When avoiding an imminent car accident, you don’t have time to think about how to best use your brakes. You have to act. Immediately. This means you’ll use the method you’ve always employed in similar situations. If this method is based on misinformation or myths, then you’ll have to trust that your seat belt and airbags will protect you when you crash. Car safety starts with getting your facts straight. Here are the facts about three brake myths:
Myth: Always Pump Your Brakes on Slippery Road Surfaces
This is a holdover from when ABS brakes weren’t commonly used in cars. If you have an old car without ABS brakes, then, yes, you should pump your brakes to avoid locking up your wheels. With newer cars that have ABS, press firmly down on the brake pedal with plenty of force. This tells the anti-lock system that you need to slow down rapidly, and it will brake your car right at the edge of wheel lockup. This is the maximum braking possible.
Myth: Locked Brakes Will Stop Your Car Faster Than ABS
Some misinformed people may disable their ABS because of this belief. While locked wheels on dry pavement look and sound impressive with the tires smoking and screeching, the braking performance is poor. The reason is you get reduced tire traction with the road when the rubber is sliding and heating up against the pavement.
Technically speaking, static friction is greater than sliding friction for many materials. So, you get more traction (friction) when there’s no sliding between the tire and pavement. On the other hand, your brake pads are designed to produce lots of braking friction when they’re doing their thing. When your brake pads are locked, they’re doing nothing to slow down your car.
Myth: Powerful Car Engines Can Overcome Your Brakes
No sensible person would test this myth on a whim. However, if you suddenly find that your car has runaway acceleration, your first reaction should be to use your brakes (make sure your foot is pressing the brake pedal) to slow down your car enough so you can pull over to the side and turn off your engine. Brakes in good condition will overcome even the most powerful car engines.
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