It’s easy to mistakenly think that your braking distance is simply the length of time it takes for your vehicle to reach a complete stop after you notice a hazard ahead. However, it would be more proper to call this your stopping distance, and it’s important to distinguish between the two.
When your brain first registers that there is a road obstacle to which you have to react, your vehicle will continue to travel in the time between this recognition and your application of the brakes. The distance covered here is the thinking distance, which you should add to the braking distance.
In doing so, you would calculate your stopping distance. Therefore, your reaction time would feed into this distance – and you can shorten your reaction time by improving your concentration, keeping distractions like mobile phones away and keeping an eye on your surroundings when driving.
However, this still leaves us to ask what affects your braking distance, the other part of the equation. Many factors have a lot to do with the car itself, as you can see from the list that follows. For each potentially problematic issue listed, we have also explained what you can do to improve it.
The car’s speed
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that, the more quickly a car travels, the longer before it stops once the brakes are applied. That’s another reason to keep within the speed limit at any given time. Helpfully, the Highway Code has provided examples of official braking distances.
According to these figures, driving at 20 miles per hour could leave you with a 6-metre braking distance. That would more than double to 14 metres if you were driving at 30 miles per hour – and the braking distance can be significantly higher still as a result of the vehicle’s speed.
For example, braking from a speed of 70 miles per hour would land you a braking distance of 75 metres. That’s a dauntingly high amount – and remember that numerous other factors could affect your vehicle’s braking distance as well, meaning that these figures are far from set in stone.
The brake pads and rotors
Your vehicle is likely to have a wear indicator – a piece of metal attached to the brake pad. As the normal pad material wears off with repeated use, the metal piece will touch the brake rotor and so produce a sharp squeaking noise, indicating that the brake pads must be replaced.
In this situation, you should arrange for them to be replaced as soon as possible – and, thankfully, if you live in Hampshire, you wouldn’t have to travel far to have them replaced at our repair centre. In the village of Horndean, we can carry out a range of skilled repairs, including to a car’s brakes.
We can also replace or machine the rotors if you notice excessively deep, circular indents or marks on them. Even what initially look like minor cracks or leaks in the pads can be a significant drag on your vehicle’s braking efficiency.
Therefore, once we have restored the condition of damaged brake pads and rotors in your own vehicle, you can eagerly anticipate your car performing to a much higher standard.
When were your car’s tyres last replaced? If it now seems like a distant memory, you have reason to be concerned, as the quality of your vehicle’s tyres can also affect the braking distance. On the road, the tread depth of your tyres should, in many cases, ideally exceed the legal minimum of 1.6mm.
This is an important point because, if the tread depth becomes too shallow, the tyres will lack the grooves crucial to providing grip during road journeys. Your tyres need to have the right level of pressure, too; fallen or imbalanced pressure will extend the braking distance.
To what extent? One Michelin tyres test has added some clarity to the issue, having revealed that, when you brake to drop your speed from 56 mph to 43 mph, even a fall of 1.0 bar in your tyres’ air pressure could lengthen the braking distance by 5 metres.
At Windmill Garage, we run special deals to help our customers to source a range of motor accessories, including tyres. However, tyres which you purchase through any of these deals will, for you, remain high in quality – and, therefore, not risk adding an uncomfortable amount to your braking distance.
The driving conditions
If you are interested in knowing more about how we can improve your car, please give us a call. Our number is 023 92571 003 – and, when you phone this, we will be happy to advise you on a range of issues. However, you can never hold the car itself entirely responsible for your braking distance.
Your driving behaviour also plays a crucial part. Hence, before you head out onto the road, you need to assess the terrain and weather conditions with which you will be faced on your journey. You should then make sure that you maintain a speed appropriate to these conditions.
This is a situation where you shouldn’t just take account of the speed limit. You should, for example, tailor your driving speed in reaction to treacherous weather like heavy rain. According to research, wet weather could double braking distances, while snow or ice could multiply them by 10. This can all prove rather sobering food for thought…