We all know that pushing down on the brake pedal slows a car to a stop. But how does this happen? How does your car transmit the force from your leg to its wheels? How does it multiply the force so that it is enough to stop something as big as a car?

Layout of typical brake system

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, the first in a six-part series on brakes, we will follow the chain of events from the pedal to the wheel, explaining all of the parts of the brake system along the way. This part of the series will cover the basic concepts behind car brakes and examine the workings of a simple brake system. Additional articles cover the rest of the components of a car brake system, detailing how each one operates.

More Brakes!