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Brake Pedal Application Techniques

To prolong brake life and usage, I brake gently and longer than my girlfriend, who is more aggressive and abrupt with her brake application. What I am trying to say…When coming to an intersection, I use the brake pedal lightly for a longer period of time to come to a complete stop. While on the other hand, my girlfriend maintains her speed longer, and uses the brake pedal later and applies significantly more pressure than I do. Under which technique of using the brake pedal will produce longer brake life and less unintended wear on the vehicle and its components?


Your brakes take the inertial energy in the moving vehicle and convert it 100% into heat (hybrids with regenerative systems excepted). It will put the same amount of wear on the pads to stop it slowly as to stop it more quickly.

The exception would be really aggressive use of the brakes, in which case more of the energy would be disspated by the tires, also by heat. For the ultimate example, slamming on the brakes and locking up the wheels would take very little pad material off, but much of the inertial energy would be converted into heat by the tires rather than tha pads. The tires would not last long at all.

I do think gentle application and the lower resulting heat has some benefits. Also, less gas is used because the brakes are applied longer. So I thing OP has a slight edge. Not worth pursuing, though, unless girlfriend is driving so aggressivly it’s an issue in traffic.

My SIL had used to brake hard and late all the time. It wasn’t so much of a problem on the car, but she did get hit in the rear a couple times, and although the insurance, cops, and everyone else said it was the person’s fault that hit her…I don’t agree.

Other than that, there’s a very minor fuel savings for slowing very gently.

In theory, the same amount of kinetic energy from the moving vehicle will be absorbed by the brakes when stopping along a long (short) distance with light (heavy) brake pedal application. I almost always do long and light and get very good pad life. I can’t quite explain why it works better this way but it just does! Part of it may be that tire rolling resistance, wind resistance even at a lower speed and drive train friction get more time to help the brakes when you take a longer distance to come to a stop. It could be guessed that brake pad life is enhanced if their transient temperature is kept lower with light pedal application over a longer time resulting in more time in the wind.

Long and light gives the person behind you a better opportunity to recognize and react accordingly.

If both people take their foot off of the gas at the same point, the person who brakes at the last moment has disipated a larger amount of energy through air resistance. Braking gently and early often means you don’t have to come to a complete stop because you give the light time to change.

I believe that aggressive drivers don’t wear out their brakes fast because they brake wrong. They wear out their brakes fast because their driving style causes them to have to use their brakes a lot.
Your foot doesn’t have to be either on the gas or the brake all the time, being on neither one of the two is an option.

dolomite256, I believe your girlfriend is generating more heat in the brakes, which can lead to warping of the rotors. In addition, she is putting more stress on suspension and drivetrain components.

There is a lot of resistance to a car continuing to roll freely once the accelerator is released. The tires, drivetrain, engine etc are slowing the car down. Some do coast better than others however. If you brake early and lightly, the brakes aren’t absorbing all of the energy like they are if you brake late and hard.

B.L.E. brings up a great point…some people drive as if it is necessary to step on a pedal at all times, and they are usually the people who complain about their gas consumption and brake wear. I think people should learn to conserve momentum better when driving. It really makes a difference. The Smith System that truck/bus drivers learn can be an aid in doing this.

The points that have been made about rolling resistancde and wind resistance helping slow the car have caused me to rethink my answer. I agree that providing time to allow these forces to do the iniitial slowing saves brakes.

My original post was made in haste. Apologies if I misled.

There is another factor here as well. In addition to taking advantage of vacuum braking (engine braking, compression braking or whatever you want to call it) to help save wear on the pads, you are also cutting off fuel to the injectors a little longer, thus saving gas. Ok, not much gas, but in theory anyway.

Contrary to another poster, a good hard application of the brakes once in a while will generate enough heat to keep any deposits from forming on the rotors and causing the pulsing that many interpret as warped rotors.

I can’t quite explain why it works better this way but it just does!

Another reason in addition to what’s already been brought up is that passenger car brakes are usually not well-ventilated. If you brake slowly over a long period of time, the heat builds up more slowly and can therefore be dissipated better. If you brake hard, heat builds up quickly, so the brakes get hotter because they can’t remove the heat quickly enough to keep them at the same temperature they’d be at at the end of the slow braking.

In driver’s training back in the 60’s we were taught to use firm but smooth pressure, then let up slightly at the end. It was more a concern for a smooth ride than saving brake pads. Jamming on the brakes at the end and slamming the gas pedal to start, has got to give a jerky ride to the passengers. I can come to a stop and you hardly know the speed of the car has changed. To me that’s the important part.