A Brief History of Automotive Braking Systems
The brakes are undoubtedly one of the most important components of your car. As the automobile evolved, so too have its braking systems. Today we’re looking at how brakes have changed over time. I think you’ll come to appreciate how much these systems have progressed over the years.
Wooden block brakes
The earliest brakes were wooden block brakes. They were used on steel-rimmed vehicles, such as horse-drawn carriages and steam-powered cars. As the name suggests, these systems were composed of wooden blocks and a lever. When the lever pushed the block of wood, it wedged up against the steel-rimmed wheel and caused friction. This ultimately brought the vehicle to a stop.
When rubber tires replaced steel-rimmed wheels in the 1890s, wooden block brakes fell out of use. They weren’t effective with rubber tires. Additionally, if a vehicle moved faster than 20 miles per hour, wooden block brakes didn’t work. Automakers needed to find another braking system since rubber tires were being used and cars were getting faster.
Mechanical drum brakes
In 1899, Gottlieb Daimler had an idea. He theorized that if a drum wrapped in cable was attached to the base frame, it could stop the car from moving. In 1902, Louis Renault built on this idea with his invention of the first mechanical drum brake. Renault’s system is considered the foundation for today’s modern braking systems.
Expanding internal shoe brakes
There was one major problem with mechanical drum brakes. Since they were an external system, they got exposed to extreme temperatures and precipitation. This resulted in lots of malfunctions. Eventually, an internal braking system was developed. This system was shielded, so it lasted much longer than external brakes. Here’s how they worked. Attached to the wheel, there was a metal drum. Inside of that drum was the expanding internal shoe brake system. When the brakes were activated, the brake shoes were expanded by pistons. The brake shoes scraped against the inside of the metal drum. This friction stopped the movement of the car.
Hydraulic brakes were invented in 1918 by Malcolm Loughead. This four-wheel system used brake fluid to transport hydraulic force from the pedal to the brake shoes. Unlike its predecessors, hydraulic brakes needed comparatively less physical force to operate. By the late 1920s, nearly every automaker adopted this system.
Since hydraulic brakes relied on brake fluid, leaks were problematic. A small tear could wreak havoc on the entire system. Inthe1950s, auto makers started using disc brakes that incorporated some hydraulic functions. Disc brakes were invented in the early 1900s, but they weren’t popular until this point.
Anti-lock brakes are a safety feature that prevent wheels from locking up when in use. This gives the driver more control and prevents the car from spinning out. Originally made for airplanes in the 1920s, automakers adopted this feature for cars in the 1950s. When speed sensors detected a lock, hydraulic valves decreased the pressure from the brake on one of the wheels. By pumping the brakes, the car reduces its chance of skidding or slipping. By the 1970s, anti-lock brakes became an affordable and popular safety feature.
Does your car need brake repair? Our experienced technicians at Parents Autocare are here to help. Give us a call at (612) 827-3838 to schedule your appointment today. We look forward to seeing you soon.
The Master Cylinder
The master cylinder is one of those car parts that’s overlooked and unappreciated. In fact, it’s an integral part of your hydraulic brake system. Today, we’re talking about what the master cylinder is and how it operates. We’ll also take a look at its history and how it’s evolved over time.
What is a master cylinder, and how does it work?
What exactly is a master cylinder? It’s a tube that transports hydraulic force in your brake system. When your foot hits the brake pedal, it creates a force. This gets transported through the master cylinder to reach the brake lines. Brake lines then move the hydraulic force out to your vehicle’s calipers. This causes the calipers to clamp down on the rotors. When this happens, your wheels stop spinning and your car stops. Car enthusiasts consider the master cylinder to be the heart of your car. Both function as a pump, transporting important fluid out to other parts where it’s needed. If the master cylinder is the heart, then the brake fluid is the blood. This fluid gets transported out through the brake lines, just as arteries transport blood away from the heart.
