Brakes are your number one resource when it comes to keeping yourself safe on the roads. New technology means that braking systems have got increasingly better with systems such as ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) in place to help drivers of more modern vehicles.
ABS prevents your wheels from locking up under hard braking. This decreases the chance of wheels skidding, hence giving the driver more control over their vehicle. AEB is a system that uses sensors to detect when your vehicle is approaching another vehicle or object too quickly or detects that an accident might be imminent and deploys the brakes for you automatically. This has the effect of either avoiding an accident or minimising the impact of it.
However, the best thing to rely on when it comes to efficient braking is to maintain a safe following distance. Safe driving generally involves keeping at least a 2 second gap in between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
While braking relies mostly on the driver, there are other factors to consider that also assist or worsen braking.
Tyres are very important. The more grip on a tyre, the more traction it has on the road and thus the quicker it can brake in a shorter distance. It is best to always ensure that your tyres are in good form, as this will ensure your safety on the roads. However, a good quality performance tyre will also ensure better braking as they are designed to have excellent grip.
A braking and suspension system also needs to be in good condition to ensure sufficient braking. Worn brake drums, pads, rotors, shoes or leaking lines will negatively affect braking.
Road and weather conditions also affect braking significantly. It is easier to brake faster on a newly tarred road as this offers the most adhesive quality. Dirt and gravel roads are trickier to drive on as they don’t offer as much traction and the car can easily skid. Wet, snowy or icy weather means that roads are far more slippery and the tyres have less adhesive traction available to them.
Your experience in driving and knowledge of your vehicle also add to good braking. The more familiar you are with your vehicle and the distance it needs to brake in certain condition will aid with keeping you safe. Some vehicles have technologically advanced braking systems and some don’t. It’s all a matter of knowing a bit about what vehicle you drive.
There are however different forms of braking. In normal conditions one can brake normally, applying gentle pressure to brakes and then more pressure the quicker you need to slow down. Emergency braking may involve having to slam on brakes immediately, but one should always be aware that hard braking can cause your wheels to lock, which could lead to you skidding into an accident. Rather brake 70 percent in an emergency situation if your vehicle does not have ABS, this will ensure your tyres don’t lock up.
Braking in bad weather conditions can be extremely hazardous. When attempting to brake on a wet or slippery road, especially before a bend, rather brake gently on a straight patch of road as opposed to on a bend, you are more likely to skid if you brake on a bend.
It is important to remember that after you have driven through a lot of water, your brakes might not be working as effectively because they are wet. When you deem it safe, test your brakes by gently touching them, if you feel they are not braking quickly enough brake slowly for a while to dry the brakes out. This should restore braking to its optimum function.
Braking while turning should also be avoided. This can limit your vehicles ability to turn as well as limiting the amount it can slow down. Rather prepare for a bend or turn by slowing down before you enter it. However, when turning a bend you should have your foot very lightly on the brake as this places more weight on the front on the car, giving you more grip around corners.
While good braking techniques are paramount, so to is the condition of your brakes. Have a qualified mechanic check, and if necessary fit new brakes, at least twice a year. In the long run this will save you money, detecting any damage early rather than later, when it could get expensive. Brake pads are designed, from slowing your car down, to become worn out from friction. Depending on how often you drive and how often you brake it is recommended that brake pads be replaced every 30 000km. Waiting for the sound of screeching brakes to appear before you replace brake pads is a terrible idea. By this stage the brake pads are so worn down they could cause serious damage to your other car parts.
Brakes are the most fundamental part of your car. Making sure that you know and respect the correct techniques to brake is very important for road safety. However, even more important is ensuring that all brake parts – pads, disks and lines – are in good condition in order to supplement your good driving style.