The brakes are one of the most important systems in your car. Over the years, auto makers have tried out many different types of brakes. In this article, we’ll talk about the evolution of braking systems to understand how we got to the modern systems we have today.
Wooden block brakes
Wooden block brakes are the earliest automotive brakes. They were first used in horse-drawn carriages and steam cars. This early system used wooden blocks and a lever. The lever pushed the blocks up against the steel-rimmed wheels. This caused friction, which made the wheels stop spinning. Wooden block brakes had some significant limitations. For one, they only worked for vehicles traveling under 20 miles per hour. Additionally, they only worked on steel-rimmed vehicles. When automakers made the switch to rubber tires in the 1890s, wooden block brakes became obsolete.
Mechanical drum brakes
Automakers needed a new braking system that would work with rubber tires. In 1899, Gottlieb Daimler came up with an idea. He hypothesized that a cable-wrapped drum could stop a moving vehicle, as long as it was connected to the base frame. In 1902, Louis Renault took this idea and ran with it. He built the first mechanical drum brake, which became the basis for our braking systems today.
Expanding internal shoe brakes
Although Renault’s brake system was innovative, it was flawed. Since mechanical drum brakes were located on the exterior of the car, they were exposed to rain water, dirt, and temperature changes. As a result, they often malfunctioned and needed repairs. Eventually, an internal braking system was developed. Expanding internal shoe brakes were shielded by a metal drum that was attached to the wheel. Inside, pistons expanded the brake shoes. When that happened, they brushed up against the metal drum. The friction from this caused the vehicle’s wheels to stop spinning. Expanding internal shoe brakes had a much longer lifespan than exterior drum brakes.
To operate expanding internal shoe brakes, a lot of force needed to be applied. Thankfully, hydraulic brakes addressed this issue. Invented in 1918 by Malcolm Loughead, this four-wheel system used brake fluid to move hydraulic force from the pedal to the brake shoe. This made it a lot less strenuous to activate the car’s brakes. By the late 1920s, a lot of big auto manufacturers switched over to hydraulic braking systems.
Hydraulic systems ended up malfunctioning often because they frequently developed leaks. One leak could wreak havoc on the entire braking system. Because of this, automakers started installing disc brakes that incorporated hydraulic functions. Although disc brakes had been around for a long time, they weren’t popular until the mid-20th century.
Anti-lock brakes are a standard safety feature in most vehicles today. The first anti-lock brakes date back to the 1920s. They were originally intended for airplanes, but automakers began testing them out on cars during the 1950s and ‘60s. They became quite common and affordable by the 1970s. Here’s how they work. If a lock gets detected by the car’s speed sensors, the car will take pressure off of a wheel by using hydraulic valves. This pumping action stops the car from spinning out and gives the driver more control.
Do your brakes need maintenance? Our experienced technicians at Dunrite Automotive are here to help. Give us a call today at (952) 925-2020 to schedule your appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Replacing Your Brakes: Everything You Need to Know
With the proper equipment and a little elbow grease, lots of auto maintenance is easy enough. Alas, replacing your brakes isn’t one of these jobs. That’s because your brakes are a complex and interconnected system. Working on your brakes can reveal underlying problems that need troubleshooting and repair. This article covers everything you need to know about brake replacement. Having a good understanding of this job will help you decide how to move forward with your brake upkeep.
Steps to replacing the brake system
When auto technicians replace brakes, they also inspect your system for anything that’s amiss. The process for replacing the brakes usually follows these general steps:
- Loosen the lugs: Begin by engaging the emergency brake, and then use a lug wrench to unscrew the lugs. Don’t completely disconnect them yet.
- Raise the vehicle: Place the car jack beneath the frame rail of the vehicle. Make sure that it can rest on the jack stands by placing them beneath your car. Next, make sure that your car is stable on the jack and that its weight can’t shift around. Then, remove the wheels.
- Slide out the caliper: Once you’ve taken off the bolts, you can remove the caliper. If it doesn’t easily slide out, using a flat head screwdriver to pry it out usually does the trick. To ensure the brake lines don’t get strained, place the caliper on the suspension.
- Remove the caliper carrier: Detach the bolts that hold down the caliper carrier and remove it.
- Remove the rotor: Look for a rotating screw on your rotor. If you have one, take it out before removing the rotor. If your system has an accumulation of rust or other debris, it may be difficult to pull out the rotor.
- Install new rotor: Use a wire brush to remove rust from the hub’s surface. After that, ensure there’s no oily residue on your new rotor by wiping it off with a degreaser. Once you’ve done this, you can install your new rotor.
- Assemble caliper carrier: Secure your caliper carrier with new bolts.
- Compress the caliper: Check to make sure there’s no cap on your brake reservoir. Then, use an old brake pad and a c-clamp to align the caliper’s piston with its housing.
- Install caliper and brake pads: Once the brake pads are in the caliper carrier, loosely attach the caliper bolts. Check to make sure the caliper can move properly without binding before tightening up the caliper bolts.
- Re-attach the wheels: Manually fasten the lugs back on, and tighten them with a torque wrench when your car is back on the ground.
- Repeat, pump, and break in: Repeat these steps for the rest of your wheels. Then, pump your brakes about 3 times. At this point, you should feel pressure in your new system. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to break things in. Take your car for a spin, and go through a few cycles of speeding up and gradually decelerating. While you’re driving, listen to your vehicle. It’s normal to hear some odd noises at first, but these will eventually go away as you keep driving.
Should I replace my own brakes?
Brake replacement is one of those jobs that’s rarely as straightforward as it seems. Unless you know a lot about troubleshooting and fixing brakes, this job is best left to an expert. This will give you peace of mind in knowing your brakes are cared for properly.
Do you have questions about brake replacement? Our experienced technicians at Dunrite Automotive have the answers for you. Give us a call today at (952) 925-2020. We look forward to serving you.