Saturday, March 14, 2009

What is Brake Fade and How to Overcome It

Isware Crash1. I'm currently at Sabah, investigating 2 cases, which is one at Lahad Datu (Tipper lorry vs Glue Tanker 4 died) and one at Penampang (Iswara hit roadside barrier 3 died). But this post is made specially to discuss Proton Iswara case which I think very interesting one: brake fade.

2. What is brake fade? Brake fade manifests itself by a spongy feel on the pedal and has little of no braking force at all. But please don't confuse brake fade with bad brakes or a mechanical fault since the brake fade is unexpected event that can occur to all kind of vehicles; new or old. You are more likely to experience brake fade if you do not change the brake fluid frequently.

3. When Will You Experience Brake Fade? Brake fade is usually happening when you are driving downhill. When you use your brakes you are converting the forward momentum of the car into heat. The heat will build up on the disks where it will be dissipated into the air. As a result your brake disk will turn up red and little smoke will be visible. When the brake disk is hot, it losts its sturdy property (softer) and thus, the brake grip lessen.

4. On this case, the distance between the accident site and the peak of the mountenous road stretch is about 14km. The victim car was travelling downhill and during those 14km distance, he would keep pressing his car brake. And 500 metres before the very acute corner of accident site, it was at least 11 degrees slope road. People who are not common with the road stretch would not be prepared with this kind of sudden high slope and acute corner. Thus, my hypothesis is when the victim tried to apply his brake, the brake was already in the state of brake fade and ended up the car went straight hit the roadside barrier. Morever, no sign of any skid marks before the point of impact with the barrier.

Penampang Sabah 15. Above is the picture of passing by car during my investigation on the site. I found out there was a little smoke came out from its front wheel which indicated that the brake was already in brake fade condition. It was not only this car, I found out like every 8 out of 10 passing by vehicles have a little smoke on their wheels.

Penampang Sabah Road6. If you watch carefully on the photo above, there was a memorial stone at the point of impact site. According to locals, the case is not the first one, as many similar accidents occured at the very place before and already took so many lives.

Penampang Sabah Crash
Penampang Sabah 27. How to Avoid Brake Fade? To avoid brake fade, do not keep your brakes on frequently when driving downhill, change into a lower gear and let the engine maintain a safe speed of the car. Rather than brake heavily at the very last minute, try to spread your breaking over a longer distance. An emergency stop from 70km/h is sometimes enough to cause brake fade. So jab the brakes quite hard at first and kill most of your forward momentum, the speed you are travelling at will help the disks to dissipate the heat and then reapply the brakes more gently bringing the car to a stop. If you have made heavy use of your brakes always assume that fade will manifest itself for the next few minutes and thus increase your distance from the car behind and keep your speed down a little.

8. Hopefully this post will help you all to understand the hazard of brake fade and teach you to be more careful when driving downhill. Let's share this info to everyone.


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