Have you ever wondered exactly how the brake system works on your car/bike/ATV?
I might be the only one...
Well, whether you've ACTUALLY had that thought or not, I'm going to use this blog to dig into the history of the mechanism that keeps us from plowing into things!
Looking back into the annals of history, we can see that the very first brakes used were actually wood blocks that would produce friction against the wheels or axles of the old buggies and horse drawn carriages. With horses, the driver would simply have to say "Whoa!" and pull on the bridle and with a wagon with more than one horse, sometimes the wagon needed it's own stopping power.
Once automobiles were produced, they had to come up with a better way to stop the vehicle, especially so once the Michelin brothers introduced rubber tires in the late 1890s!
With the introduction of rubber tires, the wood block brake became obsolete. They found that it would grind down the rubber and destroy the tires, so that idea had to go!
Luckily for the people with money, Louis Renault developed the mechanical drum brake in 1902.
It's considered to be the foundation for the modern braking system.
However, the first, or among the first, to think that a cable-wrapped drum anchored to the vehicles’ chassis could be used to stop momentum was Gottlieb Daimler. He created this first concept of the drum brake in 1899.
In 1901, Wilhelm Maybach designed the first Mercedes with a simple mechanical drum brake. He used steel cables wrapped around the drums of the rear wheels and operated it by a hand lever. (But it was Louis Renault who was credited with inventing the drum brake that has become the standard for cars.)
In 1918, Malcolm Loughead (who later changed his name to Lockheed in 1926) proposed a concept of a four-wheel brake system using hydraulics. Using cylinders and tubes, Lockheed used fluids to transfer force to the brake shoe when a pedal was pressed. It required much less effort for the driver to apply brakes.
The hydraulic system became the go to standard for many cars, trucks and bikes.
Interestingly, Ford was the last automobile manufacturer to switch from a mechanical braking system to hydraulic in 1938.
As for Disc brakes, which we all know so well from our motorcycles and dirt bikes, they were invented decades before they became popular! A gentleman named Elmer Ambrose Sperry designed an electric car with front-wheel disc brakes built by the Cleveland Machine Screw Co. in 1898!
In 1902 an English engineer named William Lanchester patented the design. I don't know if he gave credit to Elmer, but he should have!
He had a problem though, he used copper brake linings moving against a metal disc and it produced a terrible screeching sound.
Apparently people put up with it for five years because it was in 1907 that another British man named Herbert Frood fixed the issue by applying asbestos to the brake linings. Asbestos was used by car companies up until the 1980's.
In the world of motorcycles, the earliest ones didn't have brakes at all! Once you got the motorcycle going, you relied on slowing your bike down and sticking out your legs to get it to come to a halt.
It wasn't until 1902 that Steffey Motorcycles of Philadelphia, came up with one of the first systems that allowed riders to slow or stop a motorcycle. Steffey used a steel plate that rubbed on the tire to slow the bike down. He only put it on the front wheel, which I'm sure seemed logical at the time. It seemed to work well for them, considering that the "motorcycle" they were using was a Hartford bicycle frame with a small capacity engine mounted in it.
The Steffey was generally considered to be the first motorized bike to use brakes, but after that, other manufacturers started coming up with their own designs.
By the 1960s, the manufacturers had developed very powerful internal expanding forms of shoe brakes. But as braking efficiency improved the greater power generated a lot of heat. This caused brake fade. British manufacturer AJS first came up with a solution for this by developing a conical hub with cooling fins.
Disc brakes had been developed on race cars in the mid-1950s but it wasn’t until 1962 that the first system was used on two wheels. The Lambretta TV175 Series 3 Scooter lays claim to be the first to be equipped with disc brakes.
Once Kevlar was developed in 1965 by the chemist Stephanie Kwolek, who worked for DuPont, manufacturers started taking notice of it's multiple uses.
EBC and other brake system manufacturers started using it for their pads. It works for some circumstances, but there are other times when sintered is better or even ceramic!
So there you go, a little history of how we have come to have brakes on our vehicles.
I'm just glad that we have them, could you imaging having to use your feet to brake with today's motorcycles? Ouch.
If you need brakes for your dirt bikes and ATVs, you know where to go!
Magic Motorsports has a huge stock of pads and rotors for practically all the major makes and models.
Swing on by or give us a call and find out!
See ya soon!