Brake System Parts, Functions & Short Descriptions

The braking system is one of the most important systems in a vehicle because of its role in ensuring safety. The system comprises of various parts with different functions that synergize to help slow down the vehicle’s tires until they come to a halt.

Understanding the brake system parts will help you know how each part functions and the essence of keeping them in good condition at all times. The description of the various parts of your car’s brake system has been unveiled in this article.

Take a few minutes to go through the subsequent sections below to understand the Brake System Components and function, as well as the different types of brake systems.

Types of Brake Systems

There are several types of brake systems with their application in different kinds of vehicles in the automotive industry. Most of the common types of brake systems include the following.

type of brake system

Mechanical brake system

The mechanical braking system was designed to transfer the brake force applied on the brake pedal to the final brake rotors or drum via several mechanical linkages, such as the fulcrums, cylindrical rods, springs, etc., to help slow down the tires and stop the vehicle.

However, the mechanical brake system was found in older vehicles. Due to its less effective compared to the recent braking systems designed in modern cars, the mechanical brake system has become obsolete.

Hydraulic brake system

The hydraulic brake system is built to transfer brake force from the brake pedal first by converting the force into hydraulic pressure through the master cylinder before sending the pressure from the master cylinder to the final brake rotor or brake drum via the brake lines.

A hydraulic brake system uses fluid instead of mechanical linkages (as in the case of a mechanical brake system) to transmit the force from a vehicle’s brake pedal to slow down and stop the wheels.

The hydraulic brake system is more effective than the mechanical braking system; hence it is currently used in various bikes and vehicles on the road today.

Hydraulic brake system

Electrical brake system

The electrical brake system is used by electric vehicles. It is designed to apply braking force through the electrical motor, which also serves as the vehicle’s main power source.

The electrical brake system is subcategorized into plugging, regenerative, and dynamic/rheostat braking systems.

Drum brake system

Drum brake system


The drum brake system is designed with a cylinder wheel, brake shoes, and brake drum. The system uses the force from the pedal to press the brake shoes outward against the rotating drum part and creates friction that helps to slow down the vehicle’s wheels until they halt.

This brake system generates minimal heat because the brake on the front tires creates most of the force that helps to stop the wheels. It also provides more braking force due to the frictional contact area around the circumference.

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Disc brake system

Disc brake system

The disc brake system is built with brake rotors, which rotate along with the wheels; the brake pads, which create frictional contact with the rotors; and the calipers, which house the pads.

When you press down the brake pedal, the force generated triggers the calipers to push the pads against the discs (rotors) to create the friction that helps to slow down the wheels and stop the vehicle.

Hand brake/emergency brake system

Hand brake

The hand brake system is also known as an emergency brake. It is independent of the regular service brake. The brake system has a hand-operated lever that is connected through a metallic cable to the brake drum.

This braking system is used as the parking brake in a vehicle to ensure that the wheels do not roll forward or backward. The parking brake engages when you pull the hand-operated lever, which creates tension in the metallic rod that further actuates the brake drum or disc rotor for final parking.

Electromagnetic brake system

An electromagnetic brake system is a type of braking operation that involves applying brake force through electronic and magnetic power. It is designed to achieve frictionless braking, such that there will be no wear and tear on brake parts.

However, this is a new technology in the automotive industry designed to take over the traditional braking system in modern vehicles.

Some of the advantages of the electromagnetic brake system are; frictionless operation, lack of wear and tear, no lubrication required, high reliability, and low maintenance cost.

types of braking system

Brake System Parts / Components 

Various brake system configurations are designed with different parts. While some disc brakes are built on all four wheels of some vehicles, others are designed with disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes on the rear wheels.

However, the following are some of the major brake system parts in most vehicles in the automotive industry.

Master cylinder

Brake Master cylinder

The master cylinder of a hydraulic brake system is responsible for pushing the hydraulic fluid from the reservoir to the brake lines.

Most vehicle brake cylinders have a split cylinder operation, such that one of the cylinders manages the braking operation of one of the front wheels and the corresponding rear wheel, while the other cylinder takes charge of the other front wheel and its corresponding rear wheel.

The separation of the cylinders helps to ensure that one side of the brake system still functions in case the other becomes defective, such that the driver can manage to control the vehicle.

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Brake Rotor

Brake Rotor

The brake rotor is a major part of the brake system. It is made of cast iron, which is a heavy component with a high heat-absorbing capacity.

However, some rotors are vented in order to aid heat dissipation. The vanes or vents are located between the two discs. The vents help to ensure airflow into the rotors for cooling purposes. The brake rotor is attached to the vehicle’s wheel. The component spins as the vehicle moves.

When the brake is applied, the brake pad in the caliper rubs against the brake rotor to create the friction required to slow down the disc. This further slows down the vehicle’s wheel until it comes to a halt.

Brake drums

brake drum percussion

The brake drums are located at the rear of a vehicle. The component features brake shoes, wheel cylinders, and a brake drum.

When you engage the brake pedal, the force will cause the wheel cylinders to push the brake shoes into the brake drum, thereby slowing down the wheel until the vehicle stops.

Brake pedal

brake pedal

The brake pedal is the closest component to the driver. It is located in the cockpit, where the driver can step on it to activate the braking operation. The pedal is linked with a piston in the brake master cylinder, which moves when the pedal is compressed. This helps to trigger the other related components.

Read Also: Brake Pedal Goes to Floor When Engine Running [Causes and How to Fix]

ABS control module

abs brake system

The ABS control module is a unique component in vehicles fitted with Anti-lock Braking System.

The component helps to check the ABS braking system in order to ascertain when to send the necessary pressure to each of the vehicle’s wheels to prevent them from locking up so that they can gain traction.

