It’s been over one-hundred years since the automobile burst upon the transportation scene and pushed the horse aside.Â Since that time the advancements have really be astounding.Â In less than a century we have gone from one horsepower to several hundred in the average vehicle to five-or-six hundred in the serious performance engines.Â
Whenever someone buys a vehicle, one of the first questions they ask is how many horses does the engine have? Speed and power are always first considerations, but with that power and speed comes another serious consideration….what about the stopping power?Â What about the brakes?
The advancement of the internal combustion engine has been remarkable, but when we are talking about the braking system history, the advancement has been a bit more incremental.Â That’s because the braking system is really a very simple system that does not require too many advancements.
The original braking system on a car was, believe it or not, a block of wood and a lever.Â True story!Â When a driver wanted to stop a car back in the late 1890s, he would pull a lever and that lever made a block of wood rub against the steel-rimmed wheel.
That system of braking became obsolete when the Michelin brothers replaced steel rimmed wheels with the rubber tire.Â Suddenly the block of wood was useless and a new braking system was needed.
Enter the drum brakes.Â The idea was to wrap a cable around a metal drum, and when the brake pedal is pushed the cable tightens and you slowly grind to a stop.Â It seems crude in description but this system worked quite well for nearly one-hundred years until the advent of the disc braking system.
The drum system had a tendency to distribute heat unevenly.Â The disc system, in conjunction with hydraulics, solved that problem and gave us much more efficient brakes at higher speeds.
Which brings us to today and we really haven’t changed that much, unless you consider for a moment the “Smart Brake,” a completely driver-independent system that stops when a computer sensor thinks your vehicle is getting too close to another object.Â The computer will literally stop the car without the assist of the driver….but still, the braking system used is the disc braking system