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Brake hydraulics provide the force behind the brake system. The hydraulics use specialized brake fluid to create pressure, squeezing the brake pads against the brake rotors. When the brake pads squeeze against the brake rotors, it creates friction to slow the vehicle. The driver controls this process using the brake pedal which regulates the amount of hydraulic pressure and friction applied to the braking system.
The benefits of hydraulics are dependability, ease of use, and consistent application of pressure. This article provides a good overview of how hydraulic brakes work and what's needed to maintain the braking system.
Just about every car on the road today uses a hydraulic brake system. There are other systems such as vacuum, electromagnetic, and air brake systems, but most vehicles use hydraulic braking systems due to their low cost, ease of maintenance, and dependability. They also perform well, applying consistent pressure to stop your vehicle safely and reliably. For these reasons they are used in street vehicles, high performance race cars and everything in between.
Even though all hydraulic braking systems work the same, there are different types of brake system parts and hydraulic fluid for different needs. These parts offer optimum performance for daily driving, towing, or racing. Here's an overview of what to consider when deciding what will meet your requirements.
Most car hydraulic systems don’t require regular maintenance. However, when investigating brake pads, brake calipers, and brake rotors, it's important to also inspect the hydraulic system. Check the brake fittings and brake lines for leaks. Also look at the master cylinder reservoir and make sure it has plenty of fluid.
If the brake pedal pressure changes when applying or pumping the brakes, or the brake pedal feels spongy, or goes to the floor it's an indication something is wrong with the hydraulics. The most likely problems are air in the hydraulic system, a hydraulic leak, or problems with the master cylinder. Unless you have the necessary tools and experience, the best option is to have any hydraulic issues inspected by a professional mechanic.
The components of a hydraulic brake system are essentially the same between regular cars, performance cars, and racing cars, but there are some differences. Performance and racing brake systems usually include larger components, including larger master cylinders, brake discs, and brake calipers. Additionally, parts like the brake pads are constructed using different materials.
While it may be tempting to upgrade your braking system using performance or racing components, it's not the best option for your daily driver. You should take into account the type of driving you do and decide if you will do any towing or plan to take your vehicle on the race track. In most cases, your stock brakes will be more than adequate and provide you with the best performance bang for your buck. If you are doing more aggressive driving, we have plenty of options to improve your braking performance.
If your brake hydraulics fail, your brake pedal will go to the floor and fail to engage the brakes. This is sometimes called "long pedal." The most common reasons brake hydraulics fail is loss of pressure, either because of air in the system and/or the loss of brake fluid. It is rare to have a complete brake failure resulting in no ability to stop. But, it is fairly common for a hydraulic issue to greatly degrade braking ability.
The best way to prevent hydraulic brake failure is to check your brakes regularly for signs of leaks or a low fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir. Additionally, if the brake pedal pressure changes or feels spongy when applying or pumping the brakes, it's an indication something is wrong with the hydraulics. If you notice any of these warning signs, take your vehicle to a professional mechanic to have it checked out.
Hydraulic brake systems operate on sealed components and are activated under pressure. Any sign of fluid leakage from a component suggests some kind of hydraulic failure. Likewise, if the brake fluid in the master brake cylinder reservoir is dropping slowly, it could also be a sign of fluid leakage. This guide provides and overview of hydraulic braking systems, including how they work.
If you see hydraulic fluid under a brake housing, look closer to find the source of the leak. There are several possible areas that could leak including brake hoses and lines, or brake calipers and wheel cylinders. If you notice leaks in any of these areas, or suspect you have a fluid leak, take your vehicle to a professional mechanic to have it checked out.