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Borgman How To: Understanding Your Vehicle’s Braking System

April 18th, 2018


The Borgman Service Center – Your Home For Expert Brake Service in West Michigan

Brakes do an awful lot of work, even on a simple trip around Grand Rapids or to the grocery store. Bringing a moving vehicle to a complete stop is no small feat, even though we may take it for granted. On the other end of that brake pedal are some clever feats of engineering that harness the power of hydraulics and friction to turn a vehicle’s kinetic energy into heat.

The Borgman Service Center in Grand Rapids is your home for making sure your brakes and other systems within your vehicle are properly functioning and maintained. In our latest Borgman How To, we’ll give you a general idea of how this system works and enough insight to know when it’s losing performance. Here’s the “Brake-Down” of major components:

  • Hydraulic Components: The two main components connected to the brake pedal are the Master and Slave Cylinders, which compress fluid to multiply the force from the brake pedal. The fluid is distributed to the vehicle’s wheels to power the brakes.
  • Disc Brake Components: Disc brakes are very common on the front wheels because of their efficiency. They consist of a rotor, calipers, and pads with an open design to quickly dissipate heat.
  • Drum Brake Components: Drum brakes are very common on the rear wheels because of their durability. They consist of a metal drum that spins with the wheel, and shoes that press against the insides. They require much less maintenance and are often used for the emergency brake.

Hydraulic Braking System Basic Components

Hydraulics are based Pascal’s Principle: “Pressure exerted on a fluid is distributed equally throughout the fluid.” This is possible because fluids don’t compress the same way gasses do, enabling you to press down gently on a brake pedal and have that small amount of pressure affect all of the fluid in the system. It is then multiplied and used to stop the entire vehicle. The system you’d find in a New Ford or Mazda is more complex than this example, but here’s a rundown of the basics:

When you use the brake pedal, it pushes on a plunger in the master cylinder, building pressure. Brake fluid is forced through the plumbing to the 4 wheels of the vehicle, where slave cylinders further amplify the hydraulic force. This fluid then actuates pistons in the brakes with enough force to create enough friction to stop the wheel. Modern systems also use enhancements like a “brake booster” which uses vacuum to assist with compressing the master cylinder. This whole hydraulic system is responsible for stopping the vehicle and therefore your safety and those around you, so it is common to see redundancies like two master cylinders. If you notice your brake pedal feeling spongy or needing more pressure than usual, check your brake fluid level and schedule an appointment.


Note on Brake Fluid: If you do your own fluid checks, and we highly recommend that you do, you might notice low brake fluid. A little fluid loss is normal as the pistons in the calipers extend with wear (the system is actually just getting bigger) but a dramatic loss usually points to a leak. While hydraulic theory applies to most liquids, brake fluid is specially-formulated for vehicles. It is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture, and this is to make sure the boiling point stays high (fluids boil under pressure) and that water cannot pool in the brake system. If you open a bottle of brake fluid and don’t use all of it, seal it up tightly and write the date on the bottle. It’s already started absorbing water from the air, so you’ll want to use it in 3 to 6 months or throw it away.

The Difference Between Disc & Drum Brakes

Disc brakes, the ones you’ll interact with most, are often found on the front wheels because they’re more heat-efficient and easier to service. Here, pressurized fluid from the slave cylinder squeezes down on the rotor through the caliper’s pistons. The rotor is attached to the wheel and spins, but the caliper is mounted to the vehicle itself.

Brake pads are fixed to the inside of the caliper and are made of high-strength and heat-resistant materials like ceramic or carbon. As they squeeze down to the spinning rotor, they generate enough friction to slow the vehicle. On the front wheels, brakes have to work harder and can reach temperatures of over 900°F. Disc brakes work best here because they cool much faster than drums – thanks to their open construction. The pads wear faster, but they’re much easier to replace.

Drum brakes are built differently. Instead of a rotor, a metal drum houses a series of shoes that push against the rotating edges from the inside. Their construction is more durable, but they tend to trap heat so they’re often only used on the rear wheels. If the shoes (different type of pads) are heated well above 900°F, they lose their “grippiness” – colloquially called heat fade – and the vehicle may not be able to stop.

Thankfully, the rear brakes are doing much less work than the front, and this is by design. As the weight of the vehicle shifts forward while stopping, too much braking force in the back can lock up the rear wheels and cause them to skid. The master cylinder sends less force to the back to counter this, making the rear brakes more supplemental than active. However, the emergency brake is usually connected to the back wheels, so it’s important to have them inspected – even if they don’t need service as often.


Need Your Brakes Inspected or Replaced? Visit The Borgman Service Center in Grand Rapids!

If you’re hearing a squealing noise when you stop, that’s a metal tab rubbing against the rotor letting you know it’s time to visit the Borgman Service Center in Grand Rapids. Our highly-trained and certified technicians will make sure that any maintenance on your brakes is performed properly, and keep an eye on connected components for faults – so you can get back to exploring West Michigan safely.

During your visit, be sure to ask the Borgman Quick Lane staff about the Lifetime Brake Pad Guarantee. Now whenever you need new brake pads, we’ll waive the part cost and replace them with dependable, long-lasting Motorcraft pads for as long as you own the vehicle. You can browse the latest Service Specials, Schedule an Appointment online, or Contact Us with any questions you may have. Come see why Borgman is the Best in the West!

