There are few things that can match the thrill of speeding in a Mazda MX5. The popular roadster provides a unique driving experience and is considered the cool ruler of affordable sports cars. However, what many owners fail to recognise is the importance of being able to slow down just as fast as they accelerate.
Vehicles like the MX5 require serious stopping power to be driven safely, which is why they’re all equipped with disc brakes instead of drum brakes. Disc brakes provide superior braking performance, but in order to understand why that’s the case, it’s important to know how they work and why it’s important to maintain them to the best of your abilities. Furthermore, you need to learn how to recognise failing disc brakes, and when they’re due for a replacement.
What are disc brakes?
Disc brakes are a brake type that features a disc as their frictional surface. The surface is pressed by pads when you apply pressure on the brake pedal. Disc brakes are a step up from drum brakes, which as their name implies, feature a drunk instead of discs.
Disc brakes have become the standard nowadays, whereas up until recently, they were primarily used in performance vehicles. In fact, you’ll find disc brakes on motorcycles as well. However, the designs of motorcycle and vehicle disc brakes vary. Let’s take a look at how they work so that you’ll be more informed when the time comes to shop for MX5 brake discs.
How disc brakes work
Disc brakes are usually hydraulic. They’re made up of various components that work together to create stopping power, which is delivered via the brake pedal. Simply put, when you press the brake pedal, a push rod puts pressure on the master cylinder piston, causing brake fluid to flow right out of it and into the brake lines (or tubes) that lead to the brake calliper. These brake lines transfer fluid pressure to the calliper piston and are attached to the piston inside the calliper.
As a result of the fluid moving, the pistons slide from their bores. This movement applies pressure to the brake pads and pushes them to the rotor (the disc that rotates together with your wheels). Based on the amount of pressure you apply to the braking pedal and the duration you apply it for, the brake pads will come in contact with the disc to reduce the speed of your vehicle, or stop it completely. Once released, everything goes back to how it was, and the brake fluid goes back to the master cylinder.
Types of disc brakes
There are two types of disc brakes: floating and opposing piston disc brakes. The type of brake calliper utilized is the main difference between the two varieties. Callipers with pistons on both sides of the disc are used in opposed piston disc brakes, whilst callipers with pistons on one side are used in floating disc brakes. Sliding pin disc brakes are another name for floating disc brakes. Here’s how they compare in terms of performance.
Opposed piston disc brakes
Since these disc brakes feature pistons on both side, they provide a more stable braking force. They also provide better control of your entire braking system. Additionally, the frictional surface they offer is large, so they provide better stopping power, which is exactly what you need for your Mazda MX5.
In opposed-piston disc brakes, the number of pistons can be increased to match the required braking power. This is why some high-performance vehicles have up to six pistons in their opposed piston disc brakes.
Floating disc brakes
As previously stated, these disc brakes have a single piston. Although the number of pistons can be extended to two, their job will be to squeeze the inner side of the disc, forcing the calliper to move on the slide pin, which is a device that presses the pad on the calliper’s other side.
Floating disc brakes are suitable for passenger vehicles where large amounts of stopping power isn’t necessary. Additionally, they’re recommended in applications where lightweight callipers are a must. These disc brakes are inexpensive to manufacture, so they come at a lower price.
Maintaining disc brakes
Since the discs are part of the braking system, the state of your MX5 brake discs should be checked every time you check your brakes. While the braking system is quite complex, maintaining it is relatively easy, and you can do it yourself. You’ll need to check the state of your master cylinder, brake lines, brake pads, and callipers, on top of the discs.
Your Mazda probably comes with a brake maintenance schedule, which generally includes checking the pads every 20,000-30,000 kilometres, and replacing the brake fluid every 40,000-50,000 kilometres. Of course, these numbers can vary depending on your driving style. Here are 5 quick tips for maintaining your braking system:
- Inspect Brake Pads and Discs
- Flush Brake Fluid
- Bleed Brake Lines
- Replace and Upgrade Worn Down Parts
Symptoms of failing disc brakes
As you can see, disc brake systems consist of quite a few components, all of which can fail at any given moment as a result of wear or damage. Fortunately, any potential issues come with symptoms beforehand, allowing you to act before things go bad.
The symptoms can be distinct for individual parts or represent a problem for the entire braking system. Catching problems early is crucial. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Brake Warning Light on the Dashboard
- Grinding Noise
- Low Brake Fluid Indicator
- Grabby Brakes
- Brake Pedal Symptoms (Pulsation, Sinking or Hard Pedal, Excessive Pedal Travel, Soft Feel)
- Burning Smell
- Vehicle Pulling to the Side
- Long Stop Travel
- Leaking Brake Fluid
Disc brake systems are the most common braking systems today. Unless your vehicle is over two decades old, chances are it has discs on the front wheels or all of its wheels. Disc brakes are reliable even in the toughest conditions and are used even in the heaviest, most demanding applications. They’re quite durable and with proper care and maintenance will last for years. They’re widely available and are typically made for particular vehicle models and makes.