How to brake and stop a car for the shortest distance possible

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How to brake and stop a car for the shortest distance possible
How to brake and stop a car for the shortest distance possible

The art of braking in a car is gradually being lost, innovation obliges. Indeed, most of the cars sold today are equipped with anti-lock brakes, ABS. The brake pedal is depressed, the vehicle slows down or stops without the need to do anything else. For your safety, it is important to learn to brake and stop in the shortest distance possible, while maintaining control of your vehicle.


Method 1 of 2: Brake and stop with ABS


Step 1. Firmly and gently depress the brake pedal

When you brake with a car equipped with ABS, you feel a certain vibration underfoot, sometimes surprising. Fear nothing ! These brakes behave exactly like this. Step on the pedal quickly, but gradually. You should not press all of a sudden and all the way. This is how you will have perfect braking. The goal is to get to the breaking point of the tire traction without going over it. Let's say it again: we don't press a pedal like a patient even if our vehicle has ABS!

  • The technique consists of depressing the pedal quickly and fully, while wedging your left foot well to the side so as not to be unbalanced.
  • When you have obtained sufficient deceleration, you can stop pressing the pedal and even lift your foot slightly, while maintaining good braking.

Step 2. Avoid braking and turning sharply at the same time

You have to brake and turn as gently as possible. Suddenly turning the steering wheel while braking and you just risk the swerve. How many dramatic accidents have taken place, because the drivers wanted to avoid a crossing animal and finally hit a tree or the car coming in front! Of course, when a child appears in front of your car, you have no choice but to suddenly turn the steering wheel. To anticipate these kinds of situations, it is a good idea to practice in a suitable place to see how your vehicle reacts in such circumstances. Here are some braking techniques.

  • Oversteer: this technique consists of turning while continuing to brake gently. The car then noses over, the pressure on the front tires is very high, the grip on the road as well, the direction control is maximum. It is a classic technique that should be mastered by all drivers.
  • Trail braking: this technique consists in appreciably delaying its braking point while prolonging its braking in the curve by literally “licking” the brakes. The load on the front axle is more important than a passage in a classic curve, the traction is better.
  • Emergency stop: if you have no other choice, you have to do a "pile", even in the middle of a turn. With an ABS, you have to press the brake pedal fully. Without ABS, you have to brake hard enough (70%) while turning the steering wheel.

Step 3. Engine braking is not intended for emergency braking

By nature, the gearbox has been designed to match engine speed to the circumstances of the road. Overall, it is mainly used to accelerate. Initially, it was not part of the braking system. On a semi-trailer, of course, it is different. The weight of the vehicle is such that recourse to the engine braking is necessary to accompany conventional braking. On a light vehicle, this is not necessary as long as your brakes are in good condition. However, there are situations in which it is prudent to use the engine brake: this is the case, for example, on steeply sloping sections of the road, especially if they are long and winding.

On a steep slope, using the brakes alone will overheat the discs and pads, which can lead to brake failure. With engine braking, you use less of your brakes, which will be even more effective. On the other hand, your engine is over-revving and therefore generates a lot of heat, which will be dissipated by the cooling circuit


Step 4. Focus on where you want to go

Don't think about what you want to avoid. It is very difficult to avoid an obstacle if you focus on it. However, the natural reflex is precisely to look only at the obstacle that one wants to avoid at all costs. What you have to do in a few seconds, but this requires prior training, is to locate on each side of the obstacle what are the possible escape routes and to know where you are with your braking, if you still have some slack. margin or not.

Method 2 of 2: Brake and stop without ABS


Step 1. “Crush the mushroom”

In the absence of ABS, you have to brake differently. You must firmly depress the brake pedal to stop, the braking is not multiplied. However, do not press down fully to avoid locking the wheels. Therein lies all the difficulty: finding the point of the race which allows good braking without locking the wheels. To give an order of magnitude, stop approximately 1 cm from the pedal stopper. If you press the pedal too hard, the brakes will lock up and your vehicle will run out of control.


Step 2. Brake just past the wheel lock

This is called the “braking point”: you then have the maximum braking. You should hear a low screeching sound indicating that you are losing maximum speed, but the wheels are still turning. If you feel the car changing course, the wheels are locked. You must then ease off, then brake again.


Step 3. Don't look at the obstacle you want to avoid

Look on each side of the obstacle for the possible escape routes. If you are mesmerized by this obstacle, you will be unable to manage your braking in your best interests. It is your braking that should retain your full attention.


Step 4. Rest your left foot on the passenger compartment post

Thus, you will protect yourself a little better in the event of a collision, but above all it will help you to better regulate your braking.


