Types of brakes, ABS – anti lock braking system
Have you ever wondered how your car manages to brake? In this video we will explain how your car’s braking system works.
A car’s braking system consists of a special type of brake, namely the disc brake.
Experiments with disc brakes were first carried out in England during the last decades of the 19th century; but many more years were necessary for serial production.
The Citroen DS from 1955 is the first car to have employed this braking system, and is still considered a symbol of technological innovation and style.
As is very common for the car industry, car races (in particular Formula 1) have been one of the main driving factors that enabled the spread of the disc braking system.
JAES, which for more than 10 years has operated within the industrial supply sector, has become the partner of choice for some of the car industry’s most important companies.
Disc brakes are nowadays an essential component of modern cars, even though small cars often still use drum brakes to the rear wheels due to: lower costs, simplicity and to make the handbrake more efficient.
The braking system can be operated in two ways: with a lever, such as the handbrake, or with pedals. This is possible thanks to different technologies, as there are hydraulic, pneumatic and hydraulic braking systems.
To better understand how it works, let’s have a look at the braking system of our car with disc brakes.
When you push the brake pedal, a hydraulic system connected to a PUMP activates a CALIPER positioned on the opposite side of the steering rack. The caliper holds the brake pads and all components that enable it to move, such as wheel cylinders, which are usually made of aluminium or chromium plated steel.
The brake pads are made by a metal base on which a layer of friction material (which can be of various types) is applied. The choice of material depends on whether one aims to maximize efficiency or durability.
The brake pads are squeezed by the caliper against the disc brake; the disc brake moves together with the wheel and thanks to the so created friction the wheel stops turning, which therefore stops the car.
The disc is made of different materials, for example the braking surface can be made of cast iron, steel, ceramic, or carbo-ceramic, the latter being used for high-performance cars. Finally, the braking surfaces used for car races are usually made of carbon, because carbon has excellent high-temperature resistance. Not only that, but the performance of carbon discs improves with increasing temperatures, because higher temperatures increase their friction coefficient.
The shape of the disc has also an impact on its performance. The disc can be “FULL” with a double contact surface, or it can be “DAISY-SHAPED”, with a very peculiar plate profile (carved or waved), often used by the motorcycle industry. Furthermore, it can be also “VENTED”, that is to say made of two discs connected in such a way as to allow air passage in-between, which improves heat dissipation.
Moreover, different types of processing can be applied to the surface of disc brakes. So a disc brake can be SMOOTH with no processing, or DRILLED, which improves heat dissipation. It can also have GROOVES, which helps to remove the material consumed by the brake pads. Finally, the processing can be SEGMENTAL, which means that the surface has sharp edges which literally slice the brake pads, therefore enabling very aggressive braking.
The braking system usually guarantees a safe car stop. However, when we push the brake pedal while racing on slippery roads (such as puddles), the wheels might stop turning and start slipping and the car get out of control. In these particular situations a safety system called ABS gets often activated.
The ABS (or anti-lock braking system) assists during the braking phase in order to prevent the wheels from blocking. Sensors are installed inside the wheels and communicate with a control unit. At the very moment that one or more wheels lock up, the control unit of the ABS intervenes on the pressure of the hydraulic pump in order to lower the braking force and therefore prevent the car from slipping.
The braking system is essential to all modern cars, and its maintenance is equally important. For example, the brake pads should be checked regularly, and the liquid in the hydraulic pump tank should be replaced. Through the use of these small expedients, one can improve the safety conditions for the driver and his passengers.
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