How the Master Cylinder Operates
Let’s look at some specifics on how the master cylinder operates. The force created by your foot pushing the brake pedal pushes into a rod called a pushrod. The pushrod moves forward in the dual-chamber master cylinder. Inside the master cylinder, there are also two pistons and a spring. The pushrod causes the movement of the pistons, which push brake fluid through the master cylinder. As the pistons move the brake fluid in each of the chambers, hydraulic pressure builds up. This pressure moves to the calipers, and they clamp down on the rotors. When this happens, it stops your wheels from spinning and your car stops moving.
The entire brake system needs to be completely sealed so no air gets in. To keep it airtight, a reservoir of brake fluid is positioned above the master cylinder. As soon as you release your foot from the brake pedal, brake fluid moves back into the reservoir through the brake lines.
How did the master cylinder come to be?
Early hydraulic systems were not nearly as advanced as what we have today. In fact, they had a major design flaw. Hydraulic brakes were first designed by Malcolm Lougheed in 1918. He created a system with one cylinder, meaning that the brakes on all four wheels were connected. The design flaw here is that one leak could ruin the entire system, and all of your brakes could go out. Despite this danger, Lougheed’s invention grew in popularity, and Chrysler picked it up in the early 1920s. They made some advances to the design, and re-branded them as Chrysler-Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Chrysler used these brakes from 1924 to 1962.
In 1960, a development came that made hydraulic braking systems much safer. Wagner Electric created a dual-cylinder system, similar to what we use today. Because this model has two cylinders, they also have two brake lines. Each of these connects to two of your vehicle’s wheels. Because of this design, a single leak won’t result in your brakes suddenly going out. Instead, it ensures that two of your four brakes will function, even if there’s a malfunction. Because this design is much safer, the federal government mandated this dual-braking design in all vehicles. This took place in 1967. It’s estimated that this mandate prevents 40,000 car accidents annually.
Now you know the backstory of the master cylinder, the heart of your car. The next time you push down on your brake pedal, think about what’s going on inside the cylinder. It might make you appreciate it even more. Does your cylinder need some extra care? Our experienced technicians at Parents Autocare are here to help. Give us a call today at (612) 827-3838 to schedule your appointment. We’re always here to help.
7 Signs of Brake Problems You Can’t Ignore
Putting off car maintenance is never a good idea, especially when it comes to your brakes. Chances are you’ll know if you have a problem because your car will let you know. Below are 7 of the most common symptoms of a malfunction with your brake system. Knowing about these will help you be more proactive with maintenance and repairs.
1. Brake light illuminated on the dashboard
An illuminated brake light, which appears on your dashboard, is the most obvious sign of an issue with your brakes. When there’s a problem, your car’s diagnostics system alerts you by triggering the brake light. This could happen for any number of reasons. To figure out exactly what’s going on, it’s a good idea to have a professional take a look at things.
2. Soft or spongy brake feel or leaking fluid
Moisture in your brake system is never a good thing. If your brake pedal feels soft or spongy, you’ll know you have this problem. A lot of times, moisture in your brake system is because of a hydraulic fluid leak. This could cause your entire system to malfunction because the brakes rely on hydraulic force.
3. Grinding sound from the brake pedal
Another symptom of brake problems is a grinding noise. This could indicate a few different issues. It could be a rock or pebble trapped inside the caliper, which is a simple fix. The grinding noise could also be the result of rusty brake parts. It’s also possible that the noise is from the rotor brushing up against the brake pad wear indicator. If this goes unchecked, it could lead to serious damage to your brake system. Regardless of the issue, it’s best to have a professional take a look at things.
4. Wobbling or vibration
A vibrating or wobbling sensation could be a result of an uneven rotor. As your vehicle ages, rotors develop variations on their surfaces. These differences in thickness cause a vibrating feeling when you apply the brakes. Another reason for this could be an issue with the calipers. If the piston is covered in debris or rust, it won’t retract properly when you take your foot off the brakes.
