Official Blog

  • New electronic wedge braking technology

    New electronic wedge braking technology

    German electronics specialist Siemens has developed new braking technology in the form of the electronic wedge brake, which the company claims can dramatically reduce stopping distances of cars compared with conventional hydraulic systems. Previous attempts to improve the efficiency of braking systems have seen on the introduction of carbon compounds and electronic activation of auxiliary brakes. However, the performance of these are said to pale in comparison of the new electronic wedge brake.

    The technology harks back to the days of horse-drawn carriages, where a wooden wedge was used to slow the wheel. The modern version relies on a set of interlocking triangular teeth that set between the caliper and the disc, and is said to require only one tenth of the energy that conventional brakes require. In fact, the entire system runs on the standard 12-volt electrical system found in most cars.

    The most innovative attribute is the fact that the faster the car is going, the better the braking performance. A series of electric motors release pressure, while a torque sensor controls the braking force and keeps the wheels from locking up. During tests, the wedge brake equipped cars regularly required less than half the distance to come to a complete stop than cars fitted with standard brakes. The new braking system also requires less moving parts and weighs significantly less than current braking technology. Sources say the first German car with wedge brakes is planned for launch in 2008. With current brake and tire technology approaching its limits, new innovations such as wedge braking will drive the next level of growth.

  • Shelby GT350 turns into fireball after flames kill brakes at 100 mph

    Joe Charles in his 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 that caught fire during track day


    One track enthusiast is lucky to be alive after a fiery incident involving his 2016 Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] Shelby GT350.

    As explained in detail on his Facebook page, Joe Charles was enjoying a long day at the track when a series of disasters struck, culminating in his car being engulfed in flames, with no brakes and while running at 100 mph.

    Trouble in the engine led to a major oil leak. The oil came into contact with the exhaust and a fire quickly ensued. The fire then caused the fuel line to rupture at which point most of the car’s underbody was engulfed in flames.

    Joe Charles in his 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 that caught fire during track dayJoe Charles in his 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 that caught fire during track day

    All of the heat caused damage to the brake system as the pedal went straight to the floor. Relying on the handbrake also failed as the cable snapped.

    By now Charles had cleared a wall and had the engine switched off. His last resort was putting the car into first gear. Fortunately this worked as the car managed to come to a controlled stop, and luckily not too far from where some of the track’s fire extinguishers were stored.

    The good news is that Charles was uninjured and is already keen to get back on the track. He also has a new 2017 Shelby GT350R on the way.

  • 2017 Ford GT confirmed with 647 hp, 216 mph top speed


    ford gt handout


    Ford Motor Company has finally revealed some of the performance specs for its new GT supercar.

    We can confirm that the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 fitted to the car makes 647 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 550 pound-feet of torque at 5,900 rpm, with 90 percent of that torque figure coming up at 3,500 rpm. We also know via the EPA that the car returns 11 mpg city, 18 highway and 14 combined, which is worse than the fuel economy of the V-10-powered Dodge Viper.

    The mid-mounted engine features a 9.0:1 compression ratio and is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Drive is to the rear wheels only, via a limited-slip differential.

    The top speed is 216 mph, making the GT the fastest production car in Ford history. We don’t have a figure for acceleration but most of the cars in this class will hit 60 mph in 3.0 seconds or less and we have no doubt that the same will be true for the GT.

    The dry weight is 3,053.84 pounds, which is quite a bit more than the 2,712-lb dry weight of the 666-hp McLaren 675LT, though in Ford’s own testing the GT proved quicker around a track.

    During testing, Ford pitted a GT against a 675LT as well as a Ferrari 458 Speciale in a race against the clock at Canada’s Calabogie Motorsports Park. With the same driver for each of the cars, the GT clocked a time of 2:09.8 around the 3.1-mile track. The McLaren’s time was 2:10.8 and the Ferrari’s 2:12.9.

    More auto news from Motor Authority

    This was no independent test so the figures shouldn’t be taken at face value. However, they do provide a benchmark in which future tests can be measured against. We’re sure if Ford isn’t willing to deliver a GT for testing some owners will.

    The Blue Oval praises the car’s active aerodynamics and suspension for helping to deliver the superior track times. These systems, honed on the race track, are designed to make the car perform with optimum down force, drag and balance at any speed. These can be adjusted via the car’s driving modes selector, which includes a Track mode.

    In Track mode, the suspension is firmed, the fuel flow is raised and the car is also lowered by 50 millimeters. The active aerodynamics also come to life, with air channels up front becoming sealed so that more air is fed to high-pressure down force channels further back in the body. The rear wing also extends, adding to the down force and serving as an air brake during heavy breaking maneuvers.

    Production of the GT is being handled by Canada’s Multimatic in Markham, Ontario. The cars are being built at a rate of 250 per year and the first examples have already been delivered.

