Find Out What Type of Brakes Your Car Has and How To Maintain them

August 19th, 2014 by

Learn how to maintain the brakes on your car and stay safe

traffic jam on mountain road with cares using their brakes

That familiar I-70 traffic

Boulder is an amazing place to live and work, but on the weekends many of us head west towards the mountains for a quick getaway. Anyone who has been stuck in I-70 eastbound traffic on a Sunday afternoon can attest to our love for the mountains. But before you head off on a weekend getaway, check more than just the bags you’ve packed. Make sure that your brakes are ready to slow you, your friends, and your family down when you get to that traffic jam or have to make an emergency stop for an elk on the road.


Find Out What Kind of Brakes You Have

For the past few decades there have been only 2 predominant types of brakes, disc brakes and drum brakes. They work in essentially the same way, and symptoms of a worn system are often identical.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes predate disc brakes by many years, but they are still a reliable and affordable braking technology. However, because drum brakes do not dissipate heat as well as disc brakes, they are often only found on the rear two wheels of vehicles. Drum brakes essentially consist of two rounded brake shoes housed inside a round drum that spins with the wheels of a vehicle. When the brake pedal is applied, fluid pushes the two brake pads out against the drum where they create friction and slow the vehicle.

Disc Brakes

A car’s disc brakes work much like those of a motorcycle or bicycle. A caliper that houses two brake pads is mounted over a thin disc shaped rotor. The rotor spins with the wheels while the brake caliper remains stationary. When the brake pedal is applied, the two brake pads in the caliper squeeze the rotor to create friction and slow the vehicle. Check out the two diagrams from CarBibles below to see the difference between drum and disc brakes visually.

Drum Brake DiagramDisc Brake Diagram










Maintaining Your Car’s Brakes

Fortunately, drum and disc brake systems should go many thousands of miles without any trouble. Keep an eye on brake fluid and inspect your brake pads every 12,000 miles or so. If the pads are less than 1/8 inch thick consider replacing them. Otherwise, just keep an eye out for unusual behavior that could indicate a problem.

Worn Disc Rotor

A Worn Disc Rotor

Detecting a Problem With Your Brakes

The importance of your brakes cannot be overstated, if you experience these symptoms have your brakes inspected.

  •  Strange sounds when braking
  • Your car “pulls” to the left or right when driving
  • Vibrations when applying the brakes
  • A “mushy” or inconsistent brake pedal
  • Noticeable grooves in the rotors
  • Strange smells

Have Fisher Inspect Your Car’s Brakes

Hopefully you aren’t experiencing any of these warning signs of brake problems, but if you are, do something about it as soon as possible. Brake problems don’t fix themselves, and letting these problems persist could lead to an accident. Let the mechanics you trust at Fisher diagnose your brake troubles and drive safely.

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