5. Squealing noise when braking
When your brake shoes or calipers wear out, the brake pad wear indicators make you aware of this. Since they’re metallic, they make a horrendous squeal when they brush up against the rotor. This unmistakable sound is one of the most noticeable signs of a problem with your brakes.
6. Burning smell while driving
Anytime you smell something burning, it’s a good idea to pull over. A burning, chemical smell could be a sign that your brakes are overheating. If this is the case, your brake fluid has reached a boiling point. This could cause your entire system to malfunction. If your brakes overheat, stop driving immediately and give your system enough time to cool down completely.
7. Pulling to one side while braking
If you notice your car veering to one side, chances are you have a problem with your brakes. This usually points to an issue with your front two brakes. It could be anything from a misaligned rotor, a faulty caliper, or a worn out brake hose. This will cause your system to brake unevenly, and your car will veer in one direction.
Does your brake system need maintenance? No matter the issue, our experienced technicians at Parents Autocare are here for you. Give us a call today at (612) 827-3838 to schedule your appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Brake Replacement: The Facts Every Car Owner Needs to Know
Replacing the brakes is rarely a straightforward job. In fact, while replacing the brakes, auto technicians often have to troubleshoot and repair issues with the system. Since the brakes are so interconnected, one small problem can cause everything to malfunction. Despite the complex nature of brake replacement, experts typically follow the same process. Understanding these steps can help you decide how to handle the replacement of your brakes.
Steps to replacing the brake system
In general, professionals follow these steps when replacing brake systems:
- Loosen the lugs: Start by activating the emergency brake, and then loosen the lugs without removing them. Do this by using a lug wrench to turn them counter-clockwise.
- Raise the vehicle: Position the jack underneath your vehicle’s frame rail. Rest your car on the jack stands, and be sure that the vehicle is stable. After verifying that the car’s weight isn’t shifting, take off the wheels.
- Slide out the caliper: Remove the bolts and slide the caliper out. If it’s lodged in there, use a flat head screwdriver to help pry it out. To avoid straining the brake lines, place the caliper on the suspension.
- Remove the caliper carrier: Detach the bolts and take out the caliper carrier.
- Remove the rotor: Check your rotor for a rotating screw. If you have one, take this out first, and then pull out the rotor. If your rotor is older or rusty, this step might be difficult.
- Install new rotor: Use a wire brush and scrape the hub to remove any surface rust. After that, wipe down your new rotor with a degreaser to remove oily residue. Then, install the new rotor.
- Assemble caliper carrier: Use new bolts to attach the caliper carrier.
- Compress the caliper: After making sure the reservoir’s cap is removed, compress the caliper. Usingac-clampandanoldbrakepad,pressthecaliper’spistontolineitupwith the housing of the caliper.
- Install caliper and brake pads: Install the brake pads in the caliper carrier and connect the bolts. Make sure the caliper can move properly without seizing up, and then fasten the bolts.
- Reattach the wheels: Attach the lugs, and tighten them using a torque wrench when the vehicle is back on the ground.
- Repeat, pump, and break in: Follow the above steps for the rest of your wheels. After that, pump your brakes about 3 times to get pressure in your system. As soon as you feel pressure, take your car for a spin to break in your new system. Speed up and allow your car to gradually decelerate. Do this a few times and listen to your car. You’ll probably hear some strange noises initially, but these will gradually die down as your system breaks in.
Should I replace my own brakes?
Unless you’ve diagnosed and repaired brake issues in the past, replacing your own brakes isn’t the best idea. Vehicle safety is never something you want to be uncertain about. For this reason, we don’t recommend replacing your own brakes unless you really know what you’re doing. You can rest assured your system will be installed properly when you trust a professional with this job.
Do you need your brakes replaced? Let our experienced technicians at Parents Autocare lend you a hand. Give us a call at (612) 827-3838 to schedule your appointment today. We look forward to seeing you soon.