Vehicle Maintenance: An introduction to brake safety

By Mariana Saenzpardo

Brakes are a wearing component of your vehicle. We recommend checking them regularly to stay safe on the road.

mechanic fixing brake

How brakes work and the different types of vehicle braking systems

All brake systems use hydraulic pressure to function; a system of fluid-filled pipes that can create and multiply force as it transmits it from one place to another under pressure (like a syringe). When the brake pedal of a vehicle is applied it forces the fluid under pressure through a series of cylinders to the braking system within each wheel.

This pressure generates the force and friction needed to operate the brakes to slow and stop the vehicle. Without the hydraulic system, simply pushing your foot onto the brake pedal would not produce the force needed to bring a fast-moving vehicle to a stop.

Disc Brakes

disc brake diagram

These work in a similar way to brakes on a bicycle. When a vehicle driver pushes on the brake pedal, a pad made of hardwearing material clamps onto a spinning brake disc. The disc is attached to a moving wheel hub and when the pad rubs against it, causing friction, the hub rotation is slowed to the point where the vehicle stops. Today disc brakes are increasingly popular as they have greater resistance to fading.

Drum Brakes

drum brake diagram

These work in a slightly different way, instead of the brake pad rubbing on a disc; they have a hollow drum that’s attached to the wheel. Inside the hollow drum is a pair of curved brake ‘shoes’ made of hardwearing material. When the brakes are applied, the shoes are forced to expand into the hollow drum and push out, causing friction that slows and stops the vehicle. Some vehicles have drum brakes only on the rear and disc brakes on the front, because under braking, weight is transferred to the front of the vehicle, so requires stronger disc braking.


A car’s handbrake applies the two rear brakes (disc or drum) in a slower, less forceful way to lock the cars brakes and keep the car stationary. The handbrake on older cars is usually a lever located between the 2 front seats. On many newer cars the handbrake, also known as the parking brake, is a button that operates the brake electrically.

Why should I check my brakes?

Having your brakes inspected regularly may mean the difference between life and death on the road!

How modern disc brakes work

diagram of modern disc brakes

Still not sure? No problem, Protyre are here to help

Having your brakes inspected regularly may mean the difference between life and death on the road! Our expert technicians will be more than happy to inspect your brakes and advise you if any work is required. Protyre offer Free brake Checks at all of our garages. Click the button below to book your vehicle in.

Free Brake Check

What's included in a Protyre Free Brake Check?

Our Free Brake Check is a seven stage process:

  • Disc pad wear

  • Calipers checked for leaks and security

  • Discs & Drums are checked for wear, cracks, corrosion and any other damage

  • Brake hydraulic system

  • Brake shoes checked for wear or damage

  • Sufficient brake fluid

  • Brake warning lights operational

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About the author

Article Author Photo
By Mariana Saenzpardo
Mariana is a Digital Marketing Specialist for Protyre who is also responsible for the running of our Protyre website.
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