Can Engine Braking Harm Your Vehicle?

by | Sep 25, 2021 | News | 0 comments

Footbrakes are the safest method to slow down a vehicle in both standard and emergencies. Is it, however, the most efficient? Here, we’ll look at another way for slowing a car: engine braking.

What is the definition of engine braking?

As opposed to using the footbrake, engine braking slows the vehicle down by letting off of the accelerator and downshifting. Engine deceleration forces are used to reduce wheel speed; thus, technically speaking, this is a brake system. When you let off the accelerator pedal, the air intake valve closes, creating a vacuum. It reduces the air that gets to the cylinders, which wastes energy and slows the vehicle down.

Engine braking is only effective while the vehicle is in gear. When the clutch is released, the deceleration force generated by removing the accelerator is not transmitted to the drivetrain. Thus the wheels continue to move at the same pace. You may accelerate engine braking by downshifting into a lower gear. The more torque transmitted through the gearbox as the RPM rises, the quicker the vehicle can reach a controlled stop.

How to Brake an Engine

In a manual vehicle, engine braking is a basic procedure that inexperienced drivers may take a few tries to grasp.

Assume you’re approaching a traffic signal at 40 mph in fifth gear. Put the car in second or third gear and let off the throttle to gently slow down. This will cause the vehicle to slow down without requiring you to use the brakes. You may then use the clutch-and-brake method to stop the car while minimizing brake pad wear properly.

Smoothness and timing are essential to effective engine braking. Thus practice makes perfect.

What are some of the advantages of engine braking?

Engine braking minimizes brake wear, which is one of its main advantages. Because friction is used in caliper and drum brakes, they will wear down over time. You may drive safely while limiting the amount of wear on your brake pads by combining engine braking with conventional braking using the foot pedal. This will prolong the life of your brakes and give you a better ride.

For others, the feeling of control it provides you when driving, mainly downhill, is a big plus. Preparing for downhill by shifting into a lower gear allows drivers to better manage their vehicle’s speed without having to constantly worry about their brakes overheating or, in the worst-case situation, failing.

In ice circumstances, engine braking is also extremely helpful. When the roads are slick, slamming on the brakes puts you in danger of locking the wheels and sliding, mainly if you panic and pound on the brakes. Engine braking may assist you in slowing down without engaging the brakes, allowing you to maintain control of the vehicle’s speed while keeping the wheels spinning in snowy or icy situations.

Speedometer close up background

Will engine braking damage my vehicle?

Because engine braking causes high engine rpm, some drivers are concerned that it may damage the engine. All of this is dependent on how long the RPMs remain at or near the red line.

Ensure that the rpm counter isn’t above the red line before making an engine brake downshift. A high RPM driving style may cause the engine to overheat and put stress on the cooling system. Don’t worry if the RPM is greater than expected; as long as the RPM is lower than the red line, there won’t be dangers to the engine, even if it is noisy.

Another consideration during engine braking is the transmission system’s vulnerability. Quickly changing from high to low gear may put extra pressure on the clutch plate and gears, costing you much more than a new set of brake pads.

When downshifting, rev-match by increasing engine speed with the throttle, then gently and smoothly releasing the clutch. This means you can shift into a lower gear without feeling jarred and with minor wear on the transmission system.

Snow-covered roads are hazardous for driving.

When should you use engine braking instead of regular braking?

Using the footbrake to slow down the vehicle is the safest and quickest option while driving usually. You may utilize the engine brake to reduce brake wear rather than as a safety feature in normal driving circumstances.

However, there are times when braking using your engine is a safer and more efficient choice than using the footbrake.  It will assist in slowing the vehicle down without the danger of sliding or scorching the disc brakes to the point where they no longer function.

Downhill Driving

When traveling downhill over an extended time, avoid using the brakes excessively to slow the vehicle. There is a direct correlation between increased velocity and increased braking requirements while traveling down a steep slope. This means the brakes may deteriorate because of excessive heat buildup and decreased friction.

Engine braking may be a lifesaver in this scenario, which is why you’ll constantly see warnings at the top of a steep slope advising you to shift into a lower gear. With the vehicle in the third or even 2nd gear, you may moderate your descent by gently touching the brakes, which means the brakes aren’t put through their paces.

Snow and Ice Driving

Driving on snow and ice may be challenging at first, and when we begin to lose control of the vehicle, we instinctively go for the stop pedal. However, when roads are slick, utilizing the footbrake makes things worse since the car will slide more readily if the tires lock up or are abruptly halted.

The key to driving safely in snowy circumstances is finding the perfect combination of high gear to prevent tire spin while also ensuring to shift down quickly to keep the wheels spinning rather than coming completely halt to the ground when you stop suddenly. Always begin your journey in second gear to avoid wheel spin. You should also maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front of you and anticipate hazards so that you may shift down and utilize engine braking instead of the foot brake to slow the car.

Dmitry Petrov

Dmitry Petrov is an engineer who specializes in materials science, and has a deep passion for all things related to automotive technology. He is a true motorhead at heart, and spends much of his free time tinkering with engines and studying vehicular dynamics.


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