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Photo of auto brake system diagram.

Photo of auto brake disc and calipers.

Disc Brakes

A disc brake system is made up of a rotor which is a circular steel disc that is bolted to the wheel hub that's connected to the wheel and can be slotted or drilled to dissipate heat in high performance systems.  The brake pads are dense fibrous components that push against the rotor when hydraulic pressure forces the pistons in the caliper to extend.  The caliper holds the brake pads in place near the discs and has hydraulically driven pistons that force the pads against the rotors.  Some calipers use a single piston and high performance calipers can have multiple pistons.  At the start of the hydraulic process is the master cylinder.  The master cylinder converts the mechanical movement of a rod or cable connected to the pedal into hydraulic pressure forced through metal lines or hoses to the caliper.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes force a curved fibrous pad against a steel wheel drum to slow the car.  Just like disc brakes, drum brakes use hydraulic pressure at the wheel cylinder to force the pads outward against the drum.

Photo of a car's brake drum pads being serviced.