Should You Brake While Turning?

As you approach a sharp bend on a narrow mountain road, you instinctively move your foot toward the brake pedal. But a nagging voice in your head gives you pause: should you tap those brakes mid-turn or is that asking for trouble?

It’s a question that has crossed every driver’s mind at some point. Braking while turning seems inherently dicey, but you often have mere seconds to decide in less-than-ideal driving scenarios. Before your next hairpin turn, let’s delve into this complex driving technique so you can navigate tricky situations with informed confidence.

Here’s a quick answer:

Braking while turning can be risky but necessary if speed needs shedding in an unexpected situation. Apply the brakes gently to avoid losing control. Lifting off the gas also scrubs speed. The best practice is braking before turns, not during, to maintain stability. Finesse and gradual input is key for balancing speed reduction with traction while turned.

The Cardinal Rule of Turns: Speed Is Your Friend

First, the golden rule of turning: maintain momentum. That means resisting the urge to brake as you enter a curve. Slowing down shifts weight forward, reducing grip on your rear tires right when you need it most. Hit the bend too slowly and you may struggle to hold your line, find yourself taking a wider arc, or require more steering to complete the turn.

Instead, the optimal approach is to brake before turning while still rolling straight. This allows you to scrub off speed, assess the corner’s sharpness, and set up for an efficient line without compromising stability. Lifting off the gas can also help balance your speed.

Got it? Great. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: those knee-jerk moments when braking during a turn is unavoidable.

When Braking Mid-Turn Is Unavoidable

Sometimes we lack the foresight to brake beforehand. Perhaps a surprise obstacle appears past the apex or the corner tightens unexpectedly. In these moments, a well-timed braking application can mean the difference between safety and calamity.

The key is finesse. Stomp the middle pedal aggressively mid-turn and you may overload those barely-gripping rear tires. But employ a delicate touch — squeezing then releasing for a brief second or two —and you can scrub speed while maintaining control.

Your Inputs Matter Too

Your other inputs play a role here too. Avoid sharp steering corrections, stay smooth and measured with your movements, and keep vision focused well ahead, not just a few feet in front of your hood.

And don’t forget the lessons from skid school: if you do notice those rear tires slipping in protest, quickly release brake pressure and look where you want the car to go.

When to Avoid Braking Altogether

Of course, some scenarios leave absolutely zero margin. Heavy rain or snow, fully-weighted SUVs, bald tires — these all lower the threshold at which braking while turning causes terminal loss of grip. In these cases, it’s best to do all slowing beforehand even if it means entering the corner hotter than you’d prefer.

Building Your Braking While Turning Chops

As with any advanced driving skill, the only way to truly calibrate your sense for braking mid-corner is practice. Seek out safe environments like autocrosses and advanced driving schools which offer wet skid pads and mini-courses purpose-built for honing car control.

Start conservatively, focusing on smoothness and learning where the limit lies. As your experience grows, consciously push that envelope slightly farther. Before long, you’ll acquire an innate feel for when and how to apply brakes mid-turn while avoiding peril.

A Tool For Your Driving Toolkit

Context matters most when deciding to brake during turns. Resist viewing it as intrinsically bad or dangerous. Instead, consider it yet another useful tool to shortcut those pesky written driving exams and help react to real-world surprises.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to summarize when braking while turning can potentially help or hurt:

SituationBraking While Turning?Why?
Sharp, constant-radius curveAvoidMaintaining speed assists turning
Decreasing-radius curve (tightens)HelpfulMay allow slowing upon realizing corner is tighter than expected
Slippery conditionsAvoidIncreased risk of losing control
Unexpected obstacles in curveHelpfulAllows shedding speed to avoid object ahead

As with mastering any skill, experience and practiced intuition are your best guides for nailing this balancing act. So next time an unexpected challenge arises mid-corner, hopefully now you can react with informed confidence instead of paralyzing indecision. And isn’t that what helps separate the truly skilled drivers from the mere mortals among us?

FAQ

1. Should I brake before or during a turn?

The best practice is to brake before entering a turn, while you’re still going straight. This sets you up better to maintain control and traction. Only brake gently during a turn if necessary, using finesse and care not to overload the grip of your tires.

2. Does downshifting help me slow down before a curve?

Yes, using engine braking by downshifting gears in a manual transmission vehicle can help scrub speed without using the brake pedal. This reduces strain on the tires right before turning.

3. What if I enter a tight curve too quickly?

Avoid slamming on the brakes if you realize you’re going too fast on entrance. Stay smooth on the controls and focus on your line. Shed as much speed as possible beforehand by coasting or downshifting. Lifting off the throttle can also transfer weight to the front tires and help steer through.

4. How do I recover if my rear slides out braking while turning?

If you feel the rear tires lose grip, quickly release the brakes to help regain traction. Look where you want the vehicle to go, ease off the steering, and avoid abrupt inputs until control is regained. Being smooth on the pedals and wheel is key.

5. Should I practice braking while turning maneuvers?

Yes, developing experience with regaining control and a feel for maximum braking grip while turned takes practice. Seek training programs that teach car control, like autocrosses, HPDE track days, or skid pad lessons. Start slowly and build competence progressively.

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