Wheel Cylinders

What are Wheel Cylinders?

Without a doubt, the brake system could be considered one of the most important car features. The brake system gives you control over speed, such as in traffic and down hills, and helps you come to a stop, whether at a traffic signal or to avoid obstacles, pedestrians, or pets.

Disc brakes are more efficient than drum brakes, which is why they’re found on the front of the vehicle, where 70% of braking is done. Drum brakes cheaper and less effective, but are still effective enough for use on the rear, where just 30% of braking is done. Somewhat of a misnomer, wheel cylinders have nothing to do with “wheels,” but are the heart of the drum brake system.

Why are Wheel Cylinders Important?

When you step on the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is amplified and then transmitted through the brake lines to each wheel, brake calipers in the front and wheel cylinder in the rear, at least for vehicles built with rear drum brakes. The wheel cylinders convert that hydraulic brake pressure into movement, tiny pistons expanding and pushing the brake shoes into the brake drum. Moved by the wheel cylinders, the brake shoes can only expand so far, forcing the friction material into the drums to slow and stop their movement, and therefore, the movement of the wheels attached to them.

Because the wheel cylinders are hidden inside the brake drums, they’re well-protected, but any failure would also be hidden. Wheel cylinders are not prone to failure, but they can leak brake fluid if their seals fail. If brake fluid leaks from one of the wheel cylinders, it would most likely contaminate the friction surfaces of the brake shoes, ruining them and severely reducing braking efficiency.

While wheel cylinders do not account for much braking, usually around 30%, they do much for the stability of your vehicle while driving and braking in many situations. Poor rear braking could cause problems with front brakes, as well, forcing them to take more of the braking load, >90% instead of 70% for example, leading to overheating, brake fade, and possible warping.

What can Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers Do for You?

Any inspection of brake problems, from leak diagnosis to braking performance, will include a thorough inspection of the wheel cylinders, and our experienced brake technicians know what to look for. Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers suggests a brake inspection about every 5,000 miles, about the same time you have your oil changed, including brake pads, brake rotors, brake calipers, brake drums, brake shoes, wheel cylinders, master cylinder, and brake lines. Stop in one of our 43 locations most convenient to you to ensure your vehicle’s safety and braking performance.

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