How Brakes Work

How Brakes Work

In this video I tackle the mechanical aspects of the braking system. I also explain why most autocross cars don’t need upgraded brakes and why track cars absolutely do.

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Video Transcript

Hey everybody, Matt Covert here again from and this is the first video in the series that is kind of a technical video [how brakes work] and I love this technical stuff and I think it’s really important for people to understand what is exactly is going on with their car. Because I meet drivers a lot and I always talk to them about hey what are you doing with this and this and they just don’t really understand how the different systems in their car work.

So we’re going to start with how the brakes in your car actually work. Let’s look at the actual mechanics. I’ve gone ahead and drawn this little diagram already and I’ll just take you through it. Brake systems are pretty simple, this is the simplest kind of brake system you can have. A lot of new cars are a little more complicated with sensors and whatnot and I’ll briefly explain those in a few moments. But let’s just go through the simple basis here first OK?

This is the brake pedal, and this is where you would put force into the system. And this slight amount of mechanical advantage gives you a huge amount of pressure right about here on the pedal. And what you’re doing is you’re pushing this piston into this assembly which is called the master cylinder. And that’s what holds the fluid reserve and the whole brake concept is using hydraulics, which is just moving force from one place to another OK? And you can’t compress a liquid and that’s the concept.

If you impart a force on this end that force is transferred all the way down over here. And that’s what you’re doing is you’re pushing the brakes and creating a force inside the cylinder and you are forcing brake fluid down through the brake lines to a caliper, which is the device that kind of straddles a rotor. This is a rotor from an end view. Oops, let’s give rid of that.

So pressure comes into the caliper here and there’s another piston in the middle you can see right there, squeezing force which straddles the rotor is what actually stops the car. And this is the simplest system. It’s pretty easy to understand, it really is. A lot of cars are pretty complicated now because there are, let’s say there’ll be a sensor mounted on part of the wheel which monitors whatever the rotor is doing or maybe the wheel assembly and that can send an electrical impulse to the computer to tell the car of a wheel is locked up, and that’s what ABS brakes are. It just monitors the different speeds of the wheel and can automatically engage braking systems to kind of counter act wheels that are either skidding or spinning too fast or something like that.

ABS, I should I should say, ABS and traction control kind of work together in that way. But like I said this is the basics, it’s really easy. And I think I’m going to go a little bit further here and just briefly touch on performance brakes as well. There’s kind of two schools of thought and of course I kind of relate everything to autocross and we’ll just say track as well.

[How brakes work]  lot of people think they have to do brake upgrades to their autocross car and I guess when you’re in the performance category or racing category I would agree with that. But when you’re in a factory category or stock category, I think they call it street now, there’s really no need to. Because autocross is you’re really slowing the car down from maybe fifty miles an hour to maybe thirty miles an hour. And that happens very quickly over the course of just a couple seconds. And you may only do it let’s just say just as a guess five times during a run. OK? Well after that run you probably have ten minutes of down time for the brakes to cool. And I guess I should have started with this, brakes don’t ever really heat up in autocross because there’s so much down time. So performance brakes don’t really help you because a lot of those brakes don’t actually come into their sweet spot until they’re hot. And that’s what track brakes are all about.

These are cars that are going from a hundred and twenty maybe all the down for forty and it takes several seconds of time to do that and you need those brakes which can perform under very hot temperatures. So upgraded brakes are really more of a track thing like that. There’s almost no down time between braking situations on a track. Well I guess that, I guess that I’m going to leave it at that, I think you get the idea. So instead of spending all that money on, oh boy, people will drop all kinds of money for the great brake pads and Brembo brakes. You don’t really need them. They do make a difference but it’s not really enough to justify the money when there are other gains to be made, so that’s all I’ll say about that.

I’m a few videos in, right now, making this free video series. If it’s helping you and you like it, I would really appreciate it if you could subscribe to the channel. And it really just kind of boosts me up and lets me make all kinds of new videos. So I’ll put a link on the screen right there and you can click over and get a subscription in right now. And that would be awesome. And I’m going to go start working on the next video now because I’m all pumped up.

And I’ll be back soon with another video from Take care.

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