All car brakes at a certain time will experience overheating when in use which results in a degraded braking power. If not confronted properly this may leave you out in a hazardous situation that’s why it’s a good thing to know how it happens and what are the causes.
What is brake fade?
Brake fade or braking system fade is the degradation or complete loss in stopping power of vehicle’s braking system. This is due to sustained and repetitive application of the brakes which results into deterioration of both drum and disc brakes.
Brake fade is one of the leading cause of road crash here in the country especially with truck vehicles as they are more susceptible to have brake fades due to heavy the load they carry.
How does it fade?
Braking system fade is the result of overheating brake pad. This means all vehicles that have brake pads rubbing against a brake rotor which transforms the vehicle’s kinetic energy into heat has the tendency to develop braking system fade.
Best practice to minimize brake fade
When Towing Another Vehicle
Imagine you are driving downhill while pulling a 500kg trailer(trailer is without brakes). If your vehicle weighs around a ton it only means that your braking system will have to shoulder about fifty percent more load. This results into excessive overheating of your brake pads that results into a faster braking system fade than usual.
Now an even worse case scenario is when you’re pulling another vehicle. This is a typical case in the Philippines where you see a regular vehicle towing another vehicle. Bear in mind that if that vehicles that are usually towed are the ones that had a break down so this means that it’s an unbraked trailer because it’s engine is off. Doing this will surely result in a faster fading of your brakes system.
When towing another vehicle make sure to keep the following in mind:
- Make your brake system is in good condition. Proper scheduled maintenance will do that for you.
- Drive in a slow pace of not more than 30kph
- Refer to the loading limit of the towing vehicle that you plan to use
When driving downhill
Modern vehicle’s braking system are not particularly designed to withstand continuous applied brakes. So f you are driving downhill bear in mind the following to reduce brake fade:
- Maintain a constant speed or reduce your speed
- Don’t drive on neutral gear as you won’t be able to maintain constant speed without using your brakes frequently
- For manual transmission vehicles you can put your gear between one to four. This would help you maintain constant speed when going downhill. Gear number five would too fast and dangerous when diving down even on a lengthy hill.
What should you do in case a brake fade happens?
Turn down your speed immediately as soon as you recognize a brake fade and switch down the gears to as low as you can without over-revving the engine. It is really necessary to get high revs as low the vehicle won’t slow down when it’s low. It’s actually alright to rev the engine up to the redline (maximum rpm) or even past the redline for a very brief time period. It’s not going to damage your engine because you are not applying petrol to rev the engine instead it’s running through the momentum force of the wheels. Anyhow, make sure to not damage the engine because that’s another story.
Pull the handbrake gently. Do this if your vehicle has a typical lever handbrake. If your have a hydraulic handbrake then it could put you in a more dangerous situation by causing your car to spin since the hydraulic handbrakes apply itself with entire force. For automatic cars, do not put it in reverse or park mode. If you have a manual car never put it in reverse as it will damage your gearbox when travelling forward.
Try to look for exits as soon as possible. To minimize danger to other road users it’s best to try to get off the road as quickly as possible especially if you can’t stop to pick up speed. Try to run it off into fields or into a hilly location, or a bumpy road rather than running it toward a wall, or electrical post, or worst into another vehicle.
Check out the terrain. Bushes and shrubs will impede your speed; muddy terrains even more, however, be sure that the terrain you are treading wouldn’t hoist you into the air or even worst a hurl you tumbling down into a cliff.
If you manage to come into a halt your brakes will most likely be fiery hot. You’re going to have to let it cool for a while. However, don’t leave it in one position as it could contort the rotors due to excessive heat. To avoid this try to keep your wheels turning to prevent further damage to the vehicle and remember to keep it in 1st gear to minimize the speed.