Use Your Car Brakes,
With Good Braking Techniques,
And Reduce Your Driving Costs.

Most car brakes are just brakes. The average vehicle does not yet come with technologies to store braking energy in another system in the car and save on overall driving costs.

Until such time, there are braking techniques that we can use to achieve reduced costs and these are free.

To be effective these braking techniques need to be combined with proper acceleration, and other driving, techniques. This includes less aggressive acceleration, lifting your foot off the pedal and coasting.

These are all 'degrees' of braking. If your car have less forward momentum, you can slow it down with less braking.

This is sometimes called hypermiling, though I use the term 'smooth driving' techniques.

The safe use of these techniques requires some awareness of the traffic around you and some space in which to move smoothly.

Be aware of the relative speed of other traffic. Choose a lane and stay in it.

Prepare for curves and turns well ahead of time. This means lifting your foot off the accelerator and braking if necessary. You should never be using your brakes while in a curve, especially on a highway. One exception would be if you were on a steep decline and on a curve.

Using brakes is acceptable when turning a corner, especially in urban areas where a pedestrian or cyclist can surprise you.

Always signal lane changes and turns.

Also be aware of unusual road conditions. For example, a light rain after a long hot dry spell can make for a slightly greasy road surface.

This reduces traction and though it may be subtle it can make the difference between stopping in time and an accident if no adjustment is made.

The idea is to always drive as smoothly as possible. Flow with the traffic with the lest amount of power in acceleration and braking.

This will greatly improve both your fuel economy and the lifespan of your car's brakes.

You'll be more relaxed so you will probably last longer too.

Safety Tip

Keep your rear window clear of loose items.

These items become 'missiles' should your

vehicle stop, or change directions, suddenly.

This happens in collisions.

Even a Kleenex box can hurt your head at 50 KM/hr.

Car Brakes Care Tips

  • Regularly check your car's brake lights, including the third brake light, as I describe at Car Lights. Note that the third brake light is often on a separate circuit.
  • Pay attention to any noises that seem related to braking. Car brakes should operate quietly unless they are worn or some dirt or debris has gotten into the rotors or 'shoes'. If the sound is metallic, like grinding or scrapping, then get your car brakes checked PRONTO!
  • Confirm that noises you hear are related to braking. Listen, when you brake, and note how the noises appear or change. Do the noises disappear when you take your foot off the brake? Do you hear them going around a corner? Relate this to your mechanic.
  • How your car brakes feel can also indicate wear or other problems. If your brakes continually pull in a certain direction, it could indicate that a brake calliper, which presses the brake pads onto the rotor, could be seized. Get them checked by your mechanic.
  • Persistent sensations like shuddering or grabbing felt through the brake pedal on braking also indicate problems that could be serious and should be checked out ASAP.
  • If your car brakes pull a little the first time you use them in the rain, they are simply adjusting to the condition. A few light taps on the brake pedal to dry the rotors when you get caught in the rain can often eliminate that uncomfortable pulling.

A Quick Rotor Inspection

  1. Look through your front wheels to the rotor. It should a nice, smooth, shiny surface. If the surface has a lot of rough or deep groves, then it is time to service your brakes.
    1. Identify the calliper, that clip-like metal over the rotor. Between it and the rotor is the brake pad. Pads are varying thicknesses but there should be some substance there (1/4 inch or more) so that metal is not touching metal.

      Your rear wheels may be drums instead of rotors. In that case have your mechanic check out any noises from the rear wheels.

* * * * *

ABS or anti lock braking systems

ABS brakes can be unsettling the first time you experience them working. Generally they operate 'invisibly' in summer and dry road conditions as they simply stop you without skidding or locking up your tires.

However, if you brake hard in wet or icy conditions, it can often feel like your vehicle has a serious problem. The shuddering felt through the steering wheel, brake pedal and the whole car for that matter, can be quite disturbing.

Self Training Tip

My first car with ABS really surprised and disturbed me. What I did was find an empty parking lot covered with snow and I practiced braking hard in snow.

I would accelerate to a speed of say 30 KM/hr. I would then brake hard by pumping the pedal rapidly to avoid skidding while stopping as fast as I could.

I would then accelerate along the same path, though making fresh tracks. This time I would simply hold the break pedal down hard without pumping.

After doing this a number of times at various speeds I realized that the ABS was much more effective at stopping the car than pumping the brakes with my foot. Once I had proved it to myself, it did not take long to trust the ABS shudder 'dance'.

What's Going On

What ABS car brakes do is automatically, multiple times a second, release the braking on any wheel that is starting to slide on the ice. A wheel locks up and slides when it loses traction.

The ABS sensors will release the brake only on that wheel and only enough so it has traction. That way it is still braking. That shuddering feeling comes from wheels braking and releasing, many times a second.

Experiment in a safe place until you are confident that ABS actually does work. That way you will keep full pressure on the brakes the next time you need to stop suddenly and if your tires are good you will stop.

It's been a long time since I experienced my wheels locking up and my car going into a skid. With smooth driving techniques, ABS and Michelin tires, it just doesn't happen anymore.

I do need to be wearing my seatbelt though, because I do stop fast, without ever hearing a squeal of protest from my tires.

* * * *

One last word on doing your own brakes. I have in my time, a long time ago, changed my own brakes. Car brakes do require some unique tools. Unless you have the tools and some knowledge of brake repair, I recommend you do as I do these days and leave brake service to my mechanic.

I always do my best to describe any noises and/or sensations and when they are present. I describe the brake problems as well as I can and let him do the brake repair.

* * * *

Thanks again for visiting. I trust you enjoyed your time here and learned something that will make a difference for you behind the wheel.

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As always: drive safe, drive smart and...

Enjoy The Ride.

I 'm done with car brakes, James. Back to car maintenance tips, please.

I'm finished with car brakes. Home to proven driving tips, James.

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