Borgman How To: Tire Rotation & Balancing Explained

March 29th, 2018

As crews around Grand Rapids work to patch up our numerous potholes, the best way to protect your tires from cracks, splits, and other shock-related damage is to rotate them regularly and keep them properly inflated. From the outset, the concept of a tire seems pretty simple. Their rubber construction and treads grip the road in many different driving conditions. They’re filled with air to act as a cushion, push back onto the road, and keep wheel weight down – and therefore fuel efficiency up.

In truth, there’s a bit more going on here. In our latest Borgman How To, we’ll expand upon our previous Tire Article and go over why it’s important to keep your tires balanced and rotated.

What a Tire Rotation Is and How It Saves You Money

Here’s a scenario: about a year ago you put four brand-new tires on your car. You notice that the rear tires still look fairly new, but the front ones, especially on the edges, look a little more worn. Instead of replacing the front tires, you can simply have them moved to a different position on the car, or rotate them. Read the rest of this entry »

Borgman How To: When Is It Time For New Shocks or Struts?

March 7th, 2018


Shock & Struts Smooth Your Ride and Keep West Michigan Drivers Safe

After the West Michigan winter finally clears, you might be noticing your daily commute is a little bumpier than you remember, or that it’s a little harder to turn the steering wheel. If that’s the case, it could be a sign that you need new shocks or struts, and the Borgman Service Center is here to help!

 What Are Shocks & Struts? What Do They Do?

Depending on which vehicle you drive, it will be equipped with either shock absorbers, struts, or both. It’s worth noting that a single wheel will have one or the other – never both. Shocks and struts are parts of your vehicle’s suspension, and they control how your body interacts with the wheels. This affects your steering, stopping distance, and weight dynamics. They also filter out bumps from the road and smooth out your ride.

While these two parts have similar duties, they are not interchangeable. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Know If Your Vehicle Needs An Alignment

January 23rd, 2018

How to check your wheel alignment to drive safely in Grand Rapids and West Michigan

Now that we’ve made it about halfway through the winter season in West Michigan, it’s probably a good time to know where you stand in terms of your vehicle’s alignment. I don’t think anyone was surprised to find the roads an absolute horror show after the latest thaw, as we were reunited with our old friend the pothole. These gaps, pits, or large craters in the asphalt are formed when water seeps into cracks and expands when it re-freezes. While your vehicle will eventually need an alignment from normal driving, if you hit a pothole or a curb it may need one sooner. Read the rest of this entry »

Advanced Winter Driving Tips For West Michigan Roads

December 12th, 2017


Learn How To Recover From Different Skids, Retrain Your Pedal Foot, and More!

The winter weather has arrived in Grand Rapids and West Michigan, and it looks like it’s staying for the season. While it’s undeniably beautiful to look at, snow and ice can make driving hazardous, especially with the influx of cars on the road during the holiday shopping and travel season. In the interest of making sure everyone arrives at their destinations safely, Borgman has put together a few advanced tips for winter driving, which include a quick hit on some vehicle physics plus 4 types of skids and how to recover from them. We’ve written an article that covers the basics of safe winter driving, which you can find here. To further sharpen your winter driving skills, keep on reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Borgman How To: Pre-Winter Windshield Wiper Check & Maintenance

October 30th, 2017

Photo of a 2018 Ford Escape driving safely in the West Michigan winter weather, with the help of well-maintained windshield wiper blades.

How To Inspect Your Wiper Blades Before The West Michigan Winter Hits

During the warmer months, we only really use our wipers during a rainstorm or cleaning gunk off of the windshield. However, once the snow flies, making sure wipers can do their job becomes more of a safety issue. At the very least, worn wiper blades will make a lot of horrible noise and leave streaks on the windshield. When they get really bad, and especially during a snowstorm, they leave you with no visibility in an already precarious driving condition.

When wipers are in good shape, they will smoothly and quietly remove all water from their path. Checking your wipers for wear is pretty easy. Just pick it up and take a look for any ripples or cracks in the rubber. If you don’t see any glaring issues, sit behind the wheel and spray the windshield with washer fluid. When the wipers engage, keep an eye open for the following issues:

  1. Wipers do not clear all of the washer fluid in one stroke or leave streaks.
  2. Wipers make a lot of noise, even when wet.
  3. Wipers bounce up and down or stutter as they travel – indicating that some part of the assembly is bent.

Windshield wipers should ideally be replaced every six months. However, if you’re looking for an easier way to tell if your wipers need replacing, visit the Borgman Ford Service Center and ask about Motorcraft Wiper Blades with wear indicator. These wiper blades have a spot that will change from black to yellow when they need to be replaced. Read the rest of this entry »

Borgman How To: Caring For & Inspecting Your Tires

October 17th, 2017


Learn More About How To Care For Your Tires by Understanding How They Work

Tires are an integral part of your vehicle, and Borgman is here to help you make sure they stay in good shape for as long as possible. Tires have quite the job description: they carry the vehicle everywhere throughout Grand Rapids and West Michigan, they keep road noise down, the ride smooth, and keep your grip in slick conditions. To achieve all of this, there is a fair bit of physics and chemistry at play, but you don’t really have to worry about any of that. Getting peak performance out of your tires from Borgman is as simple as giving them a look-over every month. Below, we’ve provided a punch list of what to look for and tips to keep your tires in tip-top shape. Read the rest of this entry »


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