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Just what is the best way to brake, when headed towards a red light?

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Dear Tom and Ray:



If one anticipates stopping at 100 yards when the light ahead turns red, should one continue at speed and then press firmly one time when near the light to stop, should one intermittently and repetitively press firmly to slow down incrementally, or should one ride the brakes with light pressure, or coast to gradually slow down and then stop if the light remains red or accelerate if it turns green? Does it damage the brake lining or brake cylinders to coast with continuous light pressure or "ride the brakes"? -- Gerald

RAY: When you see a red light 100 yards ahead, Gerald, the proper thing to do is take your foot off the accelerator, and start coasting to slow down. Continuing to accelerate once you see a red light ahead just wastes gas.

TOM: Then, when you're a reasonable distance from actually having to stop the car, apply the brakes gently so that, if possible, you come to a stop right at the light, without ever having to change the amount of pressure you put on the brake pedal.

RAY: In other words, if you push the brake pedal 25 percent of the way down, ideally, keeping it pressed 25 percent of the way down should bring you to a complete stop exactly where you want to stop. That means you've braked perfectly.

TOM: That's the ideal, anyway. Don't be afraid to adjust the brake pedal and push harder if you've estimated wrong! But in general, you want to brake as gently and smoothly as possible.

RAY: Why should you do it this way? So your passengers don't get carsick, or bump their heads on the dashboard.

TOM: Well, those are very important considerations. But it's also better for the car. When you brake suddenly, you put stress on lots of other components. For instance, you cause the car's nose to dip, which makes the suspension work harder. And you can overheat the brake rotors, which leads to warping.

RAY: Plus, you surprise the cars behind you, which is never a good idea.

TOM: So, start coasting when you know you're going to have to stop, and then brake as smoothly as you can, using gentle, constant pressure. Your brake and suspension guys may miss their next boat payments, but your passengers and fellow drivers will thank you, Gerald.
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