Brakes: Frequently Asked Questions
Your vehicle’s brake system is a network of connected components that work in harmony to stop it effectively and safely. It includes:
Brake Pedal – The driver presses the pedal to activate the brake system in order to slow down or stop the vehicle.
Master Cylinder – The master brake cylinder is activated when the brake pedal is depressed and is responsible for increasing and regulating the brake fluid pressure before it’s delivered to the brake calipers.
Brake Hose – The tubing that transports pressurized brake fluid to the calipers.
Brake Fluid – Brake fluid is an integral component of the braking system. It distributes energy throughout the system to ensure that the other components can perform their necessary tasks. A leak in the brake lines or lack of brake fluid can leave the brakes non-operational, which as you can imagine is a very risky proposition for everyone in and around the vehicle.
Brake Calipers – A brake caliper houses the brake pads and fits over the rotor like a clamp. The hydraulic fluid delivered from the brake cylinder activates the pistons in the caliper to force the brake pads against rotors in order to slow down or stop the vehicle. There are two types of calipers in the marketplace today including:
Floating Calipers (also known as sliding) – These types of calipers move in and out relative to the rotor. They have either one or two pistons on the inboard side of the rotor that push the entire caliper when the brake is applied in order to create friction between the brake pads and the rotors.
Fixed Calipers – These calipers do not move and instead they have pistons installed on opposing sides of the rotors. These types of calipers are generally used for higher performance vehicles and in some cases can have as many as six pairs of pistons in all. As you can guess, they also tend to be more expensive!
Brake Pads – These are metal plates bonded with high-friction material inside the caliper and are used for slowing and/or stopping a vehicle. There are two kinds of brake pads:
Outboard brake pads – located on the outside of the rotors
Inboard brake pads – located on the inside of the rotors
Brake Rotors – Brake rotors are flat metal parts attached to a rod that is held in place on the inside of the wheel. In order for a vehicle to stop, the rotor has to stop spinning. This is accomplished through friction created by rubbing of brake pads against rotors.
How often should I have my brakes inspected?
Based on industry recommendations, you should have your brakes inspected on an annual basis. This frequency will help ensure that the potential problems are spotted early and before they become bigger and more expensive to fix.
At Virginia Tire & Auto we suggest that you consult your owner’s manual for specific brake inspection interval recommendations. Of course, if you are experiencing any braking issues, please stop by one of our several NOVA locations.