Braking is one of the most important performances your vehicle makes, and it is certainly the most important for keeping you safe. Since the days of Fred Flintstone braking with his feet, technology has come a long way! In modern vehicles, the braking system is a complicated progression of elements that translate your movement of depressing the brake pedal into actually slowing your vehicle.
The first communication relies on the pressure of the fluids in your braking system. Your brake fluid needs to be kept at a certain pressure to be effective at slowing your vehicle. This is controlled by the brake master cylinder which is able to increase or decrease that pressure as needed.
On each wheel is a caliper, which is a sort of housing or case for the other brake components that actually stop your wheel. Inside the caliper, the brake rotor is a large metal disk that is attached to the wheel. The brake pads are held against the rotor to create friction and slow the wheel. This creates an incredible amount of heat which is transferred to the brake pads. The choice of brake pads is very important because you want pads that will last you for years and years of braking without wearing too quickly.
If you own a hybrid vehicle, you may also have the added function of regenerative braking. In traditional engines, when you brake, you lose all the momentum that you had built up in the engine by accelerating. That energy is just wasted. In the 20 years of hybrid technology, regenerative braking hasn’t received the attention that it should. This technology preserves the energy from the engine when you are braking and converts it to power in the battery. When you accelerate again, your engine will access that surplus of energy before it will begin creating new energy again.
Braking is a much more complicated system than just pressing two very dangerous parts together until they create enough friction to stop. Instead, we have fluids and pressure systems that make braking easier with just the press of a pedal. Even newer technology allows us to save wasted energy with the process of regenerative braking.