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Braking Techniques

 

Part 1: Braking Overview

 

Part 2: Threshold Braking

 

Part 3: Trail Braking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Braking Techniques

Part 3: Trail Braking


This braking technique is commonly referred to as Trail Braking. Similar to the term Threshold Braking, Trail Braking derives from the act of trailing off the brake pedal as you initially turn in for a corner. Actually, there’s allot more to it than that . . .

 

The technique in Trail Braking, most would agree, is more difficult than the technique of Threshold Braking because of the fact that we are mixing corning and braking. What we are doing is not trying to slow as quickly as possible like with Threshold Braking, but controlling the attitude of the car by the use of the brakes. 


There are basically two scenarios in this technique: Let’s look at the first scenario. After completing our Threshold Braking we begin to turn in for a corner. As we turn the steering wheel we automatically unweight the inside tires of our car as the vehicle’s weight shifts outward. If we continue to hold the brake at Threshold Braking and begin to turn the inside tires, we would instantly lockup (because the inside tires were at their braking limit prior to turning in; turning in unweights the inside tires, etc.). So, we have to start trailing off the brake pedal to avoid this. To negotiate a left hand turn, picture having a string attached to the right side of the steering wheel and the other end of the string attached to the brake pedal. As you start to turn left the string pulls up on the brake pedal. This is essentially what we’re doing when we Trail Brake. 

 

 

 

The second scenario is when we’re approaching a corner we have to brake for, but it is impossible to straight line brake. We have no choice but to brake earlier and turn as the same time. A decreasing radius turn is a good example of this.

 

But, it doesn’t end there. As a matter of fact, this is just the beginning of understanding the dynamics of mixing braking and turning. When you turn the steering wheel, you are transferring weight from one side of the car to the other. Just like in our initial braking the weight transfer takes some amount of time and the same physics apply as with initial braking. After the weight has settle to one side of the car, you will experience a force called lateral acceleration or lateral G’s. 


Again, just like in braking we are working the tires to their maximum grip in order for us to maintain maximum speed in the corner in this case. If you trail off the brakes too much the front tires will grip more and because the weight of the car is still mainly forward this will cause the car to Oversteer. Oversteer is a handling characteristic whereas the car is turning more than you want it to. Another description for Oversteer is when the rear of the car is sliding more than the front. Extreme Oversteer will require steering input (countersteer) to correct. To correct mild Oversteer with the brakes, we squeeze back on the brake pedal to cause the front tires lose some cornering grip.

 

The opposite effect will happen when too much braking is applied while cornering. This condition is called Understeer. Understeer is occurring when the front tires fail to grip in the corner and the driver struggles to get the car to turn. The way to solve this problem is to ease off of the brake pedal. The front tires (in a rear wheel drive car) have two duties. 1) grip in the corners and 2). Grip under braking. They cannot do a 100 percent of both at the same time, so there is a compromise.

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