What Students in Auto Repair Programs Should Know About Engine Braking

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Did you know that it’s possible to slow down a car without using the brake pedal? Although the process works a little differently in diesel and gasoline-powered cars, the effect remains the same. When “engine braking,” the engine gradually reduces its output, slowing down the vehicle without the need to slam the brakes. Produced through clever manipulation of engine forces, this effect can make driving safer and reduce wear and tear on car parts.

Clarifying What Engine Braking Is for Students in Mechanic Programs

Engine braking can be understood by students in auto repair programs as a way for the internal processes of the engine to be used to gradually slow down the vehicle. In gasoline-powered cars, this happens when the throttle valve automatically closes as the driver takes their foot entirely off the gas pedal. This in turn restricts the intake of air into the engine’s intake manifold, creating a vacuum that the engine cylinders must then work against. The engine cylinders slow down as a result, which can be clearly felt by the driver while their car is coasting.

In diesel-powered cars, a similar effect is produced. However, in this case it’s the delivery of fuel into the internal combustion chamber that stops. It’s important to note, though, that this doesn’t create as strong of an effect as the vacuum created in gasoline cars, meaning that diesel-powered cars tend to “engine brake” to a lesser extent and coast for longer distances.

The Benefits of Using This Method to Slow a Car Down

While brakes will always be important—especially in emergency situations—many drivers will recognize the benefits of engine braking. The fact that engine braking slows the vehicle from within means it’s particularly useful in difficult driving conditions such as on frozen or slippery surfaces.

Engine braking can be particularly useful in slippery driving conditions
Engine braking can be particularly useful in slippery driving conditions

In addition, drivers with a good knowledge of the route ahead of them can also cut down on brake use by using engine braking to slow their car ahead of curves. This can reduce the amount of wear that grads of a mechanic program will observe on elements like brake pads. Many will also appreciate that, in the unlikely scenario where traditional brakes have failed, engine braking will eventually bring the vehicle to a halt.

Grads of Auto Repair Programs Know This Is a Safe Process

One of the misconceptions around engine braking is that adopting a driving style that incorporates this process will eventually cause some damage to the engine. This perception has likely sprung up due to the sounds associated with engine braking, which can include a ‘popping’ sound as the engine revolutions decrease.

However, modern engines are actually made with the knowledge that engine braking will regularly occur. This means that the elements within both gas and diesel engines have been designed to stand up to many thousands of instances of engine braking. As experienced mechanics and drivers know, engine braking can be used long-term without any fears of it worsening the overall wellbeing of the engine. In fact, it’ll benefit the car by reducing wear and tear on parts like brake pads.

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