Official Blog

  • Wonder why carbon-ceramic brakes are so expensive? Watch how they’re made


    Although carbon-ceramic brakes will outperform cast iron rotors all day, there's a good reason why only the most high-performance cars wear them. Foremost, they cost thousands of dollars, but ever wonder why?

    The manufacturing process behind carbon-ceramic brakes is extravagant, to say the least. A video shows the exact process and it's not your average assembly line.

    The brakes start life as raw materials: heat-moldable resin and chopped pieces of raw carbon fiber. As they head through the production process, machines pour the mixture into a mold the shape of the disc. The process doesn't only rely on machines, though. A worker receives the mold filled halfway, who then installs a slotted belt and aluminum cores into slots. The cores become the ventilation channel in the disc ring for the final product.

    Another machine fills the mold the rest of the way before its pressed and heated with 44,000 pounds of pressure and heats the mixture to 392 degrees Fahrenheit. The process transforms the carbon and turns the moldable resin into plastic. Yes, the best brakes on Earth start out as plastic-infused carbon fiber at one point in the process.

    After a cooling process, workers extract the disc and a computer-controlled machine drills ventilation holes and smooths out any rough areas. Then it's back into the heat for the batch of brakes. An oven bakes the discs for two days up to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is where the plastic becomes carbon during a chemical process.

    Moving right along, the brakes then receive a ceramic silicon powder. And, you guessed it, it's back into an oven. Over the course of 24 hours, the oven rebakes the disc at 3,092 degrees Fahrenheit, which melts the silicon. Low suction is applied which then forces the material into the disc.

    As the process wraps up, the disc receives a coat of protective paint, one more round in an oven to cure the paint, and finally, a robot sands the surface and polishes the surface for the final look. Get your geek on and check out the full process in the video above.

  • How do Formula 1 and Le Mans LMP1 brakes differ?

    Brembo breaks down F1 and Le mans brakesBrembo breaks down F1 and Le mans brakes

    Formula 1 race cars are amazing feats of motorsport engineering. Equally as amazing, however, are the LMP1 prototype racers that run in the various endurance events around the globe, including the 24 Hours of LeMans. Each type of cars represents the pinnacle of what's currently possible with a race car. Each is capable of tremendous speed and the production of brutal G forces. How do they stack up with regard to braking power, though? Brembo sat down with its slide rules and calculators to figure out the differences, and the results are quite interesting.

    To start, we should examine the weight difference between the two types of cars. That's the heft the brakes have to bring down from high speeds. The minimum weight of a current F1 car is 1,616 pounds, while an LMP1 car weighs between 1,836 pounds and 1,929 pounds. The weight difference for LMP1 depends on a team's decision to run a hybrid or non-hybrid car as the battery pack adds a bit of weight.

    The brakes themselves are are also quite different, as they need to behave in very different ways for a number of reasons. First, an F1 race lasts about 100 minutes while a race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans lasts much longer. During an F1 race, the driver will hit the brakes around 350 times, but that's nothing compared to the 4,000-plus times the brakes are applied during a 24-hour endurance race. Still, both brake discs are built using carbon as that's the best material for the task of consistent, fade-free stopping.

    Formula One vs LeMans LMP1 brakesFormula One vs LeMans LMP1 brakes

    On the F1 car, the brakes are much smaller. That's because the Formula 1 regulations require a wheel size of just 13 inches. LMP1 cars, by comparison are allowed to run 18-inch wheels and therefore have larger diameter rotors. As a result, the F1 brakes can only be 10.95 inches in diameter, while the LMP1 brakes can be as large as 14.96 inches in diameter up front and 13.98 inches out back. Both rotors, however, are a maximum of 32 mm thick.

    Each type of race car faces a unique problem, and it allows Brembo to tailor the discs to suit the different applications. On an F1 car, the discs can climb as high as 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit during heavy braking. This means that the Brembo engineers need to supply brakes that can quickly dissipate all of that heat through differing brake ventilation strategies. An F1 brake rotor has 900, 1200, or 1400 ventilation holes and the amount is dictated by the various teams as to which their driver prefers.

    For the LMP1 cars, the problem is quite different. Here teams don't want as much heat dissipation because they can't have their disc temperature drop below 662 degrees F. This could occur during the colder nighttime portions of the race, and if it does the brake material could glaze over and seriously hamper braking efficiency. LMP1 cars also only get to about 1,472 degrees F. To keep the temperatures in the sweet spot, the brakes have 430 ventilation holes and Brembo offers friction materials for the discs and pads that have a more efficient thermal conductivity.

