Hard stops can take a toll on your brakes

It often seems like drivers can be lumped into two broad categories when it comes to braking at a stop sign or traffic signal. There are those who slow gradually until they come to a stop, and there are those who maintain their speed until they are almost at the white line before braking.

People from the former group have no doubt been stressed out when riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone from the latter group. As the vehicle races toward the intersection with no sign of stopping, they'll pump an imaginary brake, grip an armrest, or shout at their companion to stop driving like he or she has a death wish.

Hard braking can bring you to a halt in a hurry, but it's best to leave this type of braking for emergencies. Frequent aggressive stops won't just stress out your passengers, but can also harm your vehicle's brakes.

Drivers who have just bought a new vehicle are often advised to avoid hard braking for 100 miles or more after the purchase. Braking causes friction, and more aggressive stops can generate extremely high temperatures. Jack Erjavec, author of the 2003 textbook "Automotive Brakes," says uncured resins used in the manufacture of brake pads can reach a boiling point and rise to the surface of the pads. Once they cool, the resins will cause glazing and the brake pads may not work properly.

High temperatures can also have a harmful effect on the brake rotors. Tom and Ray Magliozzi, of the NPR program "Car Talk," wrote in 2012 that rotors will start to warp under frequent exposure to excessive heat.

Hard stops won't just affect your brakes. Think about how slamming on the brakes causes any loose items in your vehicle to fly forward. Inertia will try to move other components of your vehicle forward as well. Springs, mounts, and other items will all be put under greater strain.

According to Claims Journal, a 2015 study by Progressive Insurance determined that hard braking was a predictor of future crashes. This behavior was associated with more aggressive driving, such as speeding and tailgating, which in turn resulted in a higher probability that the driver would be involved in a crash.

For this reason, several insurance companies that offer tracking equipment to monitor drivers' behavior will measure incidences of hard braking. If you use this equipment to try to lower your insurance rates, frequent hard stops might have the opposite effect.

The best way to avoid hard braking is to be more prudent about when you need to apply the brakes. Always scan ahead to see if there are any upcoming red lights or stop signs. Mac Demere, writing for the automotive site Edmunds.com, says you can simply take your foot off the gas and coast when a stop is approaching. This will safely reduce your speed, which in turn means you'll put less strain on the brakes when you apply them.

It is also important to leave a safe following distance between your vehicle and the driver in front of you. Other drivers can sometimes slow down unexpectedly in areas such as hills and sharp curves. Tailgating will force you to brake hard during these speed changes and will also increase the possibility of a collision.

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