So let’s start by looking a few factors, in a previous blog article “Is it necessary to flush brake fluid?” we discussed the basic automotive brake hydraulic system. In the article “How much does it cost to get a brake job” we looked at the mechanical components of the brake system. And finally in the article “To strut or not tostrut” we looked at the shock absorbers and struts and how they affect not only ride quality but also safety.
Adding all of this together we can talk about safer and faster braking or in other words, stopping distance.
One thing we really need to discuss here is thinking distance or reaction time. This is the amount of time in which your brain perceives the need to slow the vehicle and when your body actually carries out the action of applying the brake pedal. This time increases is you are distracted, you know, phones, food etc. or under the influence. As you go through this perception/action process your car continues to move forward at the same speed thereby increase the distance needed to stop. Look at it this way;
Thinking distance + braking distance = stopping distance.
So if we are paying attention, awake and alert and not impaired in any way, how do we stop safer and faster? Brake pad composition is a factor that we might address later but for now let’s look at tires.
Once you’ve thought it through, decided to act on it and applied the brake pedal, traction becomes extremely important. On any of the newer vehicles with anti-lock braking, once you apply the brakes hard you will feel the brake pedal pulsation that begins with anti-lock activation. This is the affect that occurs when a wheel speed sensor recognizes that a tire has locked up, sent a signal to the computer and the system is figuring out just how much pressure to allow to the wheel to aid in braking and yet help you keep control of the steering.
This all adds up to the fact that you have exceeded the maximum stopping force or grip of your tire.
Think of all of this like the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Except that in this case the village members are your attention, the brakes, shocks and struts and the tires. The child is your car coming to a safe stop.
When viewed in this manner tire quality becomes much more important. You need to match the tire to the locale you spend most of your time in. What is the normal temperatures? What is moisture and rainfall like? Do you deal with snow and ice? Do you spend much time on dirt or gravel? Matching the tire to the climate and conditions you drive in can make a big difference in how quick and safe you can stop.
Just as a quick rule of thumb, many people will look to the length of the tire “mileage warranty” as an indicator of tire quality. Think about this, back in high school I had a set of Road Huggers on my 63 Nova SS. One thing I loved to do was light the tires up. Those old Road Huggers would smoke and squeal with the best of them and they lasted FOREVER, I mean it they never wore out, I finally got enough money ahead to afford a set of Radial T/A’s and set the old Huggers aside with probably 50% tread remaining.
The point of the story, from a mileage warranty perspective these were like a set of 70k mile tires that never wore out. But… they had no grip! Especially when compared to the T/As. Now comparatively, the T/As were not nearly as easy to light up and, they went away very fast but 0-60mph time decreased a bunch.
Real world, here in the Willamette valley with the rain fall that we get and the standing puddles of water on the road what we really need is a soft tread compound that will disperse the water quickly and grip the wet pavement. These tires won’t las a long but they will certainly grip and stop a lot quicker.
So, the answer to how do I stop safer and faster really is simple. Your brakes in good condition, good shocks and struts will help a bunch and through in a good quality set of tires and you will be surprised how much better your car will handle and stop. If you have questions please feel free to give us a call, we are always happy to help.