    Brembo dissects the brakes of an F1 race carBrembo dissects the brakes of an F1 race car

    So how exactly do the cars stack up with respect to actual braking performance? The F1 car has the edge here. Brembo has found that an F1 race car can shed more than 55 mph of total speed in just one second. By comparison, the best LMP1 cars drop about 43 mph of speed in the same period. These figures change a bit depending on the circuit and conditions, but the F1 car always comes out a bit ahead. Still, the LMP1 car has to deliver consistency for a far longer period of time.

    It's a delicate dance and one that's crucial to both driver safety and to winning. Head to Brembo's website to read the full report.

  • As consumer demands shift, so do braking needs

    As consumer demands shift, so do braking needs

    As light trucks become the preference of drivers, suppliers are adjusting to keep pace

    There is a universal truth when it comes to cars: SUVs and crossovers own the road. Globally they represent the fastest-growing segments in the auto industry. In Canada, there are more light trucks than passenger cars. This reality is reshaping aftermarket parts and sales.

    When it comes to avoiding an abrupt halt, suppliers are developing calipers and brake systems to perform as well for this segment as any non-SUV segment, said Dan Caciolo, head of product management for Continental Independent Aftermarket North America Powertrain and Brake Systems in Allentown, Penn.

    “Performance attributes such as good brake pedal feel, modulation, dust, roughness, and noise are being developed to perform as well as other vehicle segments where a high level of braking satisfaction is required and expected,” he said.

    The devil is in the details for drivers and their aftermarket suppliers. But it starts with the manufacturers, said Brian Kowalski, vice president of branded sales with Brake Parts Inc., in Vancouver.

    “The small details in a pad make a difference when it comes to CUVs, SUVs and trucks, so it is critical that load, driving situations and weight are all considered during the research and development process. To fully service all applications and platforms, a manufacturer needs to offer a wide array of friction formulas.”

    Friction formulations must be developed and selected based on the class of vehicle, the year and platform, and the type of driving that will be done with the vehicle. Great friction formulas are not necessarily great for all uses.

    “The platform may fit, but the use of the vehicle may require a different formula if it is to be used for commercial situations, under heavy loads, for frequent towing, or other high energy requirements,” noted Kowalski.

    In response to the new wave of vehicles hitting the road, vehicle manufacturers and their brake suppliers are designing braking systems that can meet the demands of multiple platforms. The OEs will typically develop a system to meet the requirements of their full-size SUVs and then those technologies will trickle down to smaller platforms, such as crossovers and passenger cars, said Christopher Battershell in Southfield, Mich., director of braking product management in North America with Federal-Mogul Motorparts, supplier of the Wagner Brake brand.

    “As a result, many smaller late-model vehicles are equipped with more robust braking systems than they might have been in the past,” he said.

    “To fully service all applications and platforms, a manufacturer needs to offer a wide array of friction formulas.”

    — Brian Kowalski, Brake Parts Inc.

    Still, vehicle type is not the primary driver to brake design. Duty cycle and energy loading are the key vehicle parameters impacting vehicle brake design, notes Eric Roszman, vice president of research and development in North America for Akebono Brake Corporation in Farmington Hills, Mich.

    “Many crossovers and compact SUVs share the same foundation brake system as their sedan cousins. Because of the additional weight and additional weight transfer, because of the higher center of gravity, the front brakes may operate at higher temperatures.”

    Rotor size, dynamic weight transfer, vehicle weight, and foreseeable use of the vehicle are all critical factors in determining the correct brake formulation, he added. “Friction material should be closely matched to the energy load of the vehicle, not necessarily just to the size of the vehicle.”

    Ensuring the right brakes are installed in new vehicle classes goes beyond materials and manufacturer. Customer expectations need to be understood and met.

    “The type of friction material paired with a particular brake system arguably has as much to do with if not the most to do with meeting the expectations of the customers of each class of vehicle,” said Caciolo.

    Someone driving an entry-level car often cares most about being able to stop predictably and noiselessly with low to moderate effort, he notes, while the performance sector cares about an extreme level of deceleration regardless of other factors. Somewhere in the middle are the luxury brand customers looking to achieve the best of both worlds: predictability, high deceleration, low dust, no noise, and more.

