Dear Tom and Ray:
I always brake by lightly touching the brakes — not jerkily, so that any rider would notice, but sort of gradually coming to a stop. My daughter, after 40 years of riding with me, has noticed and asked why. I don't know. It just seems logical to me to treat the brakes gently. Of course, if I need to stop in a hurry, it's a different matter, and I've never run into anything. My daughter drives differently — and I guess most people do. Is my method better for the brakes — or, heaven forbid, worse? Or doesn't it make a difference? — Mary
Tom: It doesn't make much of a difference in how long the brake pads last, Mary. But I do think your method is better for other reasons.
Ray: First of all, when you wait 'til the last second and then stop aggressively, you can cause the temperature of the brake rotors to spike. And that, in turn, can lead to warping. Warped rotors have to be machined or replaced, and that costs money.
Tom: More importantly, stopping gently is better for every other part of the car. When you stop hard, you stretch and stress every component of the suspension system. After all, according to Sir Isaac Newton, the tires are stopping, but everything else wants to keep moving forward. Those opposing forces wear out bushings, bearings, springs and everything else.
Ray: Stopping gently also is more comfortable for your passengers. So you'll have fewer cases of whiplash than if your passengers' heads go back and forth as you stomp on the brakes.
Tom: And finally, your armrests will last longer, because passengers won't be digging their fingernails into them in panic.
Ray: So keep stopping gently, Mary. It's exactly what you should be doing.
Tom: But please don't tell your daughter to change her braking style. We count on customers like her to keep the cash flow positive at the garage.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)