Brake Parts: The Basics

This is what happens when you use hydraulic braking (the “normal” kind):

  1.  A cylinder in the braking system sends fluid to the calipers.
  2. The calipers squeeze the brake pads against the brake rotors.
  3. The brake rotors, which are in direct contact with the wheels, slow the wheels. 

Your EV has both hydraulic brakes and regenerative brakes. Regenerative brakes reverse the electric motor to brake, similar to kids’ bikes that require the rider (the motor) to backpedal to activate the brakes instead of using brake levers on the handlebar. 

EVs use hydraulic brakes when stopping suddenly or when the brakes are kept down for an extended period of time. Regenerative braking is usually used in all other circumstances 

This article will focus on the hydraulic brake parts, since they require regular maintenance. 



What Is Brake Fluid?

Think of brake fluid like a water slide: no one travels down the slide until they get a push from the top. That’s what your foot does on the brake pedal. It sends the brake fluid to the calipers. 

What Are Brake Calipers? 

Brake calipers resemble clamps and hold the brake pads and pistons. Pressing on the brake pedal sends brake fluid to the calipers, which press on the brake rotors to stop the wheels. 

What Are Brake Pads? 

Brake pads are made of metal or ceramic and are the actual contact point between the brake calipers and rotors. ICE vehicles generally require you to change brake pads more often than EVs do. 

However, if your EV driving relies heavily on regenerative braking, that means the hydraulic brakes aren’t moving, and dirt and grime may build up, wearing the system down. 

What Do Brake Pistons Do? 

Brake pistons also assist in helping the brake pads make contact with the brake rotors. 

What Do Brake Rotors Do? 

Brake rotors are the brake system component directly attached to the wheels. When brake rotors are new, they’re smooth. Although they experience less wear in EVs because they are used less, they can still collect dirt and debris from the road if not used often. Both types of damage will require you to start slowing down sooner. 

Signs Your Brakes Need Help 

Having your brakes inspected with your seasonal tire change is a good way to keep them functioning optimally. But if you notice any of these signs, take your car in right away: 

  • grinding sound when braking 

  • less responsive brake pedal 

  • wobbly steering wheel when driving 

  • increased time needed to stop 

  • reduced brake performance 

What a Complete Brake Job Entails 

When an auto technician performs a complete brake job on your vehicle, they place the car on a hoist, remove the wheels, and inspect and clean every component of your braking system. 

A NexDrive auto technician may recommend replacing certain components. Feel free to ask to see the worn components. If you do inspect them, look for rough surfaces, rust, dimpling, and wear. 

Once your complete brake job is done, you should notice a marked improvement in braking. 

For any questions about a complete brake job, or to schedule one, contact the NexDrive shop nearest you. 

Meta description: How does brake maintenance on an electric vehicle differ from that on a gas-powered vehicle? Is a complete brake job still required? Find answers here. 

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