To the uninitiated, driving a car might seem a little like magic. You sit in a comfy chair, press your feet to some pedals, and the car takes you where you need to go. Of course, there are hundreds of invisible processes going on behind the scenes to allow this kind of interaction to work. Some of them involve a component known as the “master cylinder.”
Curious about how important this part is? Here’s a look at what master cylinders can do.
Auto Parts Specialists Can See Master Cylinders Are Essential to Brakes and Gear Shifting
Hydraulic systems like brakes and some clutches use fluid pressure to operate. Where does the fluid pressure come from? A master cylinder. A master cylinder forms a link between external control devices, like the brake pedal, and the system in question. Inside the master cylinder are little pistons, which push forward and increase fluid pressure when the pedal is depressed, and retract and decrease pressure when the pedal is raised. Correspondingly, the car’s brakes might engage, or the clutch will shift. They don’t get much attention, but professionals in auto parts careers know that master cylinders are instrumental to some of the most important functions drivers perform.
Manual cars will typically have two master cylinders: one for the brake and one for the clutch. Automatic cars, on the other hand, will typically only have one master cylinder. Even though master cylinders are built to last, they can sometimes break down in older cars. Professionals who take careers in auto part warehouses can expect to stock and order these essential parts throughout their careers.
Failing Master Cylinders Are Associated With a Number of Problems
There are a few symptoms that can pretty reliably be linked to a failing master cylinder. Damage can lead them to cause braking to be less responsive than normal, can contaminate and make brake fluid less effective, and can lead to the dreaded “Check Engine” light, too.
Replacing a master cylinder is moderately expensive, as far as car repairs go. Depending on the vehicle, drivers can usually expect to pay between $300 and $650 for parts and labour for the job. In fact, just the part itself can often cost over $100. Because of the seriousness of failing brakes or clutches, though, it’s not advisable for issues with this component to go unfixed for long. An auto parts specialist knows that even if a master cylinder issue doesn’t seem bad at first, it is important that a replacement is done before the situation becomes dangerous.
Auto Parts Specialists Know Master Cylinders Aren’t Found in All Vehicles
Some vehicles, including some buses and trucks, don’t use hydraulic braking. Instead, they rely on air braking systems, which use air pressure to slow and stop. Though they require similar components—like cylinders and pistons—the master cylinder itself doesn’t make an appearance in this kind of braking system.
One important advantage of air braking is that it’s impossible to run out of air in normal driving circumstances, so minor leaks in the system won’t lead to the brake failing over time. For large vehicles that have a bit more difficulty stopping in the best of circumstances, this is a difference that can prove lifesaving when issues do exist.
Master cylinders are a car part that few people think about. However, given that hydraulic brakes are the norm for most passenger vehicles, they are hugely important to maintain. For many auto parts specialists, acquiring these parts quickly, and getting them through the warehouse and into the hands of the mechanics who need them, is an important responsibility.
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