Sergeant Clutch Certified Engine & Transmission Shop

6557 Walzem Road San Antonio, Texas 78239 Call 210-239-1600
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Brake FAQ's
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About Sergeant Clutch


Brake Frequently Asked Questions


How Do Brakes Work?

Brakes are designed to slow down your automobile. The common misconception is that brakes squeeze against a drum or disc and the pressure of the squeezing action is what slows down the car or truck. This in fact is only part of the reason the vehicle slows down. Brakes are essentially a mechanism to change energy types. When you're driving your vehicle has kinetic energy. When you apply the brakes, the brake pads or brake shoes that press against the brake drum or brake rotor converting that energy into thermal energy via friction. The cooling of the brakes dissipates the heat and the vehicle slows down. This is all to do with The First Law of Thermodynamics, sometimes known as the law of conservation of energy. This states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. In the case of automobile brakes, it is converted from kinetic energy to thermal energy. Angular force. Because of the configuration of the brake pads and rotor in a disc brake, the location of the point of contact where the friction is generated also provides a mechanical moment to resist the turning motion of the rotor.

The two types of brakes are drum brakes and disc brakes. In essence, a drum braking system works by pressing brake shoes outward against the inside of a round metal drum. Disc brakes, on the other hand, use brake pads to squeeze a spinning metal disc in order to slow and stop your vehicle. Drum brakes are becoming less common and today generally only show up on the rear half of some domestic vehicles, including economy cars, mini-vans, and light trucks. They operate on the same principle as the more prominent disc brakes utilizing friction.

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What Should I Do When The Brake Light Comes On?

The Brake Warning Light usually doesn’t come on for no reason. If the Brake Warning Light comes on that means the automobiles high tech computer system has registered a potential problem in the vehicles brake operating system. Today’s automobiles usually require and experienced mechanic to determine the potential brake problem. Sergeant Clutch Discount Brake Repair Shop offers a FREE Brake Check.

Here are a few tips on what to do when your Brake Warning Light comes on: Check out your brake situation as soon as you can if the brake light goes on. You don't need to stop driving immediately. Turn the engine off and open the hood. Find the brake fluid reservoir also called the brake master cylinder. Look for a round black rubber cap about 2 to 4 inches in diameter that covers a plastic container. Imagine where your foot would be if it went all the way through the car toward the engine past your brake pedal. This is where you will almost always find the brake master cylinder. Check the fine print on the rubber cap. It should say, "Use only DOT 4 (or 5 or 3) brake fluid." Remove the cap. CAUTION brake fluid tends to remove paint very easily so be careful when handling brake fluid. If the cap is dusty or dirty, wipe it off with a rag so no dirt particles fall into the reservoir. Check what kind of brake fluid your vehicle requires. This is indicated on the rubber brake reservoir cap and in the owner's manual. If your vehicle requires DOT 4, do not use DOT 3 or a lower-grade fluid. DOT stands for Department of Transportation. Fill the reservoir with brake fluid up to the "full" line. If there is no "full" indicator, fill it to the top. Put the cap back on and wipe up any spills. Turn the car on and the light should be off.

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How Often Should I Change My Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid must endure high pressure and extreme temperatures. These factors play a big part of the brake fluid break down. The brake fluid should checked during every motor oil change and replaced during every major brake service.

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Why Is My Brake Pedal Spongy, Soft or Hard?

A spongy, soft or hard brake pedal needs serious attention. This problem could be caused by sticking brake calipers, worn brake pads, low brake fluid or a hydraulic brake system problem. If you can't pump the brakes up then you definitely have hydraulic brake problem that needs work.

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How Do I Know When My Brakes Need Servicing?

The brake pedal can be depressed nearly to the floor. You hear a squealing or other unusual noise when you apply the brakes. Some brands of brake pads have a built-in device that produces a high-pitched squeal when the brake pads are wearing thin. The car or truck pulls to one side when you apply the brakes. You feel a grinding or bumpy sensation as you come to a stop. In general, if there is something about your brakes that is making you uncomfortable, you should have them inspected.

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What Does The Brake Pedal Do?

The brake pedal is directly attached to the master cylinder and acts as a lever to apply pressure against the master cylinder. Pedal pulsation, excessive pedal travel, a “soft” or “hard” pedal can be indicators of serious problems, including a leak in the hydraulic system, low fluid levels, or unevenly worn shoes or pads. 