    Meeting expectations requires education. Jobbers need to look beyond suppliers’ marketing assertions, said Battershell. “It’s simply not enough to claim a brake pad ‘meets OE specifications,’ ‘reduces noise,’ or ‘offers longer life.’ Look for test results conducted to simulate real-world operating conditions.”

    Service for brakes is becoming an increasingly important competitive opportunity for service and repair shops. Consumers are sensitive to changes in braking characteristics after they’ve had a repair and both the brake pad design and friction formulation need to match each vehicle’s unique attributes, said Battershell.

    “Shops that get it right in selecting brake pads designed for today’s vehicles are more likely to gain and retain customers, while those that rely on older pads designed for older vehicles are likely to experience more comebacks.”

    “… many smaller late-model vehicles are equipped with more robust braking systems than they might have been in the past.”

    — Christopher Battershell, Federal-Mogul Motorparts, supplier of the Wagner Brake brand

    As obvious as it sounds, not all brakes are made the same. Caciolo cautions jobbers not to discount the engineering and design time OEMs take to pair the proper formulation to the brake system and vehicle.

    “Due to a lack of braking standards in North America, you will find several very low-grade options disguised as viable options,” he warned. “Work with your suppliers to educate yourself on the quality of products they provide, if they are an OEM, and what they recommend for your customer base.”

    Presently, the focus is on one specific part of the braking system, noted Battershell. “Where we’re seeing the greatest product differentiation is in the brake pad itself, where it is critical for manufacturers – both at the OE and replacement levels – to use sophisticated modeling technologies, laboratory analysis and on-vehicle testing to develop an ideal pad design and material for each application,” he said.

    Jobbers will also want to familiarize themselves with the new and emerging trends in brake pad designs and technologies. The next wave is toward copper-free friction materials. The trend on lighter SUV and CUVs has been ceramic pads. Now heavier vehicles are also coming equipped with ceramic brakes.

    “Ceramics can produce lower dust and quiet operation,” said Jerry Forystek, director of friction product development with Brake Parts Inc., in McHenry, Ill.

    “However, using ceramic on heavier vehicles that came OE with a semi-met may challenge vehicle braking performance.”

    Jobbers, technicians, and the aftermarket in general also need to be wary of copper-free friction materials that are not genuine ceramic materials, said Roszman, noting that, in some cases, older semi-metallic friction formulations are being reconstituted.

    “These formulations, while copper free, will not have the noise, dust, and judder-free performance of a well-developed ceramic,” he said.

    “Government regulation,” Roszman added, “is also influencing basic brake design to enhance their environmental impact.”

    Another trend is cars that come equipped with higher-performance brake systems usually with fixed calipers. Electric parking brake calipers with motor gear unit integration allow parking functionality and are becoming the choice of many OEMs over the more traditional drum in hat style parking systems, noted Caciolo.

  • Backup driver in fatal Uber crash was distracted: police

    The human backup driver in an autonomous Uber SUV was streaming the television show “The Voice” and looking downward just before fatally striking a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix, according to a police report.

    The 300-page report released Thursday night by police in Tempe revealed that driver Rafaela Vasquez had been streaming the musical talent show on her phone via Hulu in the 43 minutes before the March 18 crash that killed Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a darkened road outside the lines of a crosswalk. The report said the crash, which marks the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle, wouldn’t have happened had the driver not been distracted.

    Dash camera video shows Vasquez was looking down near her right knee for four or five seconds before the crash. She looked up a half second before striking Herzberg as the Volvo was travelling about 44 miles per hour. Vasquez told police Herzberg “came out of nowhere” and that she didn’t see her prior to the collision. But officers calculated that had Vasquez been paying attention, she could have reacted 143 feet before impact and brought the SUV to a stop about 42.6 feet before hitting Herzberg.

    “This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted,” the report stated.

    Tempe police are looking at a vehicular manslaughter charge in the crash, according to a March 19 affidavit filed to get a search warrant for audio, video and data stored in the Uber SUV.

    The detective seeking the warrant, identified as J. Barutha, wrote that based on information from the vehicular homicide unit, “it is believed that the crime of vehicular manslaughter has occurred and that evidence of this offence is currently located in a 2017 Grey Volvo XC-90.”

  • Continental to offer cybersecurity updates

    Technology company Continental has announced end-to-end cybersecurity and over-the-air software update solutions from Argus Cyber Security (Argus) and Elektrobit (EB) pre-integrated into its connected vehicle electronics products including telematics units, infotainment systems and gateways.

