Picture the scene: Youâ€™re driving along a country lane at a steady pace when, from out of left-field, a sheep runs into the road. In the split-second you have to react to this startling scene, you slam on the brakes and expect your car to stop in time before any injury occurs to you, the sheep, or your car. Why should you be confident that this will happen? Allow us to look into the anatomy of braking:
Cars have two or three types of brakes in their braking system. Most cars have four disc brakes on all four wheels and when a driver steps on their brake pedal a material pad clamps onto these disc brakes to make them slow down. Other cars will have disc brakes on the front two wheels and drum brakes on the back â€“ these work in a slightly different way by having shoes inside a hollow wheel hub that press outward onto the back wheels to slow them down instead. The handbrake works along similar lines but by applying the brake to the disc or drum in a slower and less forceful motion.
When you think about the speed cars drive at and the amount of force used to brake this speeding car, the drum or disc needs to be made from a material that can withstand the heat and force such as alloys or ceramics in order to do this job effectively.
How Braking Works
You may think that simply pressing the brake with your foot and the car then stopping is all that happens when you need to stop. Far from it! Simply doing this wouldnâ€™t give the needed force to brake hard enough to stop which is the one reason why brakes use a hydraulic system to multiply force from one place to the next.
Pressing the brakes in your car moves a lever which forces a piston into a cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid. As the piston is forced into this narrow cylinder, hydraulic fluid is squirted out of the end of the pipe, and this narrow tube feeds into the tubes around the carâ€™s brakes. The force you originally exerted is multiplied considerably as a result of all this, clamping the brakes as a result.
Brake discs, pads, shoes and fluid are all available from places such as Unipart Autostore. Regular maintenance of these things can ensure theyâ€™re working at their optimum at all times and your car will not only stop in time but that sheep who ran out in front of you will live.
The New Frontier
Getting a car moving requires a lot of power and every time you put your foot on the brakes, all the energy accumulated by the motion of the vehicle is lost in brake pads as heat. Wouldnâ€™t it be great if you could do something with that energy instead of just losing it? Welcome to the wonderful world of regenerative braking!
With concerns about range and battery life, innovative electric automobile manufacturers such as Nissan and Tesla have taken full advantage of regenerative braking technology in order to squeeze every last drop of power out of the electric motor technology. This involves the energy from the use of the brakes essentially being used to feed into an electric motor which then feeds into the main battery – charging it and extending the mileage range incrementally to get you where you need to be. A fantastic idea!