Understanding Brakes

George P Thomas

Importance and Common Misconceptions Discussed in Uncle Tony's Garage Video

In their informative video titled "BRAKES - What You Don't Know Can Get You Killed," mechanics from Uncle Tony's Garage shed light on the crucial role brakes play in ensuring safe driving. They debunk common misconceptions surrounding brakes and emphasize the significance of regular maintenance to prevent potentially dangerous situations.

The video serves as a follow-up to a previous one where a 1300 horsepower Mercury car crash was discussed. Highlighting the importance of brake knowledge, Uncle Tony's Garage emphasizes that a lack of understanding regarding proper brake function can lead to accidents.

Clearing Up Confusion: Emergency Brakes vs. Parking Brakes

One of the key takeaways from the video is the clarification regarding the terminology used for the braking system. Uncle Tony's Garage rectifies a misconception – the term "emergency brake" is, in fact, a leftover term from the 1930s, when car brakes transitioned from mechanical to hydraulic systems.

Back in those days, an emergency brake served as a vital backup mechanism. In the event of hydraulic brake failure, the emergency brake, which was mechanically linked, would still enable the driver to bring the car to a stop.

However, the braking system in modern cars incorporates parking brakes, not emergency brakes. As the name suggests, parking brakes are designed to hold a vehicle stationary, particularly on an incline, and not for emergency situations.

Uncle Tony's Garage warns against using the parking brake during an emergency stop. It can cause the rear wheels to lock, inducing a skid and potentially causing loss of vehicle control.

Importance of Regular Brake Maintenance for Safety

The video underscores the necessity of regular brake maintenance to guarantee optimal performance. Uncle Tony's Garage highlights one of the most common reasons for brake failure – rusted wheel cylinders.

The brake fluid used in car brakes is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture from the surrounding air. Over time, this absorbed moisture can lead to corrosion and seizing of the wheel cylinders, compromising the braking system's functionality. This can occur even when the car is not being driven, as long as the brake fluid is not entirely sealed.

Maintaining Brake System Integrity: Recommendations from Uncle Tony's Garage

Uncle Tony's Garage recommends following a regular brake maintenance schedule to prevent such issues. This typically involves a qualified mechanic inspecting the brake pads and rotors for wear and tear. Brake pads, being the components that generate friction to slow down the car, wear out over time and need to be replaced periodically. Rotors, which are the discs against which the brake pads press, can also develop wear or warping, necessitating replacement.

The mechanic will also check the brake fluid for moisture content and contamination. Brake fluid has a recommended service life, and it should be flushed and replaced according to the manufacturer's specifications to maintain its effectiveness.

Maintaining Brake System Integrity: Recommendations from Uncle Tony's Garage (Continued)

In addition to the points mentioned above, Uncle Tony's Garage suggests inspecting the brake calipers and hoses for leaks or damage. Calipers are the housing units that contain the brake pads and pistons. They are responsible for applying pressure to the pads to create friction against the rotors. Brake hoses are the flexible lines that transmit brake fluid from the master cylinder to the calipers. Leaks in these components can significantly impair braking performance.

Steering Through Brake Failure: Tips from Uncle Tony's Garage

The video also offers valuable guidance on how to react in a situation where the brakes fail. Uncle Tony's Garage emphasizes that the most critical action is to stay calm and maintain composure.

The first course of action should be to repeatedly press the brake pedal firmly but not forcefully. This pumping motion helps to expel any air bubbles that might be trapped within the brake system, thereby restoring pressure and enabling the brakes to function again. It's important to note that it might take a few pumps before you regain braking capability.

If the brakes fail entirely and coming to a complete stop is imperative, Uncle Tony's Garage suggests downshifting to a lower gear. This technique, known as engine braking, utilizes the car's engine to slow it down. However, it's crucial to downshift gradually and carefully to prevent the engine from revving too high or losing control of the vehicle.

As a last resort, if downshifting is not possible or proves ineffective, Uncle Tony's Garage advises using the parking brake with extreme caution. Remember, using the parking brake can lock the wheels and induce a skid. It should only be used as a final measure if the other options are unavailable.