    With more than 60 million vehicles with connected capabilities to be sold throughout the world by 2021, cybersecurity concerns will have to be dealt with by the automotive industry.

    “And time is short as the share of connected vehicles is increasing rapidly all over the world, making cars the next big target for cyber attacks after mobile devices,” said Wolfgang Bernhart, senior partner at consultancy firm Roland Berger.

    “Just as brakes are imperative for safe driving, connected vehicles require state-of-the-art cybersecurity as a basic feature,” said Werner Koestler, head of strategy, interior division at Continental. “Therefore, we have decided to offer end-to-end cybersecurity solutions from Argus and Elektrobit in all of our connected vehicle electronics and as a standalone solution for third-party products.”

    Continental, Elektrobit and Argus’ cybersecurity philosophy is based on three critical pillars: enabling OEMs to prevent, understand and respond to cyber threats.  Continental will now offer solutions from Elektrobit and Argus, providing vehicle manufacturers with an end-to-end offering to secure their fleets from current and future cyber threats. To prevent possible attacks, Elektrobit said it will provide more than just consultation, but also security components for the application layer, hardware-specific security products, Autosar basic software and security solutions for bootloader.

    Those components are designed for applications including secure communication, authenticated identification, secure updates and diagnostics, and are already on the road in millions of cars today.

  • Tesla’s autopilot is better than you, statistically

    When it’s machine versus man, it’s more likely you’ll be exchanging insurance information with man, according to data released by the electric-car maker Tesla.

    In the first quarterly report on the safety of its autonomous vehicles, Tesla said it recorded one accident for every 3.34 million miles driven when the autopilot was engaged. That is a vastly better record than the one compiled by humans.

    The most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows one auto crash for every 492,000 miles driven in the U.S. without an autonomous assist.

    In Tesla cars that do not have the autopilot engaged, the company said it recorded one accident or crash-like event every 1.92 million miles.

    The crash of any autonomous Tesla vehicle receives intense coverage due to the fascination over the confluence of technology and man, and also fascination with the company’s CEO, Elon Musk.

    Musk has grown agitated over that coverage.

    After a Model S collided with a firetruck this spring in Utah and the driver suffered a broken ankle, Musk tweeted that “It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage.”

    Tesla says it’s now going to start publicly releasing accident data every quarter.

    Early Friday, Tesla put the brakes on the autonomous features of its latest software, called “Version 9.”

    The technology is intended to allow autonomous technology to take over a vehicle to pass cars on highways, and also handle highway entrances and exits.

    Musk said in an early morning tweet that the software is being released widely right now, but that the autopilot functions will undergo a few more weeks of testing.

    “Extremely difficult to achieve a general solution for self-driving that works well everywhere,” Musk tweeted.

  • Cover Story: Getting Your Brakes in the Fleet Business

    Cover Story: Getting Your Brakes in the Fleet Business

    How to do it. How to keep it. How to make it work. Fleet operators are not motivated by price alone.

    Some fleets are large, some fleets are small, and some fleets are not really fleets at all.

    Each demands its own approach, and one of the most difficult for jobbers to get a profitable handle on is the taxi fleet. In many jurisdictions, the term “fleet” as applied to taxis is misleading. While Chicago boasts a fleet of about 5,000 taxis, all owned and operated by a single company, the norm for the Canadian taxi business is distinctly more fragmented.

    For most people, the public perception of a fleet is of a monolithic collection of vehicles with common ownership. Seeing “ABC Taxi” leads them to believe that ABC Taxi owns it. This is usually far from the truth.

    Take Toronto’s Beck Taxi for example: there are hundreds of Beck-named cabs patrolling the streets of Toronto, but Beck does not own any of them.

    “We supply the dispatch services; the operators own the vehicles,” says Beck’s Andrew Whiteley. According to Whiteley, the ownership of the cabs varies from single vehicle owners to owners with two or three dozen. In Toronto, as in many jurisdictions, operating a taxi requires three things: a vehicle, an agreement with a dispatch company or broker, and an operating license. Those licenses are often sublet to the operators and, because the supply is limited, they are a very real profit center for those who hold them. Conversely, they are a substantial expense for the operator. The cost to use someone else’s license–which is perfectly legal in Toronto–runs into six figures.

    All these facts are important to an understanding of the taxi fleet and how the owners maintain the vehicles, and also how important it is that those vehicles remain in good working order.