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What Is Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid used in brake applications in motorcycles, automobiles and light trucks. Brake fluid is used to transfer force under pressure from where it is created through hydraulic lines to the braking mechanism near the wheels. Brake fluid works because liquids are not appreciably compressible. Braking applications produce a lot of heat so brake fluid must have a high boiling point to remain effective and must also not freeze under normal temperatures. These requirements eliminate most water-based solutions. Although almost all road-going vehicles have only two brake pads per caliper, racing calipers utilize up to six pads, with varying frictional properties in a staggered pattern for optimum performance. 

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What Are Brake Lines?

Brake lines are steel tubing with copper and lead coatings to prevent rust and corrosion. As the brake pedal is depressed, it moves pistons within the brake master cylinder and forcing hydraulic brake fluid throughout the brake system and into the wheel or brake cylinders. The pressure placed upon this brake fluid causes the cylinder pistons to move, forcing the brake shoes or friction pads and brake drums or rotors to slow the vehicle.

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What Is A Brake Pad?

The brake pads are designed for high friction with brake pad material embedded in the disc in the process of bedding while wearing evenly. The brake pad is pressed against the brake rotor to stop the vehicles wheel from turning. The brake pads must usually be replaced regularly depending on brake pad material, and most are equipped with a method of alerting the driver when this needs to take place. Some have a thin piece of soft metal that causes the brakes to squeal when the pads are too thin, while others have a soft metal tab embedded in the pad material that closes an electric circuit and lights a warning light when the brake pad gets thin. More expensive cars may use an electronic sensor. Brake pads should always be replaced in pairs.


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How Do I Check Brake Pads?

Brake pads will normally match the condition of the brake rotor. If the brake rotor has scoring on it so will the brake pads. The brake pads should be inspected for uneven wear, breakage or cracking on the friction surface. If any defects are found replace the brake pads immediately. Many automobiles have brake pad sensors to warn the driver of brake pad wear and brake problems. Sergeant Clutch Discount Brake Repair Shop offers a FREE Brake Check and a Lifetime Brake Warranty call Sergeant Clutch Discount Brake Repair Shop in San Antonio today to schedule your FREE Brake Check

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Do Brake Pads Have Asbestos?

Early car and truck model brake pads and brake shoes contained asbestos. When working on an older car and truck brakes, care must be taken not to inhale any brake dust present on the caliper or drum.

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What Is A Brake Caliper?

The brake caliper is the assembly which houses the brake pads and pistons. The pistons are usually made of aluminum or chrome-plated iron. There are two types of calipers: floating or fixed. A fixed caliper does not move relative to the disc. It uses one or more pairs of pistons to clamp from each side of the disc, and is more complex and expensive than a floating caliper. The caliper holds the brake pads. It straddles the rotor and uses hydraulic pressure from the brake lines, along with internal pistons, to force the brake pads against the rotor.

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What Is A Brake Rotor or Brake Disc?

The rotor is a circular plate that is gripped by the brake pads in order to slow the vehicle. 

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How Do I Check Brake Rotors & Disc Brakes?

Brake rotors and disc brakes should be inspected all the way around the surface on both sides. Look for any concentric scoring, grooves or obvious defects. If any defects are found replace defective part immediately. Look for any brake rotor discoloration. This may be a sign of the brakes overheating. At this point a profession brake inspection by a brake repair mechanic is needed. Sergeant Clutch Discount Brake Repair Shop offers a FREE Brake Check and a Lifetime Brake Warranty call Sergeant Clutch Discount Brake Repair Shop today to schedule your FREE Brake Check

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How Do I Check Brake Drums?

Brake drums should be inspected on a regular basis. Brake drums should be inspected all the way around the surface on both sides. Look for any concentric scoring, grooves or obvious defects. If any defects are found replace defective part immediately. Look for any discoloration. This may be a sign of the brakes overheating. 

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What Is A Disc Brake System?

Disc brakes are the preeminent choice for all automobile manufacturers. Even those employing drum brakes in the back will invariably have disc brakes in the front. In short, this type of brake system is superior in terms of design and essentially operates like a drum brake turned inside out. This type of brake system is most likely what you have on your current vehicle.

High performance vehicles with higher speeds need better brakes to slow them down, so you'll likely see disc brakes on the rear of those too. Disc brakes are again a two-part system. Instead of the drum, you have a disc or rotor, and instead of the brake shoes, you now have brake caliper assemblies. The caliper assemblies contain one or more hydraulic pistons which push against the back of the brake pads, clamping them together around the spinning rotor. The harder they clamp together, the more friction is generated, which means more heat, which means more kinetic energy transfer, which slows you down. You get the idea by now.

