I am sure most of us have experienced a steep decline in a road where the only way forward to your destination is to follow the road down the slope ahead of us. Maybe you have come across a sign that has said: steep, change down. And some of you will have had the joy of taking a four-wheel-drive down some very steep declines and will know first hand that when negotiating a steep slope, it is best to do it in a low gear. Declines are places for drivers to make use of their lower gears so that the benefits of engine braking are met.
Engine braking occurs when a moving vehicle is controlled and retarded by the engine working against its own compression. Engine braking is achieved when the accelerator pedal is released and the transmission is in gear. Engine braking is very effective for holding a car back enough to keep the speed appropriate for negotiating a downhill stretch of road or track. It is much better and safer to rely upon engine braking and the brake pedal, rather than just the brake pedal alone and a high gear. Severe brake fade occurs particularly when a total reliance is made by the driver upon the brake pedal for negotiating a steep decline, rather than a combination of engine braking and brake pedal pressure. If serious brake fade occurs, things can become very dangerous.
When descending down a steep slippery slope off-road, it is always best to rely upon engine braking more than the brake pedal. This is because traction can still be found if the vehicle’s wheels are rolling. However, if you overcook the brake pedal pressure then the wheels can lock up, and the vehicle very quickly becomes out of control. The only way out of this one is to change up a gear, and look for a quicker descent with as much engine braking and traction as possible.We hope that helps answer the question ‘What is What is Engine Braking?’!
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