    Tom Hagerty operates Liberty Taxi, a Beck lessee fleet of 35 vehicles. Speaking on brake products in particular, Hagerty says that there are really only a couple of issues he considers paramount.

    “One is price and the other is the quality of the product. If you can get a good quality product for a good price, then that is what we’ll use.” Hagerty says that price only becomes the most important issue when product quality is at the required level. He may want to buy goods cheap, but he doesn’t want to buy cheap goods. Rotors are an example he offers.

    “We found that it depends on the country of origin. Mexican rotors warp out–their metallurgy just isn’t right–so we don’t buy them. We don’t buy Asian generally either for the same reason.”

    While he is adamant that he watches costs carefully, he bristles at the suggestion that taxi operators such as him are motivated by price alone. Taxis under his care generally put on about 100,000 km a year, get oil changes every three weeks and get their wheels and brakes checked at the same time. Brake pads and shoes, he says, usually need to be changed every four to six weeks, though it varies widely by driver and individual car.

    “You have to buy a quality product. You can’t just buy a cheap product because it just doesn’t last. You can’t survive with a cheap product; it wouldn’t last a week. It may be okay for your grandmother going back and forth to the store, but most taxi fleets have to use a good product, because if you get breakdowns, you get lost shifts.” In addition, the taxi industry is generally well policed, with Toronto requiring inspections three times a year. Plus, taxis can generally not be operated if they are older than seven years, although there are some exceptions for alternative fuel conversions. Hagarty says that the load that constant use puts on the vehicles has taught him what he needs from a jobber.

    “We know what products we want. If you wanted us to buy it from you, it would be based on price and service. If we call you today, how quickly would we get the stuff from you? We need it like yesterday.

    “Now, if you had a new product, you’d really have to show us how it would be better. But it would have to be something pretty special to get us to change.”

    The experience of Calgary-based Auto-motive Village seems to agree with this profile.

    Steve Snowden, assistant manager at the group’s Horizon Auto Value, store says that he services half a dozen customers who do substantial business servicing taxi fleets. They generally go for the higher quality pads, he says.

    “They’ve found that, for their 200,000 km a year, they need that quality. Most of them have gone away from the regular semi-metallic. A lot of the larger taxi companies around tend to be quite demanding in what they want and a lot of them are not open to change.”

    Snowden says that, while it is true that individual owner-operators tend to be very price-motivated, this isn’t usually in the realm of brakes, though sometimes it is.

    “The main thing is a cost comparison and a repair comparison, longevi-ty of pads, rotors, bearings, seals and what you have to go through to be servicing once a month rather than every four or five months,” says Snowden. “The savings can go a long way with anybody. A lot of the newer organizations are open to suggestions of things that will save them money in the long run.

    “When they were using the regular semi-metallic pads, they were changing them every four to six weeks; since they’ve gone to the better product, they seem to be lasting four or five months.”

    Information from Honeywell (formerly AlliedSignal) suggests that fleet product friction can have an expected life of many times that of either budget pads or OE products.

    Colin Philip, manager of technical services, says that some misconceptions continue to exist regarding severe duty pads. “A lot of people remember the 1970s, when severe duty pads tore up rotors. Today’s friction provides superior wear, great performance, no fade and doesn’t wear out rotors.” Pad life, he says, averages one and a half to two times that of OE pads, and three times the life of economy pads. Philip admits, however, that this fact and its impact on overall maintenance costs doesn’t always get through.

    The key to improving profitability in selling to the taxi industry then is understanding the difference between being price-conscious and being solely price motivated. That equation differs by operator, and it differs by type of fleet.

    Andrew Davies, vice-president of Davies Auto Electric Ltd., Mississauga, Ont., says that fleets are similar to installer customers in many ways.

    “The underlying priorities they look for are the obvious: quality, price and service. The issue is how they weight them.” Davies Electric services a variety of fleets, including municipal, courier, and police. “I was in a sales strategy seminar recently and the presenter got to the point where he was saying that price wasn’t an issue. Price is important and will always be important. It’s a point that determines whether you will get the business, but in general, quality is more important to fleets than to the installer. If you had to rank them, the installer would put price at the top.

    “Municipalities, transit, police, and utilities are more interested in quality. They want a guaranteed product that is not going to let them down. They’re concerned about downtime. Delivery fleets and courier companies are in the same boat.”