Disc brake systems work by using hydraulic pressure to press a pad against the rotor to slow the vehicle. When the brake pedal is pressed, it acts upon the piston in the master cylinder which sends pressure via the brake lines to the caliper. The pad-to-rotor friction stops the wheel from turning.

Because a disc brake assembly can absorb more heat than a drum brake assembly, most cars use disc brakes for their front brake systems. When the brake pedal is pushed, brake fluid from the master cylinder compresses the brake pads against the rotors attached to the vehicle's front wheels. The friction between the stationary pads and the revolving rotors causes the rotors and wheel to slow and stop.

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What Is A Brake Master Cylinder?

The master cylinder moves brake fluid under pressure to rest of the braking system. When you step on the brake, it is connected to the main plunger. As this is pushed into the master cylinder it acts on the components inside. The rear plunger is the first one to start moving. As it moves forward, brake fluid from the reservoir is sucked in through the fluid intake and return port. At the same time, fluid is sucked in through the equalization port. As the second circuit rear seal passes the intake and return port, it creates a fixed volume of fluid between the rear and front plungers. The more you step on the brake pedal, the more this fluid is now forced out into the second brake circuit to apply those brakes. At the same time, the pressure building up in this area overcomes the strength of the first circuit return spring and the front plunger (red) begins to move too. As with the rear plunger, it too sucks fluid from the reservoir until the first circuit rear seal passes the fluid intake and return port, trapping fluid between it and the front of the master cylinder. This fluid is then forced out into the first brake circuit, applying those brakes. When you take your foot off the brakes, the return springs push the plungers back into their neutral position. Fluid returns to the brake fluid reservoir and the system goes back to an un-pressurized state. 

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What Is A Wheel Cylinder?

The wheel cylinder is a cylinder that contains pistons which use hydraulic force from the master cylinder to push the brake pads against the brake drum. The wheel cylinder is a critical element in the drum brake assembly. It contains fluid-activated pistons that push the shoes against the drums to slow the wheels. The wheel cylinder is also the source of many brake problems. If brake fluid leaks from the wheel cylinder, the vehicle could experience unreliable stopping, damage to new brake shoes, or partial brake system failure. A sticking wheel cylinder may cause brake drag, excessive pedal effort, and reduced braking efficiency.

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How Much Should Brake Repairs Cost?

When it comes to brake repair cost, prices will vary. There many factors that play a role in a brake repair cost estimate. The brake system consist of much more then just brake pads and rotors. Today’s automobile brake systems use all types of high tech new materials. These high tech new improved updates just mean more money to fix. A full set of new good quality brake pads and brake rotors with labor can cost anywhere from $250.00 to $800.00. The cost of brake repair depends on the year, make and model of the automobile. Many of the newer brake systems require more labor and skill compared to brake systems 20 years ago.

Beware of cheap brake parts and products. The brake part industry is full of options from really cheap poor quality brake parts, to mid quality brake parts, good quality brake parts and superior quality brake parts. As you can imagine there is a huge difference in parts cost. Its best to always spend a few dollars more and get the best quality brake parts the first time. The difference of $50.00 on a major brake repair service can be the difference between a good brake job and a great brake job. Also beware of brake products that advertise LIFETIME WARRANTY. Read the fine print and make sure you understand what they mean by Lifetime Warranty. Many parts and products with a lifetime warranty simply means you will spend your lifetime replacing it. Consider the fact that the dealer that manufactures the automobile does not offer a lifetime warranty on brake parts.

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What Are Some Money Saving Brake Tips?

Visually inspect your brakes' condition at least every six months. Here are some things to look for: listen for noises such as grinding noise, squeaking noise, or squealing noise coming from any of the wheels. These noises could be a sign of a brake problem. Many times these noises are a sign of wearing brake pads or brake rotors. Not all wheel noise indicates a brake problem. Some automobile brake systems are simply noisier than others due to materials used and design. A squeaking noise may be caused by brake dust or dirt on the brakes, loose brake pads vibrating when applied or worn brake pads. A rhythmic brake noise usually has a pulsating feel. In some cases, the brake pedal will also pulsate underfoot. This brake problem may be caused by a warped brake rotor.

Inspect your wheel rims for signs of possible brake problems. If you notice an unusual accumulation of brake dust on your hubcaps / rims especially on the rear wheels, it may be a sign that your brakes and / or rotors need attention. Most vehicles have a front brake bias, meaning that the front brakes play a larger part than the back brakes, so it's common to see some brake dust on the front wheels.

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