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Braking Methods

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					Modern brakes were invented in the late 19th century, around the same time as the
tyre. Up until then, vehicles had wooden wheels that were stopped by large wooden
blocks, lowered into position by the driver using a simple lever system. When tyres
were invented, the wooden block system wasn't good enough to stop them at the
higher speeds they could achieve, which meant that a new braking system had to be
invented.

To see the basic principles of modern braking, it is easiest to look at a bicycle.
Basically, when you put pressure on the brakes, the pressure is transferred through
cables to pull small pads onto the side of the tyres, and the force of the friction against
the tyres causes them to stop.

In fact, cars originally used this very same cable system, but it was found not to work
so well at high speeds. Instead, the cables were replaced with hydraulic fluid, which
works to transfer the pressure the driver puts on the pedal to the brakes. This works
because the fluid cannot get much smaller when pressure is put on it, meaning that
pressure at one end is transferred to the other much like water flowing through a pipe.
However, if this brake fluid leaks even a little, then the brakes may not work properly
any more, which is why it's very important to check your brake fluid regularly.

Of course, in modern cars, there are other mechanisms apart from pure pressure to
help you brake. Most cars now have a vacuum system to create more friction in the
brakes, and a servo system that uses the car's own speed to help your pressure have
more of an impact.

One word of warning, though: some cars now have fully computerised brakes, where
pushing on the pedal sends an electrical signal to turn on electrically-powered brakes.
While this makes it much easier to brake, it is also more prone to failure, meaning that
if your car's computer breaks you might find it impossible to stop. Until this
technology has been around a little longer, it's probably best to stick to traditional
mechanical braking methods.

John Gibb is the owner of

				
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posted:1/16/2011
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