Your vehicle's braking system is a complex system of electronic, mechanical and hydraulic components. All parts must work all of the time for safe stopping. Regular and complete inspections are important to finding problems before they become serious and/or expensive to repair. Ignoring a symptom or problem could lead to more comprehensive repairs.
Parts found in most brake systems are: rotors or discs, calipers, pads, drums, shoes, wheel cylinders, hoses, lines, master cylinder, and a combination of hardware. In addition, anti-lock brake systems (ABS) also include: wheel speed sensors, a hydraulic actuator and an electronic control unit. These parts work together to transport the power you exert on the brake pedal to the frictional surfaces that stop each wheel.
Today's brake systems require little maintenance. Periodically, the master cylinder should be checked to insure that the brake fluid is at the proper level. If brake fluid is needed, make sure the fluid used is right for your vehicle's brake system. Caution: Never add transmission fluid, oil or steering fluid to the master cylinder. This will severely damage rubber parts and cause the brakes to fail.
When you push on the brake pedal, the brake shoes and brake pads are pushed against the brake drums and brake rotors (also called discs), causing the vehicle to stop. Because of the rubbing action that occurs, brake shoes and brake pads wear. When the wear becomes extensive, replacement of the shoes and pads is necessary. If a brake drum or rotor is severely worn, replacement is required. When replacing shoes and pads, it may be necessary to have the brake drums and rotors machined to provide a smooth, fresh braking surface.
Some vehicles are equipped with wear indicators that produce a high-pitched squeal or squeak when the brake pads require replacement. If you do not know whether your vehicle is equipped with brake wear indicators, an occasional inspection of the brake pads and shoes is advisable to prevent damage and costly replacement of other brake parts
Unlike brake shoes and brake pads, wheel cylinders and calipers only require replacement if they no longer work properly or are leaking brake fluid. If a wheel cylinder or caliper requires replacement, it can be replaced individually. Replacing wheel cylinders and calipers in pairs is generally not required, but mat be suggested based on condition.