  • Meeting Original Equipment Specs


    Raybestos Rotor


    “Meets or exceeds Original Equipment (OE) standards” is the benchmark for replacement auto parts. It means the parts are designed and tested to meet the same specifications as the parts originally installed on the car when it was first built. It is not just marketing hype especially when used to describe a critical system like brakes.

    The car makers (Ford, GM, Toyota...) and OE and aftermarket parts manufacturers (ACDelco, Federal Mogul, Tenneco...) are often the first to sound the alarm if a competitor makes false claims.

    Affinia (maker of Raybestos, WIX, Quinton Hazell, etc.) recently announced a competitor’s “light weight” rotors do not meet OE specifications as claimed in the competitor’s advertising.

    Brake pads rub against the brake rotor to stop the vehicle. A brake rotor has two smooth discs separated by an air gap to prevent overheating. Affinia found the competitor’s rotors were 18.83% lighter and had air gaps between the discs that were 68.58% greater than the OE specifications.

    The rotors underwent thermal fatigue testing on a 2007 Dodge Caravan and 2005 Chevrolet Silverado. The OE standard specified that the rotors withstand 100 testing cycles. Many high quality parts manufacturers specify their rotors last at least 150 cycles.

    Twelve of the competitor’s rotors were tested. All except one developed cracks and failed before 100 cycles. Nine rotors failed before completing 75 cycles.

    Light, flimsy rotors might be less costly to ship in from overseas, but they also do a poor job of stopping cars and trucks. It is great that Affinia and other reputable manufacturers are policing OE standards, but it is also a good idea for consumers to buy trusted brands from respectable retailers like DBC. Who knows how many “light weight” rotors have been put on the road in the last year.


  • Usually Works Surprisingly Well

    Last week I parked our Dodge B250 van on a steep hill, put the transmission in Neutral, and then applied the parking brake. Before putting the transmission in Park, I took my foot off the brake pedal to see if the parking brake held. It did not. There was some groaning from the rear and the van started creeping forward.

    The parking brake cable starts at the parking brake handle or foot pedal, runs under the vehicle, and links to left and right cables attached to levers and springs inside the rear brakes. The typical parking brake cable is only about 1/8 inch (4 mm) thick. It has to keep the rear brake shoes (drum) or pads (disc) applied with enough force to restrain a heavy vehicle. The parking brake system has a Rube Goldberg feel to it, but it usually works surprisingly well.

    The best way to maintain a parking brake system is to use it a lot. Don’t do what I did and wait until you are parked on the side of Mount Crumpit to find out if your parking brake is working and the cable length is properly adjusted. Use the parking brake and take some of the strain off of the $1000+ transmission and let the vehicle’s weight rest on the $20 rear brake shoes or pads.

    The parking brake cable is exposed to salt, water, dirt, and who knows what underneath the car. The cable usually runs through a conduit, but that conduit is mostly meant to prevent abrasion rather than corrosion. Frequently using the parking brake helps keep the cable from rusting in place or otherwise freezing up. The right side parking brake cable and conduit on our Dodge van had rusted together. The left side cable still worked, but one set of brake shoes was not enough to hold back the van on the hill. Luckily I had a passenger to chock the wheels!

  • Breaking in Brake Rotors

    Breaking in Brake Rotors



    I did not simply replace the worn down brake pads on my wife’s ’93 Ford Tempo. I made the car better by installing a beautiful set of modern, high tech ceramic pads. I pictured the Tempo showing a bit more savoir faire as it competently braked using the same ceramic materials as those fancy new cars.

    My bubble burst when my wife asked why the Tempo’s brakes had periodically started screeching during the first few stops. The sound echoed in her office’s parking garage and generated comments from coworkers such as, “You need new brakes. I thought your husband was a car guy?” My assurances that the screeching was the harmless sound of high performance brake pad break-in were met with a spouse’s skeptical ear.

    Thankfully, the brakes no longer (or at least rarely) squeal when cold. The squealing was probably due to new brake pad material hitting old brake rotors. Breaking in new brake pads is as much about the rotors as it is about the pads.

    When brake pads rub against the rotors there is abrasion. Bits of pad and rotor wear away. Imagine stopping a spinning bicycle tire by holding a piece of sandpaper against it. Especially at higher temperatures, there is also adherent friction where a layer of pad material transfers to the face of the rotor disc. The brake pad and the pad material stuck on the disc rub together and transfer back and forth between the two surfaces. Imagine stopping a spinning bike tire coated in glue with a piece of sandpaper coated in glue.

    My new high tech ceramic pads were rubbing against a thin layer of dissimilar friction material left over from the old brake pads. The rotors were also slightly pitted in places by rust. I like to think of a brake rotor with rust pits as being the poor man’s version of a drilled and slotted rotor. More likely the rust pits create a slightly uneven surface with hot and cold spots and uneven dispersion of pad friction material. My beautiful new ceramic pads were pushing against a layer of old pad gunk and rusty cast iron!

