The simple answer: they slow you down.
The complex answer: brakes are designed to slow down your vehicle but probably not by the means that you think. The common misconception is that brakes squeeze against a drum or disc, and the pressure of the squeezing action is what slows you down. This in fact is only part of the equation. Brakes are essentially a mechanism to change energy types. When you're travelling at speed, your vehicle has kinetic energy. When you apply the brakes, the pads or shoes that press against the brake drum or rotor convert that energy into thermal energy via friction. The cooling of the brakes dissipates the heat and the vehicle slows down. It's the First Law of Thermodynamics, sometimes known as the law of conservation of energy. This states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. In the case of brakes, it is converted from kinetic energy to thermal energy. Angular force. Because of the configuration of the brake pads and rotor in a disc brake, the location of the point of contact where the friction is generated also provides a mechanical moment to resist the turning motion of the rotor.
BRAKE PADS SHOULD BE REPLACED WHEN: