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The Shifting Challenges of Smaller, Hotter Brake Systems

Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 06:00
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If you have discovered smaller and hotter brake systems on today’s vehicles, you aren’t alone. 

In fact, it might be more of a trend than many technicians realize, according to insight Tony McKey recently shared with Motor Age readers.

“There has been a big push to have brake systems become smaller and smaller to increase miles per gallon. That is the biggest shift we’ve seen over the years,” says McKey, Senior Manager, Marketing Operations, Rayloc, a Division of Genuine Parts Company in Atlanta. 

And while the systems have become smaller, they also have become more advanced. For example, McKey explains how the brake systems also are shifting to being an autonomous system integrated with other high-tech safety systems. Working alongside the traction control systems and stability control systems, new brake systems in many scenarios engage without the driver having to do anything.

Additionally, there is the ongoing shift away from semi-metallic and organic formulations to ceramic formulations. “Ceramics have a lot of good qualities, notably they’re easier to keep quiet. But they also have some limitations,” McKey says, adding another layer to the compounding changes.

“And really all these have led to a perfect storm, which is smaller and hotter brake systems,” he states. “Smaller and hotter brake systems at times can be a bit of a challenge.”

This is not unique to one certain make or model, though some European models have lagged behind others. But because of its widespread nature, this is something all technicians need to be aware of. McKey adds it comes down to the physics of the system.  

“You are taking the moving energy of the vehicle and creating heat. That’s what has the vehicle stop. And then the job of the brakes is to get rid of the heat,” he notes. “And a small brake system is more difficult to manage.”

More difficult, but not impossible. In fact, NAPA has implemented the “Perfect Brake Job” to its roles for technicians working on today’s vehicles. McKey says it includes thoroughly cleaning the brake systems of rust and brake dust, lubricating metal-to-metal contact points, washing the rotors with soap and water and truing the rotor to the hub – among many other steps.

The perfect brake job is discussed more in a new webinar featuring McKey and shop owner Jon Bockman, President of Bockman’s Auto Care in Sycamore, Ill. Watch the webinar featuring a look at the changing systems and tips for technicians and service writers.

“It is a more technical brake job than it ever has been before, and that certainly comes from those smaller and hotter brake systems,” McKey says. But information in the webinar will help. Watch the free event now.

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