It seems simple. Press the accelerator pedal to go and the brake pedal to stop. But is it as easy as that? From vehicle maintenance and safety to etiquette on the road, the manner in which you use your brakes makes a difference. This is especially true in the era of anti-lock braking where the way you press the pedal determines how and whether the system operates.
Consider these brake system do’s and don’ts the next time you drive your vehicle.
1. Don’t use them.
Now, this might sound a little strange and counterintuitive. Ridiculous even. The idea is not that you should never use your brakes – that would be ridiculous – but that you should avoid using them when they are not needed.
We have all seen “that guy”. You know, the one who is driving in the fast lane on the freeway with his brake lights flickering on and off because he is tailgating the car in front of him. You never know exactly when he is going to slow down. In fact, traffic backs up for a mile because everyone behind him ends up doing the same thing, tapping the brakes. All of those brake lights make for a traffic jam – and a lot of extra wear on your car’s brakes.
So, don’t be “that guy”. Maintain a safe driving distance of about three seconds from the car in front of you so that you do not need to keep hitting the brakes every time they do.
2. Do plan your slowdowns and stops
Excessive or aggressive use of your brakes will cause them to wear faster. Your brake pads will not last as long as they should and your brake rotors will need to be resurfaced or replaced sooner than they should.
Rather than racing up to a light and slamming on your brakes, you might want to think ahead and calculate when you need to stop. Using your brakes firmly but gently in normal conditions not only prevents premature wear, it also generates less heat. Your brakes need heat from friction to stop, but excessive heat can damage brake system components and even boil your brake fluid.
3. Don’t ride your brakes
Another braking behavior that causes excessive heat and premature wear is riding your brakes. That is where you keep one foot on the brake pedal at all times, just enough to turn your brake lights on, making you look suspiciously like “that guy”.
What you are doing when you ride your brakes is wearing out your brake pads and other components – and the patience of the drivers behind you who have no idea when you are actually going to put pressure on the pedal and stop in front of them. Riding your brakes at the very least will lead to more frequent brake service appointments.
4. Do learn how to brake with your engine
Your brake pedal is not the only tool you have to slow your car down. Your engine can do it for you. When you release the accelerator pedal, the retarding forces of the heavy components moving inside of your engine place a drag on the drive system. As long as your vehicle is in gear, you will slow down automatically. Anyone who has driven a car with a manual transmission knows this, as slowing down with the clutch and engine is a regular part of driving a “stick”.
Using your engine to brake can save on brake system wear and tear. It can also help control your speed when you are driving downhill if you shift to a lower gear. The technique will not work if you place the car in neutral.
5. Don’t brake too much around a corner
When you drive around a turn in the road (think freeway exit ramp), your vehicle will have a natural tendency to roll to the outside of the turn. The higher your center of gravity, as is common with many SUVs, the greater that tendency. And it is made worse if you are braking hard into the curve.
Your best strategy for travelling around a corner is to brake before you get there and accelerate gently through the curve. The worst thing you could do is to race into a corner and slam on your brakes while you are turning the wheel. Brake first, then accelerate gradually.
6. Don’t slam on the brakes
When you are in a driving hurry, make “jackrabbit” starts and then slam on the brakes to stop, you are causing undue stress on your brake system components, the pads, rotors, and brake calipers. You are also stressing out your passengers and the drivers around you. Add to the list uneven tire wear and a loss of control of your vehicle.
Avoid extremes in acceleration and braking and your car will thank you with longer life.
7. Do learn how to slam on the brakes
Of course, there are times when sudden stops are unavoidable. If a vehicle or (heaven forbid) a pedestrian ends up in front of you and you need to stop in short order, you are going to have to slam on your brakes.
In the old days, before anti-lock brake systems (ABS), when you locked up your wheels during an emergency stop or on wet pavement, your car would skid and you would lose control of your steering. ABS keeps your wheels from locking up suddenly (no skidding) and allows you to maintain control of your vehicle (keep steering) so that you can avoid a collision.
But for your ABS to work properly, you need to use the brake pedal properly. And that means pressing firmly. No feathering the pedal. No pumping the brakes. That may have been a strategy used in the past in order to simulate what essentially happens when your ABS kicks in, but the computer that controls that function is far faster than you could ever be pumping your foot.
Using your brakes the right way really only requires that you be vigilant, and maybe a little patient. And maybe that you put in a little practice. As a result, you will be a safer driver and you will get longer life out of your brake system.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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