not used as often. When you do see drum brakes, they are on the rear wheels of a car or truck. They also use hydraulic pressure to operate. Instead of clamping a disc with pads, drum brakes use a large bowl looking “drum” that sits behind your wheel, and brake shoes apply pressure to the sides of the drum.

Drums are made of the same material as rotors and shoes, the same as pads.


There are various brake lines, valves, and sensors that all contribute to the complexity of your brake system. Hybrid and EV vehicles add even more complexity.


Brakes are also a normal maintenance item; brake pads and shoes wear down, along with rotors and drums. How long they last depends on how you drive, what you drive, and the quality of the parts you use.


Brake fluid also degrades over time and needs to be flushed from time to time.


We have all the equipment necessary to service your brake system and the knowledge to repair anything that fails in the lifetime of your car or truck. 

At Crabtree Automotive, we work on all makes and models, even European.  From Honda to Audi and everything in between! So give us a call or schedule an appointment today with the link below.

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