A Primer on Modern Brakes

       By: Andy Freeman
Posted: 2009-07-16 07:12:13
The buzzwords in modern brake design are anti-lock brakes (ABS) and carbon-ceramic brakes, two premium brake types that are featured in more expensive automobiles. If you're unaware of the advantages this type of technology affords you, this article will introduce you to the basic concepts and the advantages each affords you in terms of performance, safety, and value. The general term of carbon-ceramic brakes usually refers to the use of ceramic brake pads as a performance upgrade from semi-metallic pads on economy cars and older model vehicles. The main advantages of ceramic pads include less brake dust over the life of the pad, less wear on brake rotors, and a quieter, smoother braking response that the superior metal provides. These advantages equate to savings in the long run that balances out the extra cost up front. Based on the driving habits of most vehicles owners, these ceramic pads are still considered to be too expensive to be practical. The technology behind them originated on the race track, where the demands of tremendous braking in corners at high speed caused conventional brake systems to fail under pressure, due to the extreme heat they generated. The best time to buy into ceramic brakes may be when purchasing a new vehicle. At least one online source estimates that 33% of new cars are equipped with ceramic pads, and the number of automakers that choose to include them as standard features may climb as brake manufacturers seek to make them more affordable. Some vehicles, like trucks, trailers, and SUVs, will still require semi-metallic pads due to the weight of the vehicle, but the market for ceramic brakes should improve overall in the future.On the other side of the coin are ABS brakes, which are designed to help avoid skidding on wet surfaces. If a vehicle brakes hard on wet roads, the odds of skidding, loss of traction, or hydroplaning increase dramatically. ABS systems are designed with electronic sensors that can detect skidding on individual wheels and pulse the brakes to allow the tires to regain traction with the road. This is a system that works in tandem with the standard brakes installed on the vehicle. In normal driving conditions, the antilock brake system is not in use. There is also a learning curve in terms of the characteristics of the system functions. Drivers will occasionally feel the ABS system kicking in, and some grinding or pulling can be felt when brakes are applied. The increased safety measure of standard ABS brakes on many of the newer cars has not directly reduced the amount of vehicle accidents, as one might expect. Part of the reason for this is that most drivers are either ill-prepared for the response they generate when a hard brake is required, or they rely on the technology to make up for poor driving habits. Steady and constant pressure is necessary to reap the benefits of an anti-lock system, and the habit of some drivers in pumping their brakes does not allow the ABS to engage.
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