Image showing foot pushing the brake pedal of a car

Types of Brakes

Whether it is a super sports car like a Lamborghini or a mass produced hatchback like the Maruti Suzuki Alto, there is one thing in common that both the vehicles can’t do without and won’t be able to run on the road – Brakes. Brakes are a very important aspect of any vehicle, these not only help a car stop but also lets the person driving the car be in control of it. This crucial component has come a long way from being a simple mechanical contraption to being sophisticated technological marvels. The brakes equipped on modern cars are technologically advanced, making our roads safer to drive on and more pleasurable.

Brakes are of many kinds, depending on the vehicle and what the carmaker provides. Let us tell you about the kinds of brakes used in cars today.

Disc Brakes

Image showing a car's disc brake

See that shiny or colored disc gleaming from behind the alloys of your car wheel? That is the disc on the disc brake and upon inspecting further you might find another component on it, that is the brake caliper or the housing of the brake pads. When you apply the brake, many mechanics come into play and the brake pads on both sides of the disc squeeze the disc. This creates friction and causes the car to slow down and ultimately stop. The main advantage of a disc brake is that it can transfer greater amounts of heat energy caused by friction of the pads into the atmosphere, which helps the disc be cool even under high speed or high friction conditions. 

Drum Brakes

Image showing a finger pointing towards a drum brake

Most commonly used brakes on cars and motorcycles, drum brakes, use push motion to slow the vehicle down. Drum brake pads are housed in a drum like enclosure that is connected to the wheel. So when the wheels move the drum rotates, but the brake pads inside stay still. When brakes are applied, the push motion via mechanical components causes a master cylinder inside the drum to push the brake pads against the rotating drum, this causes friction and the vehicle slows down and comes to a rest. Drum brakes are very easy to make and commonly used on mass-produced cars.

Emergency Brakes

Image showing a man engaging the parking brake

Known commonly as the Parking Brake, Emergency Brake is another braking system that works independent of the service brakes. The emergency brake lever is located on the centre console beside the driver, when the lever is pulled, a steel wire inside a cable along with other components force the brakes in the rear wheel to come into action. The lever can be locked into any position as deemed necessary by the driver. To release the brakes, the driver simply has to push the button on top of the lever and guide the lever to its normal position. Most modern vehicles have only a button to engage the parking brake. Emergency brakes come handy in situations where the car needs to be parked on a gradient or in case the main brakes don’t function properly.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Image showing the ABS symbol

Anti-Lock Brakes are a braking system not actual brakes and are found on vehicles having an ABS control module. At times during driving a driver might have to apply brakes suddenly and what this does is jam the brakes, this leads to the wheels stopping but the momentum of the vehicle drags the wheels and makes the car skid uncontrollably and as a result not stopping at the desired point. This is where the ABS comes into play, the module along with an onboard sensor deciphers the force of the brake applied and applies the brakes in a quick squeeze release motion. This helps the vehicle not to skid, be in control of the driver and ultimately stop at the desired point. ABS brakes are a mandatory requirement on all cars in India as this helps prevent otherwise potential collision situations.


When did Anti-Lock Brakes become mandatory in India?

ABS brakes became mandatory in India from April 2019. This was done to give the driver more control in case of sudden braking situations or incase of wet and slippery roads. ABS braking system enhances vehicle steerability while braking and reduces the stopping distance.

What happens if parking/emergency brakes are applied during driving?

Application of parking brakes during driving will render the rear wheels to lock and skid. This is a potential hazardous situation and hence a strict no-no.

On which wheels are parking brakes situated?

Parking brakes are installed on the rear wheels that have drum brakes. As explained above these brakes come into action when the parking brake lever is pulled.

Why are disc brakes used on high performance cars?

Disc brakes have the inherent ability to cool faster; when they come into contact with brake pads during braking at high speeds, all that kinetic energy is converted into heat via friction of the brake pads on the disc. The disc has a higher surface area compared to drum brakes and hence it gets cooled faster through atmospheric air. Another advantage of disc brakes is that they possess greater stopping power due to squeezing action of the brake caliper.

Why are drum brakes situated on the rear wheels?

In a car most of the control and the driveability comes from the front wheel, to achieve greater maneuverability at high speeds disc brakes are located in the front wheels. Drum brakes on the other hand don’t have much surface area and hence cool at a lower rate compared to disc brakes, plus they also have to accommodate the emergency/parking brake feature, which, as explained above, requires a drum system to work.

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