The History of Brakes

As the automobile has evolved, so have its braking systems. Over the years, cars have used many different types of brakes. Today we’re going to take a look at the origin story of brakes and how they’ve changed over the years.

Wooden block brakes

The earliest form of brakes were wooden block brakes. These brakes were made up of a lever and wooden blocks. The lever sent a block of wood against steel-rimmed wheels, which caused the wheels to stop moving. Wooden block brakes were most commonly used in horse-drawn carriages and steam-driven automobiles. As long as a vehicle was traveling at a speed of 10 to 20 miles per hour, these brakes were effective. With the introduction of rubber tires in the late 1890s, wooden block brakes became obsolete.

Mechanical drum brakes

Because of the use of rubber tires, automakers needed to develop a new braking system. In 1899, an engineer named Gottlieb Daimler came up with an idea. He thought that if a drum wrapped in cable was anchored to the chassis, it could stop the force of a moving vehicle. In 1902, Louis Renault built on this idea by creating the first mechanical drum brake. Renault’s drum brake is the foundation for modern automotive brakes.

Expanding internal shoe brakes

Since Renault’s brakes were external, they got exposed to elements such as water and dust. Because of this, they often malfunctioned. This led to the development of an internal braking system. Expanding internal shoe brakes were built inside a metal drum that was connected to the wheel. When the brake shoes were expanded by pistons, they brushed against the inside of the drum. This friction caused the car wheels to eventually come to a stop.

Hydraulic brakes

Early brake systems required a lot of force to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Malcolm Loughead addressed this issue with his 1918 invention of hydraulic brakes. Loughead invented a four-wheel hydraulic system that used fluid to transport force. When the driver stepped on the brake pedal, that force was transferred through brake fluid to reach the brake shoe. Hydraulic brakes required a lot less force than other braking systems. By the late 1920s, many automakers were building vehicles with hydraulic braking systems.

Disc brakes

As vehicle speed capabilities and weights increased, hydraulic brakes grew less effective. As a result, in the mid-20th century, automakers began using disc brakes with hydraulic functions. Disc brakes date back to 1902, when they were patented by William Lanchester.

Anti-lock brakes

Anti-lock brakes are a safety precaution. They stop brakes from locking up while in use. When speed sensors detect a brake lock, hydraulic valves reduce some of the pressure of the brake on one wheel. This keeps the car from spinning out. The first anti-lock brakes were used in airplanes in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were developed for automobiles in the 1950s and ‘60s, and became commonplace by the 1970s. In today’s vehicles, anti-lock brakes are a standard feature.

Does your vehicle need brake maintenance? Our experienced technicians at Bonfe’s are here to help. Give us a call at (​651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today.


What is the master cylinder?

The master cylinder is one of the most unappreciated car parts. What you may not know is that it’s so essential that many people refer to it as the heart of the automobile. Today we’re going to learn all about how the master cylinder works, and how it became such an integral part of your brake system.

Let’s start by understanding the mechanics. In your car’s brake system, there’s a tube that facilitates the movement of hydraulic force. That tube is the master cylinder. Your foot exerts force when you push down on your brake. That force pushes in a rod, called a pushrod, into the sealed master cylinder. Inside the master cylinder, there are two pistons, springs, and brake fluid. The pushrod causes the pistons to start pushing the brake fluid through the two chambers of the cylinder and out to the brake lines. The brake lines carry this force to your calipers, which clamp down on the rotors. This is how your vehicle comes to a stop.

Here’s why people refer to the master cylinder as the heart of your car. In the same way that your heart pumps blood out through your arteries, the master cylinder also pumps. Instead of blood, it pumps brake fluid. Instead of arteries, the master cylinder has brake lines. Similar to how your heart moves blood to where it’s needed in your body, the master cylinder moves hydraulic pressure from your brake pedal to your wheels.

For the hydraulic system to operate, it needs to be completely sealed off from air. If air gets into the system, it won’t work properly. To make sure this doesn’t happen, your car has a reservoir of brake fluid above it. When you take your foot off the brake, two things happen. The spring in the master cylinder pushes it back in place, and brake fluid is pushed back into the reservoir.

The invention of the master cylinder

Malcolm Lougheed was the first person to develop a brake system that used liquid pressure with cylinders and tubes. His invention dates back all the way to 1918. Back then, cars had mechanical brakes, which required a lot of force to bring your car to a halt. Lougheed’s system was a huge improvement because it required a lot less force. The problem with his brakes was that they often malfunctioned due to leaking.

Chrysler took Lougheed’s original system and made some improvements. They renamed them Chrysler-Lockheed hydraulic brakes, and were used in Chrysler vehicles from 1924 to 1962. By the 1940s, other auto manufacturers had converted to hydraulic systems as well.

Lougheed was on the right track, but his design was flawed. Since it was a single master cylinder system, all of the brake lines were connected. If there was a leak or a faulty part with the system, all of the brakes would stop working.

Luckily, Wagner Electric invented a dual-cylinder brake system in 1960. This system had a dual master cylinder separating front and rear hydraulic lines. In other words, if one line developed a leak, the other line could still work, and your brakes wouldn’t completely die. This safety measure was mandated by the federal government in 1967. It’s estimated that doing so prevents as many as 40,000 accidents every year.

Now you know a little bit about your car’s master cylinder. It really is the heart of your vehicle, so appreciate it. Take good care of it. Do you need maintenance on your master cylinder? Our experts at Bonfe’s are here for you. Give us a call today at (​651) 222-4458​.


