What happens when my brakes lock up?

Brakes are the most important safety feature our cars have to offer. Because of this, it can be nerve wracking when we hear noises from them or feel them doing things that aren’t typical. Fortunately, cars today have lots of safety features in place to ensure that you don’t end up in a sticky situation at high speeds. All our auto repairs at Ben Nielsen’s Skyline Automotive in Falls Church Va, use OEM or top-grade aftermarket parts to ensure a durable, long-lasting brake system.

How do brakes work?

Service brakes make your car slow down. These types of brakes systems are usually either drum brakes or disc brakes. Drum brakes operate through a brake drum that contains brake shoes inside of it. The drum is a large cylindrical metal piece located on the inside of the wheel of your car. The friction, in both brake systems, is the cause of your car slowing down. In disc brake systems, there are calipers holding brake pads on either side of the rotor.

There are 2 other types of brakes that are like a backup system for the service brakes. These are the ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) and the emergency brake. The ABS is there specifically to prevent your service brakes from locking up. It operates through a computer in your car that communicates with a sensor that picks up irregular decelerations on your wheel. The computer tells the valves to reduce pressure on the wheel from the brakes so that the wheel can decelerate at a reasonable pace for the car to stop safely.

The emergency brake system (also called the parking brake) applies pressure to all four wheels to keep the car from moving while parked.

What does it feel like?

If you do find yourself a situation where your brakes have locked up, the best thing to do is not panic. Make sure your emergency blinkers are on, and you are honking your horn enough that other cars on the road understand and can give you space. Then give the ABS a chance to work, and if that fails, slowly and carefully apply the parking brake (only at 40mph or less). At the first indication of brake issues, have the brake repair experts at Skyline Automotive inspect your brakes.

Here are some of the causes of brakes locking:

Issues with the master cylinder: The master cylinder is in charge of converting you pushing your brake pedal into fluid pressure that eventually reaches the brake pads or the drum shoes. The master cylinder houses a complex series of valves and seals. If any of these are not in place correctly, or able to move as they should, this can cause brakes to lock. This is unfortunately a very expensive fix, but the sooner it is fixed, the sooner you will be able to safely drive your car.

Brake Drag: Brake pads are the direct cause of friction on the rotors of a disc brake system. During brake drag, the pads or shoes never fully release from the rotor/brake lining. This causes friction even during acceleration (also excess heat, which can cause other problems as well). Brake drag can be caused by rods in the brake system that are incorrect lengths. Calipers in a disc system could cause the brake drag because they become stuck in a position with the brake pads applied to the rotors. This could be because of a caliper piston or a misalignment of the calipers.

Fluid being low: One thing that is common to both service brake systems is that they use fluid pressure. The fluid pressure is the key to the entire braking system. Always check with your mechanic to make sure they performed a fluid check.

These are just a few issues that can make a car’s brakes lock. At Ben Nielsen’s Skyline automotive, we provide a comprehensive overview of the repairs necessary for your breaks. We want to make sure that you are well informed, because no matter what the repair, we won’t perform any service without your approval. We also utilize digital inspection software so that you see what we see!