If you have ever applied your brakes and either nothing happened immediately or it took a lot more pressure to get your vehicle to slow down, you experienced what is known as "brake fade."
Just about every driver has had it happen to them and while in most cases, the result is just a slower stop, in extreme cases, slower responding brakes can cause an accident.
Because brake fade is common, understanding the cause and prevention, as well as how to respond if it happens to you is important.
Friction is Vital
Your vehicle's brake calipers, pistons, pads and rotors work together to create and use friction to reduce vehicle speed as much as it needs to be reduced. When friction is not produced quickly enough or in enough volume, the distance required to slow down increases significantly.
The main cause of friction loss is excessive heat.
Heat builds when you brake frequently, such as when you are stuck in traffic, or are traveling down a long, steep hill. It can also happen if you frequently decelerate or slam on your brakes. Finally, heat builds if you are hauling an excessive load as it takes longer to slow down.
Brake Fluid Overheating
Brake fluid lubes your internal brake parts, and it aids in the delivery of the force necessary to scrub off speed and stop your vehicle.
When it overheats, brake fluid does not create as much force, leading to a "spongy" feeling and more pressure being needed to slow your vehicle down.
Brake Pad Wear
As your brake pads age, they degrade and when used, a resin is formed that coats the pad and anything else it touches. That film acts like a lubricant and slows the rapid buildup of friction.
The best prevention to avoid brake fade is regular inspections and proper maintenance.
Additionally, avoiding aggressive, jerky stops and starts or slamming on your brakes is beneficial.
A third strategy is to use your engine's lower gears when going down steep hills to control your vehicle speed.
What If It Happens?
A quick solution to brake fade is to pump your brakes to build the friction necessary to stop your vehicle. After that, get your brakes professionally inspected and maintained.
If you suspect you have brake fade or if you need brake repair, we invite you to bring your vehicle into our auto repair shop today!