1

He applied the brakes but failed to stop in time.

Why is "brake" often used in its plural form "brakes" even though a vehicle usually has only one?

2

According to Cambridge dictionary

brake

a device that slows or stops the movement of a vehicle

As stated by J.R, in your car you have a brake pedal and a brake device per wheel [multiple wheels, multiple devices, plural]; the action of pushing the pedal activate the devices and the car slows down.

2

A vehicle usually only has one brake pedal – but it activates the two brakes (one on each wheel).

1

I’m quite confident that my car has four brakes, one for each wheel.

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