If you are a driver—and most of us reading this article are—you may have a curiosity about the car. It is our belief here that the more you know about the vehicle, the safer you will be and the more efficient the vehicle will drive.
One of the main areas for the curiosity of drivers is the brake system. Knowing the braking system, being able to recognize the signs that something has gone awry with the system, and being able to solve them on your own or with the help of a mechanic helps keep you safe on the road and the vehicle running for longer.
Modern vehicles operate on a hydraulic brake system with the brakes either disk or drum types. In these types of brake system, when you put pressure on the brake pedal, the pedal pushes down on a piston which in turn pushes fluid to components called “slave cylinders.” There is one on each wheel, and once the cylinder is filled from that braking fluid, it compresses the brakes, bringing the car to a stop.
In these systems—and in many alternative brake systems—the fluid in the system puts more pressure on the front brakes than the back, though most vehicles will have brakes on all wheels. This is due to a good reason: by the physical, natural laws of the universe, as the vehicle begins to stop, gravity and force will push the weight of the car onto the front brakes, requiring more opposing force from the front brakes to stop the vehicle.
This is why when the brakes begin to fail, and you hear a squeaking, a squealing, or a grinding noise, the brake that is wearing out is most likely one of the two front brakes. It is also why you should avoid slamming on your brakes, as it puts an exponentially higher amount of force on to the front brakes, which wears them out more quickly.
Knowing how the system can work can help you know what can and will wear out, what actions you should avoid, and how to pinpoint the problem with the vehicle. If this sounds complicated, think about the mechanic when you are telling them the problem: they may listen, ask what noises are being made, then declare that the brake fluid is low, or something along those lines. This is because they know the brake system, know what components are likely to wear out, and how that will manifest itself while driving.