How Brakes and Tyres Work Together
Under the right (or wrong) conditions, under hard braking a brake rotor can reach up to 500 degrees Celsius. When you consider that a 3,000 pound (lb) car travelling at 60 miles per hour produces 361,204 foot-pounds of torque, it’s not all that surprising.
More so when you get in to the dizzying heights of track days or professional racing.
That’s a lot of kinetic energy that has to be displaced or, specifically in the case of brakes, turned into heat through friction.
Couple this with the friction generated between the tyre and road through downforce and it comes as little wonder that the relationship between your braking system and your tyres needs to be in perfect harmony.
CARS ARE VERY CLEVER
This may be stating the obvious but sometimes the obvious can’t be overstated. The modern automobile is an extremely carefully designed piece of engineering, more of an ecosystem of symbiotic systems than a mishmash of parts cobbled together.
While the primary function of the brakes is to slow the vehicle down safely, there are a number of other systems and contributing components to this process: the suspension, the weight distribution, the tyres, tyre pressure, the engine positioning and so on.
The point is that whilst tyres and brake assemblies need to work and be in a good state of repair – tyres, pads and rotors are consumables after all – they form part of a wider organism that works to bring a car to a safe and controlled stop.
EVERY COMPONENT HAS A PRIMARY FUNCTION
Brakes have one function – to slow the vehicle down. You might be led to believe that tyres actually have multiple functions, but they all essentially boil down to one thing – to keep the car in contact with the road. The tyres need to keep the car on the road under heavy braking, hard acceleration, fast cornering and uneven terrain.
An effective braking system allows the tyres to work at their best and vice versa. All of the braking power in the world is irrelevant if the tyres aren’t able to hold the car safely in a straight line. The stickiest of tyres are useless if the braking system keeps locking up and shifting the responsibility to simple friction between road and rubber.
While tyres and brakes are arguably two of the most important components of an automobile – they’re not the only two components that fundamentally rely on each other to work at maximum effectiveness.
But it goes deeper than this. The suspension allows the tyre to maintain contact with the road, this maintains control and allows consistent speed reduction.
Even the steering knuckle plays a critical role as components failure at any real speed will cause the vehicle to lose control and put its nose into the road.
Needless to say the risks to all road users under those circumstances is huge.
INNOVATION LEADS THE WAY
The sophistication behind the automotive industry is incredible. Every year there are new designs, new innovations and new safety technology.
All of it is designed to make the core of the vehicle more efficient, lighter, more sustainable and safer.
It won’t be long before radically new concepts and materials will start to evolve the car even further and with it new safety technologies.
It’s no coincidence that we referenced harmony. When a car is working as it should the engine purrs. It is a living breathing thing that wants to do the thing it was created for.
Maintaining your vehicles with the best components is the least you can do if not for your safety than the harmony of the machine parked on your driveway.