Step 5. Practice finding the braking point

This technique is a bit long to master, so you have to practice well beforehand, in an empty parking lot, for example. Likewise, as often as possible and when the road permits, practice braking hard and soft while on the move to fine-tune your braking techniques: this could save your life, if necessary.

  • During training, to clearly visualize the braking distances, with or without wheel locks, you can put marks on the ground. Place a start-of-braking mark and marks for each type of braking. Notice the differences and draw the necessary conclusions.
  • Another braking option: voluntarily block the wheels. Take your foot off the pedal to release the wheels, then brake again to the braking point. There is one of two things: either you will pass the braking point or you will find the correct position of the pedal. This is when you will see if you have acquired the technique.
  • Note: there is a braking point for each type of situation. Practice finding it on dry, wet, snowy roads…, at low, medium and high speed.


  • If the rear brakes brake more than the front ones, stop taking your vehicle. The ideal is to have brakes that are as effective at the front as they are at the rear. However, manufacturers adjust their vehicles to have a slight overbrake at the front. From then on, you understand that if it is your rear brakes that are locking, there is a problem. Don't take your car anymore. It must be repaired as soon as possible by a professional. Your mechanic will be able to suggest that you put differentiated fittings, more efficient at the front or less, at the rear. If the rear brakes tend to lock up, release the pedal a bit when braking. If you brake and the rear axle locks up, you could roll over.
  • If you notice a difference in braking between the front and the rear and you cannot do anything at the time (cleaning, replacement, etc.), you must know how to react. If the front brakes brake more than the rear ones, brake normally. The braking distance will certainly be longer, but there is no other solution.
  • The brakes sometimes need a good cleaning. No need to take them apart. Drive at high speed, 100-110 km / h, then brake sharply (safely) without locking the wheels. This should clean the mating surfaces of the linings and discs.
  • Practice in a safe place. Protect yourself, protect your loved ones and finally take care of your car, all of this will be better than knowing how to brake well. Be careful !
  • In the event of sudden braking, a more or less marked screeching is heard. This is a sign that you are at the limit of grip. The noise must not be amplified, otherwise it is off the road.
  • If your braking is unbalanced (the rear brakes are more effective than those of the front or the reverse), it is surely that it is necessary to change the pads or the discs.
  • On a road with less grip (gravel, snow, ice, etc.), you will not hear any screeching and the braking point will be much more difficult to locate. On such surfaces, it is best not to end up braking suddenly. Slow down and you will maintain control of the vehicle.
  • On a vehicle with a brake distribution fault (the left side brakes better than the right or vice versa), you must know how to anticipate and correct this hunting with the steering wheel. In any case, your vehicle must be repaired quickly.
  • To stop faster, you can also use the handbrake. The technique is simple: you have to lift the handbrake slowly at first, then more quickly afterwards. With practice, you can get there easily.


  • Repeated or prolonged braking over a short period of time and at high speed inevitably leads to overheating of the brakes. Braking is then much less effective, or even non-existent. If, during a long trip during which there has been a lot of braking, you notice an increase in the braking distances or if the brake pedal feels softer, stop and allow your brakes to cool.
  • Just because you have mastered these braking techniques now, doesn't mean that you should feel compelled to multiply sudden stops or to tighten the vehicle in front of you too closely. Drive carefully, keeping your safe distance from other cars and pedestrians.
  • Don't break the law! Obey speed limits, signs, orders from the police.
  • If you pass the braking point, you risk losing control of the vehicle. So you must always keep a minimum of grip with the road, if you do not want to go into the background. This is why we recommend that you read the 3rd step of the second part of this article carefully.
  • Always behave responsibly. Watch out for other vehicles, two-wheelers and pedestrians.
  • It may be obvious, but it is out of the question to exercise on the public highway. You have to practice at home if you are lucky enough to have a large enough space. You can also use a large empty parking lot (on a Sunday, for example).
  • In the event of emergency braking, the steering wheel may vibrate strongly. The brakes are said to "graze". The explanation is simple: it is about overheating of the brakes. When the pads are overheated, they fall apart and the residue sticks to the discs. This therefore happens after sudden braking, when the driver keeps the brake pedal depressed for a few seconds. The disc is at a very high temperature (because of the intense friction), any surface of the pad in contact with the disc decomposes and sticks to the disc. Result: here and there you have small, permanently attached clumps of garnish on your disc. When you brake again, they are the ones who “graze” the car.
  • During emergency braking, there is massive wear of the rubber of the tires. Who has never seen these black marks on the asphalt? Your four tires will no longer have the same grip, so have them checked to see if everything is fine.
  • It is out of the question, with an automatic transmission, to use reverse gear to slow the vehicle. You could stall, thus depriving you of the brakes and steering.

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