    Davies says that fleet managers don’t take maintenance lightly and some employ sophisticated record keeping and maintenance scheduling software that allows them to know when parts need replacing before they fail. Likewise, they take a conservative approach to changing which products they buy.

    “One of the tactics that these fleets use is to test products. If a supplier is confident that the product will work, they’ll test some samples. They take a standalone analysis, and how long it is out there determines whether your products are good enough for them.

    “Rest assured, if the product doesn’t perform, you’re not going to get the business.”

    One other type of fleet that Davies has been exposed to is the rental car business. Peculiar among the fleet business is the fact that due to the short time a vehicle is often kept in the fleet, operators are motivated differently and price is the end-all and be-all, says Davies.

    “They want everything
    cheap. They’re not so concerned about quality because they mile out these cars so quickly, so they keep their maintenance costs to a minimum.”

    Overall, says Davies, fleet operators run the gamut from having highly organized maintenance scheduling based on expected part life, all the way to operators who have neither a plan nor a policy for maintenance.

    Large operators tend to the former, smaller tend to the latter, but there is no sure way to tell beyond experience.

    “With some fleets, the cost of replacement versus downtime is factored in. The cost to those guys is figured out and then you can get back to the quality issue,” says Davies. He says too that the sales cycle for this type of fleet customer tends to be long, particularly if they’re intent on testing the product you hope to sell them.

    “It’s not like you have to check on it every week though. You might not get an answer for months, but if they have 400 vehicles, hey, I’m willing to wait.”


    All major brake market players include some degree of severe duty products in their lineup. Here is a list of what some of the more popular brand names have to offer:

    ACDelco offers its line of DuraStop brake products.

    Dana Brake and Chassis has just introduced its Raybestos Super Stop line of rotors to complement its existing Super Stop friction line.

    Federal-Mogul offers its Wagner SevereDuty line of brake products.

    Honeywell (formerly AlliedSignal) has its Bendix MetLok line of severe duty disc pads for fleets and SUVs.

    Satisfied Brake Products recently launched its Metalazer FLT friction offering for fleet and severe duty applications.

  • Cooking the Brakes

    Most guys don’t care to see their accountants more than once a year, but we make an exception for Bookie Bob. An accountant by day, and a mechanical wannabe on the weekends, he creates enough problems to justify keeping the tow truck phone number on speed dial.

    “Morning, Bob,” I said cheerfully. “What’s up today?”

    Bob looked a little sheepish. “I’m trying to fix my brakes, Slim, but things don’t add up.”

    Tooner began to choke on his coffee. He always gets a sadistic thrill out of poor Bobbie’s misfortunes. I glared at him and tossed him a rag to clean up the spill. If there’s anything I hate, it’s my staff making fun of the customers when they’re standing right there.

    “What seems to be the problem?” I asked.

    Bob jerked his thumb towards the parking lot. “The farther I drive, the more power I lose, and the brake pedal gets real hard.”

    I looked out at his six-year-old Isuzu Rodeo. “Sounds like the brakes are sticking and heating up. I’ll just take it for a little test-drive.”

    A quick run around the block didn’t help; everything seemed to be working just fine. So I decided to head out on the highway, and it wasn’t long before things began to turn ugly. I had to keep giving it more fuel to keep up speed, and just like Bob said, the brake pedal felt like a rock. I was lucky to make it back to the shop. All four disc brakes were smoking hot.

    Bob came over, with Tooner in tow. “I’ve checked everything, Slim. There’s lots of brake lining, and I know the hydraulic fluid is okay, because I topped it up two weeks ago.”

    Tooner’s ears perked up. “What did you top it up with?” he asked.

    “Well, that power fluid stuff. You know, for power brakes.”

    Tooner and I looked at each other, the same thought going through our heads.

    “You don’t mean power steering fluid, do you?”

    “It’s all the same, isn’t it?”

    “Is a debit the same as a credit, Bob?” I asked.

    Bob’s face fell. “What are you telling me?” he asked.

    “Let’s take a look,” I suggested, opening the hood. I popped the lid off the brake master cylinder. A swollen black rubber gasket fell out of the lid, almost twice its normal size. “Just as I thought; you’ve mixed hydraulic oil with the brake fluid.” I held up the distorted gasket. “If oil comes in contact with these rubber parts in the brake system, it causes them to swell.”

    Bobby began to look a little green as he mentally calculated all the places that an engineer could hide rubber pieces in a braking system. “Uh, what’s the bottom line here?”

