Descending US 441 from the Nice Smoky Mountains to Cherokee, there’s a set of steep hairpin curves. After the final 180-degree flip, it’s a principally straight 4-mile run from 4,000 ft of elevation to 2,700 ft on the Kephart Prong Trailhead. Close to the trailhead you’ll discover a bizarre metallic burnt odor. It’s from brake pads.
Unassuming motorists drive these miles standing firmly on the brake pedal. Coming into Cherokee, North Carolina one other 8 miles down the street, the brake pedal feels agency, however nothing a lot occurs anymore when it’s pressed. Smoke could also be rising from each entrance wheels.
To keep away from this overheated brakes situation, which is pricey to begin with and may be life-threatening in a crash, it’s necessary to understand how brakes work. Because the automobile travels downhill, it positive factors ahead momentum, or kinetic power. Vitality can’t be destroyed, solely transformed into one thing else. We convert it into warmth by making use of friction to a rotating steel disc (the brake rotor). Two steel pads with a particular lining squeeze the rotor from all sides. This rubbing impact on the rotor slows the automobile and generates lots of warmth. However there’s a restrict to how a lot warmth the pads can deal with. In a household automobile full of individuals and baggage, or a pickup truck towing a camper, the warmth restrict is reached simply on US 441 descending into Cherokee. When brake pads overheat, their friction lining softens and begins to soften. This makes them lose their braking energy, and it may change into troublesome to cease for the pedestrian crossing on the Mountain Enjoyable Gem Mine and Teepee Reward Store. Do-it-yourself automobile mechanics can purchase a pair of replacements for warped rotors, burnt pads and ruined calipers for about $400 to $900. As a restore job on the dealership, it’s prone to go properly into the 4 figures.
Stopping brake fade is less complicated in a automobile with guide gearshift, or on a motorbike. Shift into low gear and let the engine do a few of the braking. In an computerized, I prefer to brake and decelerate greater than wanted in every curve, then let the automobile slowly construct momentum once more till the following one. It additionally helps to take a purchasing break and revel in some Cherokee souvenirs whereas letting the wheels calm down earlier than persevering with on the pains of US 441.
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau College, instructing bodily and well being sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China. His column seems Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.