AutosUnlocking the secrets of engine braking: the technique that eases wear on your car and wallet

Unlocking the secrets of engine braking: the technique that eases wear on your car and wallet

Skillful engine braking allows you to save fuel and brake pads.
Skillful engine braking allows you to save fuel and brake pads.
Images source: © Autokult | Marcin Łobodziński

9:23 AM EST, January 7, 2024

While engine braking is relatively simple, it requires a subtle understanding of the vehicle's mechanisms and responses to various factors. To apply engine braking, one has to remove the foot from the gas pedal without switching gears. An essential rule to remember here is the lower the gear, the greater the vehicle's deceleration.

For instance, shifting from fifth to fourth gear will decelerate the vehicle if we are going down a hill. Switching to third gear will create an even more significant slowdown, but one must be cautious not to rev the engine too harshly, as it can result in expensive repairs. Therefore, it's vital to thoroughly understand the vehicle, consider its specific gear ratios, and skillfully adjust the speed depending on the gear and road conditions, such as the slope of the road.

Moreover, in modern cars, no fuel is supplied to the cylinders during engine braking, making the ride effectively accessible. The exceptions apply to older car models that use a carburetor for fuel delivery. There is no fuel economy in these cases, which might make these drivers skeptical about engine braking.

Regardless, it's beneficial to utilize the engine braking technique, as it can reduce the wear of brake pads. This is particularly handy in mountainous terrain, where there's a risk of overheating the entire brake system during the descent, depending on its condition and efficiency.

However, one should be mindful that inefficient engine braking can be detrimental. Excessive, abrupt engine braking, for instance, by decreasing the gear by two or more, can result in high clutch strain, leading to quicker wear and tear. This could also negatively affect the condition of the flywheel, which is purposed to minimize vibrations.

Another facet to consider is safety, especially in rear-drive vehicles. Though most newer vehicles are equipped with the ESP system, which moderates an overactive rear axle, vigilance should always be upheld. The rear axle might skid in reducing the gear on a slippery bend or a road scattered with loose material. Electronics can aid to an extent, but common sense is indispensable. After all, even the most advanced electronic systems cannot defy the laws of physics, which are unyielding.

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