Statistics show that only around 5% of car accidents and crashes in the US annually are due to brake failures. So, should brake fade and failure concern you if only 5% of car crashes are due to brake fade and loss? Well, I think it should, for even if brakes are more often reliable and trustworthy, there will be instances when brake fade will happen.
Moreover, driving a car is inherently dangerous, and your first line of defense against car crashes is your car’s brake. Since brakes are not often perfect and exhibit only a limited lifespan, it will be good to maintain a healthy concern about your brake system’s status. But what is a brake fade?
Understanding Brake Fade
Brake fade refers to the reduction or the absence of the brake system’s stopping power due to overheated brake pads. Brake fade happens when you have already pushed on the brake pedal, and the pedal stays firm and high, while the vehicle never slows down or stops. Despite you pushing harder on the brake pedal, the vehicle still goes on and on.
At the onset, it will be useful to distinguish between brake fade and brake failure. Brake failure entails a mechanical condition in which something malfunctioned in the system.
On the other hand, brake fade happens even if the system is in good mechanical condition. Brake fade may be transient and temporary.
Moreover, brake fade often happens with heavy trucks and race cars because they put much demands on their braking system. Yet, it can also happen to any other type of vehicle equipped with rotors and brake pads for deceleration.
Brake fade is a major issue when driving because stopping and decelerating are crucial to safe driving. Once a driver hits the brakes, he either wants to stop or slow down his vehicle. But in the case of brake fade, he will have not much time to correct his course when the brake system fails.
How Would You Solve Brake Fade?
Since the major cause of brake fade is overheated brake pads, you can solve the brake fade issue by addressing this problem’s source. So, at the onset, you need to choose a brake pad designed to work at the heat range that your vehicle operates. It will be useful to know the peak temperature reached by your system in this case.
Nevertheless, it will not be easy to determine your system’s peak temperature if you don’t have a device to measure it. You can buy, of course, an expensive infrared device and camera for assessing the peak temperature of your brake system. This device can provide you with a heat map of your brake system while it is in action.
Buying one of these devices, however, is not practical. So you need not buy one. Instead, you can use a hand-held temp-gun, but it only shows temperature after a certain cooling period.
You may also use heat paint and temp strips, which are low-cost means of figuring out your brake system’s peak temperature. You can stick the brake temp strips onto the caliper or flat surface, and it will show the peak temperature. On the other hand, brake temp paint alters colors to indicate the system’s max temp. The thing is, you should know the peak temp of your driving, which is the first step in fixing your brake system.
After installing the suitable brake pads, you can then remove the brake rotors’ glazing. Then, position the new brake pads. You can remove the glazing by sanding it using 200-grit garnet sandpaper.
You can wrap the sandpaper around a sanding block. Then, sand both rotor’s sides lightly using a circular motion. Please refrain from using other sandpaper types, for they might impregnate, with unwanted compounds, the surface and may only worsen the problem.
After sanding the surface, you can then bed the new brake pads and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation and specifications.
What Should You Do Once You are Experiencing Brake Fade?
As mentioned above, brake fade happens sometimes, and when you least expect it. If you experience brake fade, you must stop the car immediately as much as possible. Get the car in a lower gear as much as you can without damaging the engine. High gear will not slow down your vehicle and will not retard the engine.
Then, pump the brakes. You can slowly apply the handbrake once you’ve lowered down the gear. Do not quickly apply the handbrake, for it will only cause your vehicle to spin. This thing happened to my friend while he was driving his car on the highway. He got confused, and instead of getting the engine into a lower gear, he inadvertently applied the handbrake, which made his car spin.
You can also try weaving if you travel at a very low speed to reduce the vehicle’s speed. Weaving will allow you to dissipate some momentum of your car with its cornering action. Nevertheless, if there is much traffic around, weaving can be very dangerous.
Without the vehicle stability control provided by the brake system, you will find it hard to slow down your car and maintain balance.
Look for Possible Exits!
Once you are riding high and experiencing at the same time brake fade, you should immediately look for a side road or land that slopes upward. It is necessary to lessen your vehicle’s momentum by letting it move along a sloping upward road. If you can’t do that, your car may run into another car or pedestrian.
If you have already tried to get the engine to a low gear and you have already used the handbrake while pumping the brake, yet to no avail, then you need an upward sloping terrain to help you slow down your car. You may damage your vehicle in the process, but at least you can lessen the damage to property and life.
Moreover, you can avoid ramming your car into another vehicle or person if you drive it to an inclined road. You can also drive your car into the hedgerows or bushes to slow down your vehicle. Nevertheless, your last resort would be to ram your car onto a small tree or fence or even a stone wall.
How to Prevent Brake Fade?
Brake fade, as mentioned above, happens when you overuse your brake pads, making them overheat. If you are a racer, you will more often put your brake system to the breaking point. Yet, when you are on the road, you will seldom apply brakes while driving.
Nevertheless, if you tow a caravan or your vehicle is heavily laden while driving along a descending path, you will be putting much pressure on your brakes. You can get your engine into a lower gear to allow the engine compression to do the slowing down for you.
More often, we put so much trust in our car’s brakes that we let our lives hinge on its well-functioning. Yet, brakes have a limited lifespan, and eventually, they will wear out and may stop working. So, always ensure that you regularly check the brake system of your vehicle.
It will also be good to be wary of the signs that indicate your brake is in trouble. Remember that it is better always to be safe than sorry. So, make sure that you get the most appropriate pads for your brake and ensure that your brake system is regularly checked up.