I don’t know about you, but I’m awfully thankful for my car’s braking system. Over the years, automakers have equipped cars with many different types of brakes. We’re going back in time to the origin story of brakes. I guarantee you that today’s history lesson will make you even more appreciative of the brakes in your vehicle.
Wooden block brakes
Wooden block brakes are the earliest form of automotive brakes. They were most often seen in steam-driven automobiles and horse-drawn carriages. This system had a lever that forced a block of wood against steel-rimmed wheels. This friction stopped the wheels from moving, as long as the vehicle was traveling under 20 miles per hour. Wooden block brakes were only effective on steel-rimmed wheels. When rubber tires were introduced in the 1890s, wooden block brakes became obsolete.
Mechanical drum brakes
In 1899, an engineer by the name of Gottlieb Daimler came up with a new idea for brakes. He theorized that if a cable-wrapped drum was anchored to the car’s chassis, it would be able to stop a moving vehicle. Louis Renault took this idea and built the first mechanical drum brake in 1902. This is considered the basis for modern automotive brakes.
Expanding internal shoe brakes
Renault’s brake system was external. Since it was uncovered, it was exposed to water, dust, and fluctuating temperatures. These elements caused frequent damage to these exterior brakes. To resolve this, an internal braking system system was developed. Expanding internal shoe brakes were housed inside a metal drum attached to the wheel. Inside, pistons expanded brake shoes, which caused the brake shoes to make contact with the inside of the drum. This friction caused the car’s wheels to stop rotating.
Although internal shoe brakes were an improvement, there was still a problem. It required a lot of force to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. In 1918, Malcolm Loughead invented hydraulic brakes, which required a lot less force to operate. This four-wheel hydraulic system used brake fluid to transfer force from the foot on the pedal to the brake shoe. By the late 1920s, many automakers were incorporating hydraulic braking systems.
As vehicle weight and speed capacity increased, hydraulic brakes grew less effective. As a result, automakers began installing disc brakes with hydraulic functions. Disc brakes were invented in 1902 by William Lanchester. They didn’t become widely used until the mid-20th century, when they were implemented with hydraulics.
Anti-lock brakes are a safety feature that stop brakes from locking up when being used. Hydraulic valves decrease brake pressure on one wheel. Doing so prevents the car from spinning out, and gives the driver more control. Anti-lock brakes started off in airplanes in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were adapted to car use in the 1950s and ‘60s, when they were further developed. By the 1970s, they were a popular feature of brakes.
Does your car need a brake inspection? Our experienced technicians at Brausen Auto are here to help. You can request your appointment online, or by phone. Give us a call at (651) 633-4100 for our Arden Hills location, or (651) 488-8800 for our Roseville location. We look forward to seeing you.
Braking System and Knowing about Replacement
Although some car maintenance jobs are simple enough if you know what to do, brake replacement isn’t one of these. Because your brake system is so intricate, there’s potential for uncovering underlying issues that will need repairs. Today we’re talking about what steps to take to replace the brake system in your vehicle. Knowing these steps will help you determine whether this is a job you can handle, or if you need to seek help from a professional.
Braking system and replacing
Most auto technicians follow these steps to replace the brakes:
- Loosen the lugs: Make sure your emergency brake is engaged. Then, loosen the lugs by turning them counter-clockwise with a lug wrench. Don’t remove them completely; just loosen them.
- Raise the vehicle: Place the car jack beneath the frame rail of your car. Check to make sure that the jack stands are beneath your car and rest the car on the jack stands. Once you know the vehicle’s weight can’t shift, you can remove the wheels.
- Slide out the caliper: The caliper should slide out once you unfasten the bolts. If it gets stuck, use a flat head screwdriver to pry it out. Secure the caliper in a way that doesn’t place any strain on the brake line.
- Remove the caliper carrier: Detach the two bolts from the rear of the hub that hold the caliper carrier in place. Then, remove the caliper carrier.
- Remove the rotor: Some rotors have locating screws. Check to see if yours does, and take this screw out first. Then, remove the rotor. This may be difficult if your rotor is rusty.
- Install new rotor: Remove rust from the hub using a wire brush. Then, install your new rotor. Use a degreaser to remove any extra oil from the new rotor.
- Assemble caliper carrier: Refasten the caliper carrier and attach new bolts.
- Compress the caliper: Using an old brake pad and a c-clamp, flatten the piston in the caliper to align it with the housing of the caliper. Make sure the reservoir doesn’t have a cap on it, or you could blow a line.
- Install caliper and brake pads: Install the brake pads in the caliper carrier and loosely fasten the caliper bolts. Once you’ve ensured the caliper can move without binding, tighten the bolts.
- Re-attach the wheels: Attach the lugs manually. Once your vehicle is back on the ground, use a torque wrench to fasten the lugs.
- Repeat, pump, and break in: Repeat steps 1 through 10 on all your car’s wheels. Next, pump the brakes about 3 times, until you feel pressure. Then, break in your new system by accelerating and allowing your car to gradually decelerate. Do this a few times and listen to your car. You might hear squealing for the first several miles, but these noises should gradually die down.
Should I replace my own brakes?
Brake systems are complex. Unless you’re well-versed in troubleshooting brake issues, replacing your brakes is a job that’s best left to the experts. That way, you’ll have peace of mind in knowing your brakes are getting the proper care. Do you need your brakes replaced? Let our experienced technicians at Brausen Auto help out. Give us a call at (651) 633-4100 for our Arden Hills location, or (651) 488-8800 for our Roseville location. You can also request your appointment online. We hope to see you soon.