Wheel speed sensor

Wheel speed sensor

The wheel speed sensor is part of a vehicle’s ABS control module. The component is responsible for monitoring the speed level of each of the vehicle’s wheels and sends the signal to the ABS control module appropriately.

Wheel cylinders

rear wheel cylinder replacement

Virtually all vehicles have four-wheel cylinders and one master cylinder. The wheel cylinders are responsible for receiving fluid and pressure from the master cylinder via hoses and pipes in order to apply the force to the vehicle’s brake shoes or pads.

However, in a drum brake system, the wheel cylinder or slave cylinder is found inside the drum, while the caliper is the wheel cylinder in a disc brake system.

Brake fluid container

brake fluid container

As the name implies, the brake fluid container is responsible for holding the brake fluid used to generate the pressure that triggers the braking system when you step on the brake pedal.

The fluid in the container is usually transparent. Anything different from this, such as red or dark, signifies that the oil is bad for the braking system. Meanwhile, having the fluid in a perfect state is necessary for the enhancement of the braking system.

Brake hose pipes

brake hose pipe

The brake hose pipes are located between the master cylinder and the wheel cylinders. The components are made of brass or copper to enable them to withstand pressure and corrosion.

The components are vital because of their role in transporting the brake fluid and pressure that helps in making the braking system work efficiently.

Brake pads

brake pads replacement

Brake pads are essential braking system components found in disc brake systems. Each wheel has two brake pads inside the calipers against the brake disc. When the driver depresses the brake pedal, the hydraulic fluid within the brake lines pushes the piston inside the caliper.

The caliper pistons then compress the pads against the rotor. Depending on the applied force, this forces the vehicle to slow down or stop. Since the brake pads press against the rotor to stop a moving car, it creates friction, which invariably wears out the brake pad materials. Therefore, the brake pads wear out over time.

Brake calipers

brake caliper replacement

Like the brake pads, brake calipers are essential disc braking system components. This component houses the brake pads and pushes the brake pads against the rotor once the driver steps on the brake pedal. In disc brake systems, the caliper houses brake bleeding valves.

They come in various sizes. Brake calipers are mounted on caliper hangers, which are mounted on the wheel hub housing. They are single units; you can replace them when they go bad.

Read Also: Brake Caliper Sticking When Hot [Causes and How to Fix it]

Brake Booster

brake booster replacement

A few decades back, brake boosters are not fitted on all vehicles. But they are standard in today’s braking system. The brake booster is fitted between the master cylinder and the brake pedal, typically located at the driver’s side firewall. Its unique purpose is to increase the brake pedal pressure and enhance braking power.

In most vehicles, the brake booster works with an engine vacuum, meaning the engine should be running for it to work correctly. This is why it is not recommended to turn off your engine while driving downhill: the vehicle will lose braking power, which could cause accidents.

Brake shoes

brake shoes replacement

The brake shoes, also known as brake linings, play the same role as brake pads but work in opposite ways. The shoe brakes are placed inside a wheel drum. When you depress the brake pedal or lift the emergency brake lever, the brake shoes expand, forcing themselves against the wheel drum. The friction generated, thus, slows or stops the vehicle.


What are the 6 basic parts of a brake system?

The 6 basic parts of a brake system are the brake pedal, brake rotors, master cylinder, brake pistons, brake boosters, and brake pads. These are common hydraulic brake system components.

They are designed to work in synergy for the braking and safety of a vehicle. The operation begins with the pressure from the brake pedal, which triggers every other component to respond appropriately.

How many parts are in a brake system?

The number of parts in a brake system depends on the type of brake system and the vehicle. For instance, the hydraulic brake system has about 9 major parts, including the brake pedal, wheel cylinder, master cylinder, brake fluid reservoir, brake calipers, hydraulic lines & hose, brake fluid, disc brake, and drum brake.

All the parts above are essential components that ensure your hydraulic brake works efficiently. Therefore, it is important to keep them in perfect condition at all times through regular servicing.

What are the 3 main parts of the brake system?

The 3 main car brake system parts are brake discs, brake pads, and brake calipers. These three parts are the components that slow down your car’s wheels until they halt.

The brake calipers help to push the pads into the brake discs, such that the friction that comes from compressing the components against the discs automatically slows down the wheel and stops the vehicle.

What is a brake assembly?

A brake assembly is a collection of components that helps the braking system function appropriately. The brake assembly of various vehicles may differ based on the braking system. The two main types of brake assembly are disc brake assembly and drum brake assembly.

Disc brake assembly consists of a brake caliper, rotor, and brake pads, while drum brake assembly includes a wheel cylinder, drum, and brake shoes.

What are the four major parts of a disc brake system?

The four major parts of a disc brake system are the caliper, rotor, brake pads, and hardware. These four parts synergize in the braking system operation. The caliper is responsible for slowing the car down through the friction created with the rotors when it pushes the brake pads against the component.

Meanwhile, the hardware in any case (both drum and disc brake) helps to ensure proper movement of the brake shoes or pads and also provides support for the components.

What are brakes attached to?

In a disc brake system, the brakes are attached to the caliper assembly, which is the frame that houses the brake pads. Meanwhile, the brake shoes are housed within the brake drum in a drum brake system.

However, the drum brake system provides more braking force than its counterpart disc brake system. Also, they last longer and are relatively cheaper to manufacture than disc brakes.

Final Words

All the brake system parts outlined above in this article are very vital components of your car’s braking system. Irrespective of their position, they are all important in your vehicle’s braking operation and safety.

Therefore, it is extremely vital to ensure that the components are always in good condition in order to avoid unexpected malfunctions that can lead to accidents while on the road.

In other words, routine maintenance must be a lifestyle if you intend for your brake system to perform optimally at all times. Also, do not delay the repair of any faulty brake part, as it can cause unexpected accidents.

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Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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