7 Signs Your Brakes Need Maintenance

Putting off car maintenance is never a good idea, especially when it comes to your brakes. Fortunately, our cars are usually pretty good at letting us know when there’s an issue. Below are 7 common signs your brakes need maintenance.

1. Squealing noise when braking

Brake pad wear indicators tell you when the brake shoes or calipers are worn out. They alert you by making an awful squealing noise. This is because they’re made of metal. When they come in contact with the rotor, they’ll make an unmistakable, high-pitched sound. When you hear it, you’ll know to schedule maintenance right away.

2. Burning smell while driving

A burning smell is always a bad sign when you’re driving. If you smell a chemical or burning odor, it could indicate overheated brakes. This means your brake fluid may have reached a boiling point. If this happens, your braking system will fail. If you experience this warning sign, pull over immediately to let your brakes cool down.

3. Pulling to one side while braking

When a car veers to one side while braking, it’s a sign of trouble. Typically, this points to an issue with your front two brakes. It could be anything from a caliper issue, to a misaligned rotor, or a worn out brake hose. These problems result in one side of the braking system to compensate for the other side, which is why your car pulls to one side.

4. Wobbling or vibration

If you experience a vibrating steering wheel or wobbling on the brake pedal, there’s a good chance you have a problem. The most common reason for this is an uneven rotor. Over time, all rotors develop variations. The smallest difference in the thickness of the disc can result in wobbling when you step on the brakes.

Vibrating or wobbling can also indicate an issue with the caliper. If the caliper’s piston has excess debris or rust surrounding it, the caliper won’t properly release. That means it won’t completely retract when you remove your foot from the brake pedal. Regardless of the reason behind it, wobbling or vibration is a clear sign your brakes need maintenance.

5. Grinding sound from the brake pedal

Grinding that’s coming from the brake pedal could indicate something minor, like a loose rock lodged in the caliper. It could also mean you have a major problem, like worn down brake pads. The grinding could be the metal brake pad wear indicator scraping against the rotor. The grinding sound could also be coming from a rusty brake shoe.

6. Soft or spongy brake feel or leaking fluid

If there’s moisture in your brake system, it’ll make itself known through a soft or sponge-like brake pedal. Your brake system operates on pressurized, hydraulic brake fluid. If a leak develops, your brakes will malfunction. The lack of hydraulic force means your brake pads won’t have enough power to clamp onto the rotors.

7. Brake light illuminated on the dashboard

The most obvious sign of a brake problem is the brake light appearing on your dashboard. Your car’s diagnostics system triggers this light for a number of reasons. It could be telling you it’s time for an inspection, or it could be warning you of a system malfunction. To figure out exactly what’s going on, you’ll need to get your brakes inspected.

Your brakes are the most important safety system in your vehicle. Don’t neglect them. If you experience any of these signs, come see us. ​Bonfe’s expert technicians install only the best brake components. ​Give us a call at (​651) 222-4458​ to schedule your appointment today.



Everything You Need to Know About Replacing Your Braking System

Replacing the brakes in your car isn’t an easy job. Today we’re talking about everything you need to know when it comes to replacing your braking system. Knowing about this process can help you make an informed decision about your vehicle needs.

Steps to replacing the brake system

Even though brake systems are complex, most experts follow a similar process when it comes to replacement. These steps are as follows:

  1. Loosen the lugs​: After making sure the emergency brakes are activated, loosen the lugs. To do this, use a lug wrench to turn the lugs counter-clockwise. Make sure to loosen without removing them.
  2. Raise the vehicle​: Move the car jack underneath the vehicle’s frame rail. Make sure the jack stands are beneath the car. Once you’ve ensured everything is stable, you can detach the wheels.
  3. Slide out the caliper​: Once you remove the bolts from the caliper, you should be able to slide it out. If it’s stuck, you can pry it out using a flat head screwdriver. Rest the removed caliper on the suspension so you don’t strain the brake line.
  4. Remove the caliper carrier​: Remove the bolts from the caliper carrier.
  5. Remove the rotor: When removing the rotor, first check and see if you have a locating screw. If you do, remove this first. If your rotor is older or rusty, it may be more difficult to remove.
  6. Install new rotor​: Using a wire brush, remove rust from the hub and install the new rotor. Use a degreaser to clear any excess oils from the new rotor.
  7. Assemble caliper carrier​: Replace the caliper carrier and fasten new bolts.
  8. Compress the caliper​: Check to make sure you don’t have the cap on the reservoir. Then, using a c-clamp and an old brake pad, press the caliper’s piston so that it’s the same height as the housing of the caliper.
  9. Install caliper and brake pads​: Once the brake pads are installed in the caliper carrier, connect the caliper bolts. Make sure the caliper can move without binding, and then secure the bolts.
  10. Re-attach the wheels​: Manually attach the lugs and use a torque wrench when the vehicle is back on the ground.
  11. Repeat, pump, and break in: Follow the above steps on all of your wheels. Then, pump the brake pedal until you feel pressure. Last, break your system in. You can do this by speeding up and gradually slowing down a few times. Although you may hear squealing initially, the noises should die down after several miles.

Should I replace my own brakes?

Braking systems are intricate, and replacing them can get complicated. Unless you’re experienced in troubleshooting and repairing brake issues, this job is best left to a trusted professional. That way, you can rest easy knowing your brakes received the proper care.

Do you need help replacing your brakes? Let our experienced technicians at Bonfe’s lend you a hand. Give us a call at (​651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today. We look forward to serving you.