    A layer of old pad gunk and rusty cast iron

    It is not surprising there was some squealing until the new brake pads bedded in. The old pad material gradually wore off the discs and a layer of new pad material was put down. To prevent the squealing during break-in, maybe I could have turned the rotors to grind off the old friction material and rust. The cast iron on Tempo rotors is relatively thin so replacement might have been the best choice.

    But even freshly turned or new rotors require break in along with the new pads. An even layer of brake pad material must be laid down on the disc to prevent high spots, hot spots and that dreaded squealing. Follow the brake pad and brake rotor manufacturers’ break-in instructions. The break-in driving/stopping instructions do vary but are usually intended to get the brake pads hot enough to uniformly transfer pad material to the brake discs but not so hot that uneven globs of brake material are transferred. Choosing brake pads made of similar material (ceramic, semi-metallic, etc.) as the car’s original pads can also help prevent unwanted noise. 


  • Don't Forget to Flush

    Don't Forget to Flush



    Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air (it is hygroscopic). Over time, enough water accumulates in brake fluid to cause corrosion and/or reduce stopping power. Water in hot brake fluid turns to steam which compresses and cannot maintain hydraulic pressure. The brake pedal goes soft on a long downgrade or during a panic stop. Flushing the brake fluid is a good idea and something a DIYer can do on most cars.

    A brake flush is a super-duper brake bleed. Rather than just bleeding out only enough brake fluid to get the air out of the system, you take all or at least most of the old brake fluid out.

    Handy new brake bleeder/flusher tools make it easy to quickly do the job single handedly. Last weekend, my daughter and I used the K TOOL Vacuum Pump in the photo to suck the brake fluid out of our 1992 Dodge van. We opened the bleeder fitting on the brake caliper or drum brake wheel cylinder, pushed the pump’s rubber adapter onto the fitting, and gave the handle a few squeezes to build a vacuum. The pump’s four ounce (118 ml) bottle filled up quickly. We steadily added new brake fluid to the master cylinder so it never ran dry. At each wheel, it was time to stop when the old muddy colored brake fluid was gone and new brake fluid started coming through the bleeder fitting. To prevent air from entering the system, we closed the fitting while there was still a vacuum in the pump.

    K TOOL Vacuum Pump

    The pump came with general instructions. More specific brake bleed/flush instructions might be found in a vehicle’s specific repair manual. Our K TOOL pump and its attached vacuum gauge can also be used to test EGR, PCV and several other vacuum based automotive systems.

    While flushing, I also replaced the van’s brake pads. My new Lisle Disc Brake Piston Tool shown in the photo made compressing the caliper piston much faster and easier on my hands. I feel silly thinking of all the times in the past I wrestled with a big C-clamp to compress the pistons. The first go around with a C-clamp almost never resulted in quite enough piston compression to make room for the new brake pads. Please note both the vacuum pump and brake piston tool were products I purchased and sincerely liked rather than freebie tools from the manufacturers.

    Lisle Disc Brake Piston Tool

    And finally, the van’s brake job reminded me what a good idea it is to get a Brake Hardware Kit along with new brake pads or brake shoes. This time it would not have even been an option to reuse some of the anti-rattle clips, o-rings and other parts that came in the hardware kit. Parts were badly corroded, broken or completely missing!

    Brake Hardware Kit


  • Power Brake Solutions

    Power Brake Solutions


    A-1 Cardone Power Brake Booster


    For decades “power brakes” has referred to that large round can the brake master cylinder bolts onto. That can is the vacuum power brake booster. How does it work and does it have a future?

    The metal can is hollow with a flexible diaphragm dividing the can into two air chambers. A spring retains the diaphragm in place. The mechanical linkage between the brake pedal and the master cylinder runs perpendicularly through the center of the can and diaphragm.

    Engine intake manifold vacuum is applied to both sides of the diaphragm until the brake pedal is pushed. Pressing the brake pedal opens a valve to let outside air into the air chamber on the brake pedal side of the diaphragm. That air is at regular atmospheric pressure and that pressure compresses the diaphragm into the side of the can that still is in a vacuum. As the diaphragm compresses, it helps push the rod connected to the brake pedal linkage into the master cylinder. This help from the compressing diaphragm is the “power” in power brakes.

    If the engine is turned off or stalls, then the intake manifold vacuum disappears. Air at atmospheric pressure no longer can compress the diaphragm. The brakes still work because the mechanical linkage between the brake pedal and master cylinder is still there. But the driver must push hard on the brake pedal because not only has the vacuum power assist gone away, but the diaphragm and its retaining spring is now likely resisting rather than assisting the movement of the brake pedal linkage.

