You are currently viewing BRAKES: HOW IT WORKS!


Cars generally are equipped with huge engines to hurl them to very high speeds. But, even though cars are needed to move people, it won’t make sense to get to your destination and not be able to stop, the purpose of the vehicle will be defeated. How are cars made to stop? You know that, don’t you? They use brakes. But how do they work?

Heavy braking
Heavy braking

Let’s Hit-The-Garage and tell you about Brakes!

Little History

Bertha Benz, wife of Karl Benz, introduced brakes in cars for the first time, in a desperate attempt to stay alive, while testing her husband’s invention. To know more about that click “here“.


Ever since there had been a need to move, there hs always been a need to stop… To stop a vehicle, a lot of things come to play.
For a vehicle to move, the fuel is burnt in air inside the engine, and resulting explosions drive the crankshaft …(read more) and that then turns the tyres to move the car.

When a body is in motion, it is said to possess kinetic energy (stay with me, it’s just a few physics lessons).
And according to Newton’s Law of energy conservation, “Energy can not be created or destroyed, but can only be converted from one form to another”, therefore the kinetic energy (i.e the rotation of the tyres) of the car must be converted to another form of energy. heat energy.


To do this, friction is introduced. Brakes introduce friction to resist motion of the wheels.
Remember that lesson in primary school where they’ll ask us to rub our palms together (try it again), you’ll see that after some time, your palms will get hot. The same thing happens when the brakes touch the wheels, and that heating up is what stops the vehicle. 
A car stops only after all the kinetic energy in form of rotation has been totally converted to heat energy. That’s why car wheels are hot after a long ride.

A brake rotor heating up
A brake rotor heating up due to friction

An Extreme Situation of Heating leading to malfunction

In the past, brakes used to be controlled by lines (metallic ropes) when the pedal is pressed, the lines pull on the brakes and bring the cars to a stop, but the use of lines was stopped because:

1. The lines sometimes get taut and break, causing accidents

2. The brakes didn’t grip evenly, hence, the vehicle was likely to lose control

There was a need for improvements.

In 1914, a French man, Malcolm Loughead invented the hydraulic brakes which use pressurized fluid to stop cars instead of the lines. They were first applied in tractors, and later introduced into cars. Technological improvements eventually led to the introduction of the self-energizing hydraulic drum brake system by Edward Bishop Boughton, England, 1927 which is still in use today.

The First Hydraulic Brakes Set-up
The First Hydraulic Brakes Set-up used in Knox Motors Tractor

The hydraulic brakes works with pressure and pressure only. Loss of pressure in the system is what most times leads to brake failure.

Parts of an hydraulic brake system

Mechanical parts of your brake include:

  1. Brake pads
  2. Rotors
  3. Calipers
  4. Lines or hose: to carry the brake fluid from the cylinder to the calipers.
  5. Master cylinder: It pressurizes the fluid


Press the brakes!

When the brake pedal is pressed, a pushrod which is connected to the pedal exerts force on the piston in the master cylinder, causing fluid from the brake fluid reservoir to flow into a pressure cham. This results in an increase in the pressure of the entire hydraulic system, forcing fluid through the pipes designed to carry the fluid toward one or more calipers where it acts upon one or more caliper (they house the brake pads) pistons.

The brake caliper pistons then apply force to the brake pads, pushing them against the spinning rotor, and the friction between the pads and the rotor causes braking, slowing the vehicle.
In short, March the brakes, O master cylinder humble yourself and send fluid to the brake calipers, brake calipers clamp down hard on the brake pads according to pressure applied. Brake pad takes it out on the rotor, creating friction in their relationship and stopping your car to settle the friction.

Action of Hydraulic Brakes
Working action of hydraulic brakes



Action of brake pads

For drum brakes which use brake shoes instead of brake pads, the  brake shoes do not press down on the rotor, they push out on the brake drum, and bring the vehicle to a stop.

Action of Drum Brakes
Action of Drum Brakes

So now, you know how pressing the pedal in a car brings it to a stop. Brakes are a very important safety feature in your car, knowing brakes is knowing your car; Knowing Your Motor!

 Complete Braking System in a Car


Do you know that the brake system needs to be maintained? How do you know if your brakes are bad or worn? And what do you do if the brakes fail?
Watch out for the next episode of Drive-Right!
Subscribe to be the first to know when the post gets out. It promises to be enlightening!!!


This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. Chukwuma Egwuonwu

    The write up was a bit difficult to understand, thanks to the videos and pictures which gave some clarification.

  2. Ifeoluwa Alagbe

    Thanks for this expository write-up, really enlightening I must say. Good job here. And I love the pictures too, they gave a clearer view and a better understanding.

    1. James Olajide

      You’re wlelcome sir, don’t forget to subscribe

  3. John Omokayode getting technical so fast. You guys will have to give me a degree after my years are complete.

    Good job.
    Thanks for the insights into workings and history.

    1. James Olajide

      😁😁😁 We’ll let you know as soon as our online school is official. You’ll get you degree

  4. Samuel Aanuoluwadamilola

    Thanks for the teachings, I’m gradually being enlightened, God bless the crew.

    1. James Olajide

      😁😁 Keep in touch, we’ve got more in stock for you.

  5. Dave

    Now I can say I understand how the brakes work. The way you made the complicated stuff simple with the videos is very nice. Keep it up. Can’t wait for the next write up.

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