One thing fast and slow cars share is good brakes. Of course, the stopping power should be relative to the output power of the car. A bicycle can be ridden without brakes because it doesn’t get to that high of a speed and there are alternative ways of stopping it. For a car, however, it’s a different story. In as much as braking is a crucial element and a life saver altogether, using it extra much or braking hard when unnecessary hurts your car’s fuel economy. An old adage states that too much of something is poisonous. How you ask, yet braking is not acceleration?
It seems odd that braking affects your car’s fuel economy. I mean it slows your car down unlike acceleration that uses up the fuel to produce the required power. For acceleration, fuel (chemical energy) is converted to mechanical energy (kinetic energy) which facilitates the motion of the car. Acceleration, of course, contributes to the largest part of the fuel consumption. Braking seems like it’s supposed to cut back on this energy conversion and usage. Well it does but in a wasteful way. Brakes disrupts the motion of the car by slowing the car down or stopping. This translates into disruption of kinetic energy too. Braking results in production of heat. By braking, kinetic energy is wasted in the form of heat. This kinetic energy is your fuel. Cutting back on braking means that you’re cutting back on kinetic energy wasted as heat, therefore saving on fuel. This takes us back to smooth driving tips.
I don’t know who told us Kenyan drivers that braking next to the bump or whichever stop like a traffic jam makes us pro drivers. Yes, it saves time but it’s a pinch on the car’s fuel economy. Why waste fuel when you can save it? You’ll need more brake force to stop or slow down that quickly unlike when gradually braking from a distance. The same braking mechanism applies when going downhill. Don’t just let your car fly down the hill especially when there is traffic. Those with manual transmission vehicles have the upper advantage. They have the advantage of engine braking and downshifting. Have you ever let go of the accelerator pedal when driving and felt some force that pushed you forward and the car revs changed? That’s engine braking. Downshifting is getting to lower gears from a higher gear. This is mostly practical in manual transmission cars. Downshifting and engine braking helps to reduce the car’s speed gradually without using the brakes that much. Automatic cars have the disadvantage here. You can’t downshift manually in an automatic car and the engine braking isn’t as strong as a manual car’s especially when going downhill. For this you’ll use your brakes conservatively.
Another advantage of conservative braking is it increases your safety on the road. There are lesser chances of rear-ending. Braking early alerts the driver behind you and he/she also brakes gradually just like you. You also stand less chances of rear-ending the car in front of you. If you brake early and the car in front of you brakes harder, you’ll be able to stop on time unlike when you brake when really close to the car. Those who drive behind matatu drivers know what I’m saying. Also chances of getting angry at other drivers and other drivers getting angry at you become less.
However, as usual, never sacrifice safety for smooth driving or fuel saving. If the situation requires you to brake hard, do so without hesitation. Still use your brakes wisely in emergency situations to avoid slipping, skidding and losing control. I’ll keep this post short and simple hoping the message has been passed across. Till the next post, cheers.