It is impossible to negotiate the area streets without using your brakes. Brakes have come a long way and have evolved since the ‘Tin Lizzy’ (Model T Ford) ruled the byways of America. One of the first things to remember is that brake linings are sacrificial in that during use part of the lining is lost during braking. Early brakes where mechanical and used bands wrapped around a drum and were actuated with cables and rods and other mechanical connections to the pedal. No powered brakes, strictly the leg muscles where the driving force in velocity reduction. Stopping wasn’t a cake walk by any means.
Drum Brake Components
1899 saw the introduction of cables wrapped around a drum with one end anchored on the chassis, the other was attached to a hand lever. Louis Renault introduced drum brakes in 1902 with expanding brake shoes inside of a drum. Ransom Olds (Oldsmobile fame) used flexible stainless-steel bands around the rear axle drum instead of cables. Externally wrapped brakes where a problem. On hills they would unwrap allowing the vehicle to roll downhill. They were exposed to the elements and weren’t known for longevity and frequent replacement was required. Replacement was mandated every few 100 miles. The switch to internal brake stretched brake jobs out over 1,000 miles or more. Oh, and brakes where only on the rear wheels.
Hydraulic Brake System
As speeds increased four-wheel brakes where introduced by Duesenberg in 1915. There was separate hand and foot brakes with the front a rear brakes operating independently. Hispano-Suiza brought these together under one brake pedal in 1919. The year was 1918, the man Malcolm Lougheed (later Lockheed of aviation fame) introduced the hydraulic brake system. The problem with mechanical linkage is that all four brakes never braked evenly, let alone the muscle effort required and sometimes this uneven braking could lead to loss of control. Using hydraulic cylinders, tubing and hoses even pressure was distributed across the all four wheels.
Vacuum Actuated Power Brakes
It was 1928 when the Pierce-Arrow introduced the first vacuum actuated power brakes. Thus, drum brakes with vacuum assist ruled the market for many years. A couple of innovations made life easier. One was self-adjusting brake shoes.
1949 Crosley used disc brakes and were standard for Chrysler Town & Country and Imperial through 1954. Why discs? The problem with drum brakes is that they are enclosed. Brakes work through friction to convert the kinetic energy of the moving car to heat. Heat builds up in drum brakes causing brake fade. The brakes lose their braking force when the heat build exceeds the brakes cooling effect and cause loss of braking power. Disc brakes, however, are open self-adjusting and shed heat faster. The front brakes of a car in forward motion does most of the braking as the vehicle mass or weight is shifts forward. Therefore most disc brakes were introduced to the front with drums in the rear. Now days all four are discs.
Anti Lock Brakes
Antilock or antiskid brakes (ABS) use sensors to prevent wheel locking during braking. Since 1969 computerized control of the brake ABS system has been common.
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So, today we enjoy 4-wheel ABS brakes. As such brake failures are rare and most accidents cannot be blamed on the brakes if they are in good condition. The linings are sacrificial, meaning they are lost during use and need replacement. The interval depends on the driving habits of the operator and the miles traveled. Brakes are the single most contributory factor to safe driving. Maintain your brakes and drive safely. If you do face problems on the road, call Citywide Towing Service. We offer fast towing and roadside assistance services.