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Notes From the Road

Take a Brake
By Kevin Clemens

High-Performance Brake Pads
Brake pads designed for everyday use must meet a variety of requirements including:
  • Good wet performance.
  • Low noise and squeal.
  • Low dust production.
For enthusiasts who occasionally drive their cars at performance events, however, specialized companies produce high-performance brake pads that resist fading, even under very high temperature buildup. The downside is that these brake pads often don't produce very good braking at the lower temperatures found in street driving. Using racing pads on the street is never a good idea because they almost never reach the operating temperature they were designed for.
Change Your Fluid
Brake fluid is hydroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture. This is bad for several reasons:
  • Moisture in the brake fluid reduces its boiling point, which makes it easier for the fluid to boil under heavy braking.
  • Boiling brake fluid can cause brake fade when driving down long mountain roads, especially with a heavy load or while towing a trailer.
  • Moisture also acts to corrode metal components within the braking system, possibly causing their eventual failure.
Fortunately, the solution is easy. Brake fluid should be changed on the service interval recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. Typically, this interval is every two years or so, but in fact changing to fresh brake fluid is something few people think about, even though it can dramatically affect braking performance.
Keep Your Brakes Happy
Most cars that are well maintained have plenty of braking capability. For those who take their cars to the track, uprated brake pads and even larger brake discs are available. Just remember that what is good for the high-temperature environment of a speed event may be completely wrong for that cold rainy drive home from work. By making the right choices and regularly changing your brake fluid, your brakes should perform flawlessly and go almost unnoticed. Maybe that's why engines get all of the glamour.
Kevin Clemens has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and has authored several patents. A former Product Public Relations Director for Michelin Tires and Technical Editor at "Automobile Magazine,' Kevin writes for "European Car" and other publications when not competing in rallies in various parts of the world with his vintage automobiles

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