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Three types of car brakes

Feb. 05, 2018

All car brakes work by friction, either converting the forward momentum of a moving vehicle into heat to slow a car or by using static friction to hold the vehicle in place when parked. There are three main categories of brakes: drum, disc and parking.

Drum brakes

This brake works by using brake shoes or pads that expand against the inside of a cylindrical drum. This creates sufficient friction to slow a moving car down.

Disc brakes

Disc brake systems use a pair of shoes or pads that clamp against the flat disc or rotor. Normally made of cast iron, the disc is connected to the wheel. To stop the wheel from turning when a car is in motion, brake pads are forced against the side of the disc and the friction created by this stops the disc and the wheel it's attached to.

The design of the discs varies and high-performing brakes tend to have discs with holes drilled through them or discs that are slotted to allow for dust and water to escape easily.

Parking brakes

The hand brake, or parking brake, is used to keep the car stationary. It may be employed during a hill-start manoeuvre or when the car is parked on the roadside. These brakes function mechanically and use static friction to hold a vehicle in place.

Car parking brakes normally consist of a cable that is connected to a braking mechanism at one end and a mechanism used by the driver at the other - this tends to be a lever which the driver pulls upwards, hence the name "hand brake". This mechanism can also be located elsewhere, such as below or near the steering wheel.

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