August is Brake Safety Awareness Month, but we wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t completely aware of everything that goes into your braking system. There are plenty of unknown facts that accompany brakes, and for good reason. Some of these facts aren’t essential, and they really serve more as ‘fun tidbits’ than useful information.
Either way, it’s still information that could certainly be useful in future situations. Before you visit your local mechanic to get your brakes serviced, check out our guide below. Maybe you can use your newfound knowledge as you look to get your brakes repaired…
Your Brakes Can Resist the Elements
When your typical, modern braking system is operating normally, it’ll have an average temperature of around 350 degrees Celsius. If you’re really looking to push it, you can get the heat to top 700 degrees Celsius. As a result of this extreme heat, tires need some sort of protection. Luckily, your car manufacturer has already thought of this.
Many tires come equipped with some kind of heat resistance. If there wasn’t, you’d be risking failure of the entire system. When heat accumulates in the braking surfaces, a brake fade can occur. Both the drum brakes and disc brakes could react erratically when they experience extreme heat, resulting in a decrease in stopping power, decreased friction, depleted fluids, and even an engine failure.
There’s no way to completely avoid your brakes getting overheated. However, not forcing your vehicle to perform beyond it’s capabilities would certainly be a good start in maintaining your brakes’ strength. Engineers accounted for the hot brakes, and the system was designed to tolerate these high temperatures. If you’re going to be worried about anything, focus on boiling brake fluid (which should ideally be flushed to maximize your car’s abilities) and melting caliper seals (which could vicariously damage the pads, rotors, and fluid).
Besides resisting heat, these brakes are also designed with innovative wear-resisting technology. Brakes are one of the most important and essential parts of a car, and considering the task they’re expected to perform, it’s not farfetched for them to wear out pretty quickly. Luckily, manufactures have also taken this into account, assuring that your brakes won’t need regular maintenance.
However, They’ll Still Breakdown
Just because your brake system has some incredible durability and resistance features, it doesn’t mean that every part will consistently be working like new. There are a variety of different parts that make up the braking system, including the brake pad/lining (which you’ll want to check for damage and wear), brake fluid (which you’ll want to make sure is at a reasonable level), rotor/drum (which you’ll want to assure are up to their proper thickness), the hoses/brake lines (which should also be devoid of any wear or damage), and your brake lights.
How can you tell if the system is struggling? You’re initial telling sign will be via your brakes’ performance. If they don’t seem to be operating as effectively as normal, this is an indication that they may need to be checked out. Other warning signs include a general “pulling” sensation to either the right or left, an odd noise that accompanies you stepping on the brakes, a consistent brake warning light, a hard or unresponsive brake pedal, squealing, and vibration.
“Motorists can put a stop to any potential brake system problems by recognizing the signs and symptoms that their brake system may need maintenance or repair,” the executive director of the Car Care Council Rich White told AutoCreditExpress.com.
If you notice any of these issues, you should look to fix your car as soon as possible. Letting the problem linger could not only make that one individual problem worse, but it could also compromise some other parts of your vehicle. If that happens, you’d also be compromising you and your passengers’ safety.
Your Sports Vehicle Doesn’t Have THE Most Advanced Brakes
No, despite what your salesman may have told you, your car doesn’t feature the best brakes in the world… those are reserved for Formula 1 vehicles. To further emphasize that point, you can just refer to German racer Geinz-Harald Frentzen’s performance in 1997, when he reportedly applied a force of 5.99 G under braking. For comparison’s sake, your car probably barely reaches 1.0 G.
Disc brake pads for a Formula 1 car typically cost around $250 each, and despite the high price, they don’t last particularly long. A typical race car may go through about 1,000 in a year, meaning the race teams are investing a quarter of a million dollars into just one of their brake pads.
So what are the best braking cars that you could reasonably get your hands on? There’s the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition, which can go from 60 mph to not moving in about 93 feet. Unfortunately, this vehicle still costs a pretty penny. If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, you could opt for the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT. The $15,000 car can go from 60 to 0 in less than 130 feet.
Brakes Have Been Redesigned
…but not the way you’d expect. There general structure have remained mostly intact, but the materials that they’re made of have been slightly altered over the years. Asbestos, lead and cadmium were at one time included in the brakes “recipe,” but it was soon recognized that these materials were harmful and dangerous. Instead, the materials responsible for the brakes’ friction include a “complicated mixture of fibers, fillers, lubricants and a binder resin,” as described by MotorCare.com.
As the website explains, many of these materials are designed for cast iron rotors, which are typically “too aggressive” for your typical, lightweight alloys. While engineers have created “less aggressive linings” to compensate, they’re still trying their best at including “practical aluminum or composite discs.” Unfortunately, they’ve yet to figure out how to include these materials, and the website says the aluminum or composite discs are still in their “experimental stage.”
Exhaust Brakes Are… Interesting
Exhaust brakes are intended to slow down a diesel-fueled vehicle by shutting off the path from the engine, thus allowing the exhaust gasses to be compressed. Since there is no fuel being sent to the engine, this essentially makes the engine work backwards, decelerating the vehicle. These systems are generally very powerful, and there are claims that they can solely stop a huge vehicle without the driver even touching the standard brakes.
While exhaust brakes and standard brakes serve the same purpose, there are some distinct difference between the two. The system can usually be found mounted to the outside of a car’s turbocharger, and the brakes rarely make any loud noises. Furthermore, while standard brakes are created to be used in certain situations, the exhaust brake has multiple purposes, meaning it can essentially be used constantly.
As you’ve read, there’s a lot more that goes into brakes than you’d recognize. Car manufacturers are constantly looking to be the most innovative companies out there, and you’ll continue to see some unique brakes features as the years go on.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to get your brakes serviced occasionally. If you’re in the Albany, New York area, head down to DePaula. The helpful staff and mechanics will get your car and brakes working like new.