    Vacuum power brake boosters usually last a surprisingly long time before the can, rubber diaphragm or valves start leaking or there is some other problem. But the future of the trusty vacuum power brake booster is still uncertain because new hybrid and even regular cars now intentionally turn off the engine when the car is coasting or at a stop light. The driver cannot be expected to push much harder on the brake pedal every time the engine stops and the vacuum assist disappears.

    Luckily power brake solutions have been around for years to take care of diesels and turbocharger equipped engines that do not have reliable intake manifold vacuum. The solution has often been to just use a vacuum power brake booster but add an electric or belt driven vacuum pump to provide consistent vacuum.

    Higher production volume diesel and now hybrid engines often use a hydraulic power brake booster pressurized by the power steering pump and/or an electric pump. Hydraulic fluid pressure helps push the rod into the brake master cylinder. “Hydroboost” type power brake boosters have been on diesel trucks for years and new and remanufactured hydraulic power brake boosters by ACDelco, A-1 Cardone, and Motorcraft are already available in the DBC catalog.

    For now, it might be a good idea for prospective owners to consider the power brake booster system while shopping for a hybrid car or a vehicle with a “stop-start” engine. If a similar system has already proven itself on older vehicles or it is currently being installed on high production volume vehicles, then it is less likely to be expensive to maintain and repair down the road. If it is a system installed on relatively few cars, then it could be expensive to repair. Let me tell you about the hydraulic windshield wipers in my ’67 Lincoln sometime… 


  • Rust Pressure on Brake Lines

    I wrote in the Early February about replacing both the brake calipers on my family’s 1992 Dodge B250 van after the old caliper pistons repeatedly seized up and failed to release pressure on the brake pads. A kind reader wrote to suggest that I should also check to make sure none of the van’s brake lines were being squeezed by rust.

    Since my youth spent in Detroit attempting to hold a rusty 1977 Dodge together with Bondo, I tend to think of rust as something that weakens steel and turns it to dust. However, rust has another way to cause mischief. As the reader pointed out, rust bubbles can extend outward from the base metal and take up more space than the original metal did. Layers of rust built up on a brake hose bracket or other brake fitting can actually push hard enough on a brake hose to impede the flow of brake fluid. Hydraulic pressure may still activate the brake pads, but once the brake pedal is released, a brake hose squeezed by rust restricts the release of brake fluid pressure. The brake pads stay pressed against the brake rotor, causing heat, wear, drop in fuel economy, steering pulling to one side or other problems.

    I checked the brackets supporting the brake lines on my Dodge van and did not find significant rust build up. A good wire brushing and fresh paint can restore some brake hardware. Brake hydraulic hoses compressed by rust may have lost their shape and need to be replaced.

    Brackets supporting the brake lines on my Dodge van

    A master mechanic and shop owner recently told me another place to watch for rust exerting pressure is the lug nuts. Some original equipment lug nuts are steel clad with a layer of chromed metal. Rust builds up on the inner lug nut and slightly bulges out the chrome cladding. Maybe the next time a tire goes flat, the vehicle owner discovers the lug nut wrench no longer fits the lug nuts because they are swollen with rust. 

  • Repair Mistakes & Blunders

    The cruise control in my son's 2007 VW Eos started failing intermittently, so we plugged in my scan tool and discovered that the switch on the turn signal stalk was faulty. Lots of things had to come apart to replace it, including removal of the airbag, steering wheel and several electronic modules behind the steering wheel. We got it all apart without incident, replaced the turn signal stalk and put it all back together.

    When we started the car, there were a number of warning lights on the dash (which was expected after having the battery disconnected for a couple hours), so we plugged the scan tool back in to reset a few systems, including the steering angle sensor. We went through the process several times, each time ending with the scan tool claiming success, but we were still left with the steering angle light and the traction control light illuminated. We then proceeded to disassemble everything again to be sure all the electrical connectors were plugged in, no pins were bent, etc. Everything looked fine, so we put it all back together with exactly the same results as before.

    Some searching on the web of the error code from the scan tool led me to the conclusion that the steering angle sensor was bad, so I ordered a new one. I was not exactly sure where the sensor lived in the steering column, but having the new one in hand should make it easy to spot once we were in there again. So, for the third time, the airbag, steering wheel and a bunch of other stuff came off. I did not see anything that resembled the new sensor I had in my hand, but after some more looking, I did see a spot where it looked like it would fit. I then wondered if somehow we had simply forgotten to put the old one back in, but we did not have any spare parts when we were done. Or so we thought... A search of the car resulted in finding the old sensor under the driver's seat. It had apparently fallen out as we were unplugging and unclipping all the other components.

    We installed the new sensor (which exactly matched the old one) since we had it, and it was nearly 10 years newer than the old one. We put it all back together, started the car, and we were back in business. In the future, I will be sure to take pictures of things along the way to be sure that the finished project looks the same as before we started.

    John in Idaho

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