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Brakes Explained

As you likely know, taking care of your car or truck’s brakes is an essential part of regular maintenance. Changing the pads and inspecting the rest of the brake for issues can help you to avoid more serious and costly repair services.

However, you may not know much about how these brakes work. Most modern cars and trucks use disc brakes. Below is a little information on how they work and what the parts are.

The Main Concept

Disc brakes feature a spinning disc, called a rotor, that connects to the wheel. The main part of the brake is connected to the vehicle frame and clamps down on the rotor. The friction causes the rotor to stop spinning, in turn stopping the wheel. There is typically a brake like this on each wheel.

The Parts of a Brake

There are three main parts to a disc brake: the brake pads, caliper, and rotor. Each one’s function is as follows:


  • Brake Pads: These are the parts that press directly against the rotor. They are designed to create smooth friction between the caliper on the vehicle frame and the rotor on the wheel. Additionally, they help absorb and dissipate a lot of the heat generated by braking. Pads are intended to be consumable. They are the most commonly replaced part.

  • Caliper: This is the component that applies the gripping force to slow the rotor’s movement. The caliper fits around the rotor while the brake pads fit inside the caliper. They help to prevent the caliper from directly touching the rotor. Typically, your calipers should last for many thousands of miles without needing a brake repair.

  • Rotor: As mentioned above, this is the part that spins with the wheel. By slowing the rotor down, the brakes also slow the wheels. These parts handle a lot of the heat and wear from braking. Although they are less consumable than brake pads, rotors need to be replaced every so often.

With these three components (plus the brake lines, fluid, and pedal), your vehicle can slow itself down. While there are more advanced designs, at their heart, disc brakes are simple but effective machines.

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