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163 Abbotsford Road, Bowen Hills,
Queensland 4006 Australia.
Phone: +61-(0)7-3252-4039
Fax: +61-(0)7-3852-1808
Email: info@motorcare.com.au
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14 Quick Facts About Brakes


  • The power generated by the braking system of even a modest family car can exceed 500bhp (375kW), outstripping the engine output of virtually everything on the road.

  • The legendary Dunlop-developed disc brakes that helped Jaguar to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1953 were referred to in the press of the time as "plate brakes". The term "discs" came later.

  • The first production car with hydraulic brakes (ie using pipes and fluid rather than cables to activate the brakes) was the 1920 Duesenberg, an American luxury car with a "straight eight" engine. Chrysler brought the now universal feature to mass-produced cars in 1924.

  • Formula One racing is where the most advanced brakes are found. During 1997, German driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen recorded a force of 5.99G under braking. This is around six times the braking performance of a conventional road car and meant that Heinz-Harald’s 65kg body momentarily weighed nearly 390kg. To achieve this deceleration he had to push the brake pedal of his Williams-Renault with a pressure of 150kg.

  • Disc brake pads for a Formula One car cost $250 each and during the course of racing and testing a team will use around 1000 of them each season. That makes for an annual bill of $250,000 for pads alone. Then there are rotors, calipers, fluids and other components before you even start considering the things that make a car go rather than stop.

  • The first Holden to have disc brakes on all four wheels was the 5 litre V8 Torana A9X of 1977. This was quietly released to enable GMH to homologate parts required for racing. Only 500 A9X Toranas were built, including hatchback and sedan versions.

  • Holden’s HD model of February 1965 was the first Holden to offer the option of front-wheel disc brakes. Originally they were dealer fitted (from Girling) and cost $30. In May 1966 disc brakes became available as a factory-fitted option at a cost of $20, including a vacuum servo booster.

  • The Spirit of America land speed record car, which is trying to beat the supersonic record recently set by Britain’s Thrust SSC, does not have conventional brakes. The bullet shaped, jet powered record breaker, designed to drive on a dry salt lake, uses parachutes and an unusual sled device which is lowered against the ground to create friction.

  • The 1967 Porsche 911S was the first production car to feature ventilated disc brake rotors. Now common, these rotors have cooling channels running between the two friction surfaces to give better cooling and therefore better resistance to brake fade during heavy applications.

  • The Falcon and the Commodore models of the 1980s and early 1990s, which represent such a large percentage of the Australian "car park", all have a hub type rotor design. This means that the rotors are not just providing braking, but also supporting the car.

  • Modern braking components need exceptional wear resistance, heat resistance and exceptional stopping capabilities because - under extreme conditions - their operating temperatures can average nearly 350 degrees Celsius.

  • Harmful agents such as asbestos, lead and cadmium have been removed from modern brake pads. Today’s friction materials are complicated mixtures of fibres, fillers, lubricants and a binder resin. Designed for cast iron rotors, these are generally too aggressive for lightweight alloys. Less aggressive linings have been developed for this purpose, but practical aluminium or composite discs for everyday road cars remain in the experimental stage.

  • To improve noise suppression, smoothness and stopping performance, the mass of disc brake rotors has increased over recent years. The rotor for a typical Aussie "six" now weighs 12kg as a raw casting and about 10.5kg after machining.

  • Disc brake rotors were once considered one of the simplest parts of a car to manufacture. Not any more. With today’s sophisticated electronically monitored brake systems, tolerances need to be extraordinarily tight because the slightest shudder can confuse the car’s anti-lock braking system.

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