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Brakes By Land, Sea & Air

Types of Brakes By Land, Sea & Air

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As auto repair technicians that have experience on brake repair Chico, we talk about car brakes and truck brakes all the day long. Fix brakes this, brake repair that, who’s the best brake tech in the shop... it’s like it’s all we ever talk about. We’re almost sick of it, which got us to thinking... let’s talk about something else for once! So today we’re gonna talk about brakes, but for other vehicles! How does a plane brake? Do boats have brakes? All important and critical questions we intend to address here today. First though, let’s go over auto brakes again, real quick:

Auto Brakes

disc vs drum brake

There are two main kinds of braking systems in modern vehicles:

  • Disc Brakes, the most common

  • and Drum Brakes, which are more common for trucks than cars.

The primary difference between the two is that disc brakes use brake pads to pinch a rotating disc (rotor) to stop; while drum brakes have pads that are pushed outwards to rub the inside of a rotating drum in order to stop. Typically, both systems use hydraulic fluid pressure to push brake fluid through the brake lines and cause the disc-pinching calipers to move, or drum-pushing to happen, which induces braking.

Now that we’ve covered that again, let’s get to the new stuff!

Train Brakes

clamp brake used by trainsTraditionally, trains use something called “clasp brakes” in order to stop. These press against the external surface of the wheel. Think of it like a strong man pushing a rolling boulder to a stop with pure strength. Not sure if that’s helpful as an analogy, but it does kinda look and operate just like that… in a sense.

It’s also worth noting that due to running on smooth rails, trains have a lot less friction to stop with. Besides their weight, this is another reason they’re so hard to stop in an emergency.

Air Brakes

airplane deploying air brake

Slowing and stopping an airplane is quite an engineering feat. Fortunately, technology allows us to do this by way of powerful engines and air brakes that increase aircraft drag to reduce air speed. This is done via extension of fins or protrusions that break through the aircraft’s airstream and increase its drag (ie its pull against the wind).

In addition, most if not all planes these days use spoilers not unlike those seen on a drift cars or other race cars. This improves drag in order to reduce speed, but unlike the spoilers on cars, it doesn’t effect the lift as much. By contrast, a car’s spoilers use lift to push the vehicle down and thus increase drag. But changing the lift is not desired in a plane, so they’re not angled the same way as cars.

It’s not a perfect solution but it does work to decrease speed for controlled landing. In some cases- especially that of emergencies- a parachute may even be deployed to aid in reducing speed by, again, increasing drag. This was part of the “braking” system used for the safe landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery, for example.

Water Brakes

Boats don’t use traditional braking systems to stop. The way to slow or stop yourself in a boat depends on the boat, but usually requires reversing the propeller, dropping anchor, or attempting to steer against the water currents and wind. Fins and other physical protrusions can help- a sail pointed against the wind, for example- but usually don’t make a ton of difference in any kind of emergency braking scenario.

Since boats have to reverse their accelerators in order just to stop, that means their acceleration and deceleration is quite poor. It takes a powerful engine to “stop” (rather than brake) a sea-borne vehicle, but fortunately, we have those now. Building the boat to be light and hydrodynamic also makes a big difference, which is why most speedboats look like fairly similar.

To learn more about “How Ships Stop Without Brake?”, watch this YouTube video by Marine Insight.

Brake Repair in Chico

wheel rotor shown close up

Land, air, and sea brakes may operate a bit differently, but in many ways they operate on the same fundamental principle: friction slows speed (be that friction from metal on metal contact, or from air drag). In the case of boats though, I suppose force of raw resistance is key, but I digress…

Before we go, know that if you need auto brake repair service in Chico, you’ve come to just the right place! When we’re not arguing about whether or not fish can use brakes (they can’t), we’re fixing auto brakes instead. More the latter than the former, we promise.

Just remember: if you need brake service, give Tedious Repairs a call today!

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