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Understanding Car Brakes How To Brake Safely

Understanding Car Brakes – How To Brake Safely


ben Jenkins

Anyone who has had to perform an emergency stop whilst driving a modern car knows that modern brakes can be extremely effective. However, in day to day driving situations a good driver will use the brakes as little as possible. This is because a good driver has the ability to anticipate when they will have to slow down and can do so gradually and smoothly.

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To use your brakes effectively the first thing you need to know is whether or not your car has ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System). ABS works differently from standard brakes and when used in an emergency requires a different operating technique. Most modern cars are fitted with ABS. ABS prevents the wheels from locking-up and skidding when under heavy braking. This means that you can continue to steer the car something that would be impossible if the wheels locked-up. ABS works by applying the brake on and off several times a second and only kicks in under heavy braking. In a emergency stop (which is a driving test

manoeuvre) if your car has ABS you should keep both hands on the steering. Press the brake pedal as hard as you can and keep your foot pressed down on it until you come to a stop. You may hear a noise or pulsating sensation coming through the brake pedal. This is a normal feature with ABS. Just before coming to a stop engage the clutch as this will prevent the engine from stalling.

In a emergency stop if your car has no ABS you should keep both hands on the steering wheel. Press the brake pedal firmly but not so hard that the wheels lock up. If you sense that the wheels are locking up then gently remove your foot from the brake pedal. This will allow the wheels rotate again. Once you sense the wheels rotating apply the brakes again but less harshly. Repeat as necessary. As you come to a stop engage the clutch pedal. In every day driving situations, whether your car has ABS or not whenever you need to apply the brakes you should do so gently at first, then progressively increasing the pressure. Aggressive breaking is bad practice and, even with ABS, can be dangerous. If on your driving test aggressive braking will not impress your driving test examiner. You should try and brake only when driving in a straight line. Tyres only have so much grip. When driving round a corner, especially when at speed, this grip is already being tested. If you add braking to the mix then they grip may fail and you could find yourself skidding out of control. When brakes are overused they can overheat and lose efficiency. This is know as brake fade. This can happen when driving down a steep hill, when the car is heavy loaded or towing or if the brakes are worn. If brake fade happens then pull over somewhere safe and allow the brakes to cool before driving off. It is recommended that you then get your brakes assessed by a professional mechanic.

Richard Jenkins is owner of the

driving test and driving schools

website. A site for learner drivers which provides guides on topics such as the

driving theory test

and the

car insurance for learner drivers

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