    I crunched the numbers. “At the very least, you’ll need a new master cylinder. Due to this contamination, it’s not releasing the hydraulic brake pressure to the wheels when you take your foot off the brake.”

    “Yep,” chimed in Tooner. “And hopefully you haven’t ruined the brake calipers and wheel cylinders yet.” He rubbed his hands together gleefully. “Not to mention the brake proportioning valve.”

    After changing the master cylinder and flushing the brake system, we sent Bookie Bob on his way, with a warning to keep an eye on things. I felt compelled to give him a nice discount, especially after he agreed to let me claim donuts as a legitimate office expense.

    Besides, I know he’ll be back. The weekend is coming, and he just can’t resist finding something else to fix on his car.

    About The Writer

    Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 24 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories from his shop. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”

  • Drum brakes, windup windows and other technical heresies

    With Ontario suffering from blackouts, B.C. from fire, and the rest of the country mired in economic stagnation, you’d think there would be better things to talk about than drum brakes. There are, but I’m going to use this space to get something off my chest: I think drum brakes are better than discs. And crank-operated windows are better than electric. Also on my list of good things: throttle-body injection, rear-wheel-drive (preferably with a solid axle) and manual transmissions with cable-operated clutches. Oh yeah, and mechanical gauges, including oil pressure. Before you techs under 30 turn the page, work with me on this, or at least hear me out. Jim’s theory of automotive engineering goes like this: Simple things are better than complex things. If a function can be done with a simple mechanism, it should be. If the guys down at marketing claim they need a new gadget to sell the product, find a new marketing team.

    None of this is new, but when I think of the number of stories I’ve heard of intermittents, phantom problems and customer stupefaction at what it costs to fix a modern vehicle, I wonder why consumers buy into the complexity in the first place. Take drum brakes. They’re great because they combine a huge surface area with simple hydraulics, and do it with one machined surface. And when was the last time that your customer complained of brake fade? It’s the same with electric window lifts. While I don’t recall being upset at turning a crank, how about making side “glass” out of polycarbonate (like Lexan) so they’re light enough to lift up like a kitchen window with one hand? And I liked EGR technology where I could operate the valve with my finger, check the diaphragm by sucking through a tube, and clean it by banging it against my workbench.

    Engine systems are getting cleaner, so they have to be more complex. O.K., I like clean air too. But even the cheapest new cars are relatively loaded compared to machines of twenty years ago, and for no good reason. I don’t understand electric door locks on a two-door subcompact narrow enough to reach across the seats without undoing your belt. And if you have a family, the stripper Biscayne/Laurentian/Fury/Monaco/Ford/Meteor just doesn’t exist anymore. Air bags on a Jeep TJ? Would you take a delete option and replace them with four-point harnesses and a roll cage? I would. And when did it become a brilliant idea to use microprocessors to control defrost airflow over my feet? Pseudo-Luddites like me won one with the apparent retreat of digital dashboards, but I think in the long run it’s a losing battle. Maybe it all works better, and yes, cars do seem to last longer, but there’s something comforting about taking an International Harvester Scout deep into the bush in Northern Ontario and knowing that the spare five-dollar points in the glovebox will get you home no matter what. The techs coming up will never experience setting points with a matchbook cover, or gravity feeding a gas can into a carburetor to limp home with a broken fuel pump. It might be progress, but I sure see a lot of shop owners living on Rolaids these days.

  • A New Standard for Brakes

    A new performance certification procedure, the Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedure (BEEP), has been introduced into the aftermarket.

    Created by the Brake Manufacturers Council (BMC) of the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), the guideline is designed to provide brake and shoe performance that is consistent with OE requirements.

    “BEEP is the culmination of more than 10 years of hard work and collaboration between numerous brake manufacturers and an SEA taskforce which aimed to develop a comprehensive procedure for friction performance to be evaluated in a viable manner,” says Walter Britland, BEEP chairman and director of aftermarket engineering for Federal-Mogul Corp.

    The certification uses the SAE J2430 procedure for testing.

    BEEP-certified products will carry a seal on packaging, literature, and promotional materials.

    Britland says that the BEEP certification provides confidence to the end user that he is receiving high-quality product manufactured by QS9000/ISO9001 certified companies, and provides the technician a guideline to compare brake pad and shoe products.

    Though several companies have been through the certification procedure, Jobber News was unable to determine if any products are currently being marketed with the BEEP certification.

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