If you're like most drivers, then all you know about brakes is that they help bring your car to a safe stop and they make plenty of noise when they need changing. But there's more to your vehicle's braking system that meets the eye. Here are 5 interesting factoids about automotive brakes that you've probably didn't know about – until now.
Early Braking Systems Were Quite Primitive
Braking systems for the first automobiles used the same basic principles as today's modern brakes, but the materials used were drastically different. Instead of ceramic or semi-metallic pads and metal discs, early braking systems used a block of wood and a simple lever. Pulling the lever meant forcing the wooden block against the steel-rimmed wheel to slow down and stop the vehicle.
Once automobile manufacturers began trading their steel-rimmed wheels for rubber tires, this old-school brake system fell out of favor for more modern designs.
Louis Renault Came Up with the Modern Drum Brake
Although Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler laid down the groundwork for the drum brake several years earlier, it was Louis Renault who brought the modern drum brake to fruition in 1902. Renault's innovations would undergo constant refinements, eventually culminating in the drum brake as we know it today.
Anti-Lock Brakes Were First Used on Aircraft
The very first anti-lock braking system (ABS) was developed primarily for use on aircraft. French inventor Gabriel Voisin pioneered the system to provide aircraft wheels with threshold braking capability – something that would otherwise be almost impossible to do without ABS.
This innovative system remained in the aviation realm until the 1960s, when automakers slowly but surely adopted the system to provide vehicles with better braking capability. Chrysler Corporation and General Motors introduced their own ABS systems on select vehicles in 1971, but it wasn't until 1975 that Robert Bosch and Daimler-Benz would co-develop a modern, multi-channel, all-electronic ABS system for automotive use.
Modern Brakes Regularly See High Temperatures
Friction creates heat – and lots of it. A typical modern disc brake system can see operating temperatures around 150 to 250 degrees, with peaks of 800 degrees or more when dealing with heavy loads or mountainous terrain. Overheating the brakes can cause them to lose their stopping power, a situation commonly known as "brake fade."
Overheating can also cause the brake rotors to glow cherry red. You may have seen this phenomenon if you've ever watched an automotive race, especially on oval and circuit tracks.
Cold Brakes Offer Less Stopping Power
It's not just excess heat you have to worry about when it comes to your brakes. Surprisingly enough, cold brakes aren't as effective at providing optimal stopping power. Until you brake pads have enough time and energy to warm up, your vehicle's stopping distance depends more on your tires' traction capabilities than on the power of the brakes themselves.
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