Threshold Braking: Definition and FAQ

Mar 08, 2023

Side-view of a car wheel.

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Everyone has seen the hyper-impressive moves of drag racers. From Finnish flicks to crazy braking techniques, it makes car enthusiasts curious if they can try these out for themselves. One well-known motor racing strategy is limit braking, also known as threshold braking. Learn everything you need to know about this killer method of pushing your car to the limit.

What’s the Definition of Threshold Braking?

Threshold braking wants to test the limits of your brakes literally — drivers press their brakes with a progressive force, trying to make the car stop as fast as possible. Drivers may attempt this and have their wheels lock up, but there are ways to avoid this. 

It’s not as simple as putting the driver’s weight on the brake pedal. You must know the precise force to apply that your tires can handle, so every car could be different when trying to limit brake. 

Drivers formed this technique to optimize race times. Slowing before turns dampens a solid clock time, so the racers got creative. Threshold braking allows drivers to reach decent speeds before a turn while sliding into it gracefully without putting too much damage on the car.

How Do You Apply the Brakes for Threshold Braking?

Braking in a way that allows drivers to speed up to a turn sounds ideal, but how can drivers master this technique?

First, drivers will want to discover the car’s limits. They can practice on an open, flat area and braking at increasing speeds. It’s crucial not to stomp on the pedal but swiftly press it down faster than a standard brake, and let up at the end slightly to minimize intensity. Doing this repeatedly will allow drivers to notice the subtle differences in how the car reacts. You will inevitably lock up your tires a few times. Eventually, you’ll find the perfect balance between speed and pressure without losing control and friction.

Other influences like humidity and tire quality could factor into even the most seasoned driver’s ability to threshold brake. Excessive practice will definitely affect your tread, so take good care of your tires before pushing them too hard on the track.

How Does it Compare to ABS or Cadence Braking?

Now comes the question that’s burning in every driver’s mind — by definition, is threshold braking better than anti-lock braking systems (ABS) or cadence braking? There’s some debate, especially as cars become more technologically advanced.

ABS uses sensors, and threshold braking is all manual operation. If your car could automatically adjust the pressure, so the wheels never exceed their threshold, why would you try to limit brake on pure intuition? This is the argument of drivers who prefer ABS because it’s a matter of convenience, consistency and efficiency. However, manual threshold braking could slow the car down slightly faster.

So, what about cadence braking? Here, it comes down to the terrain. Cadence braking requires drivers to press the brake pedal in a stuttering rhythm, and it’s ideal for icy and wet surfaces, so there’s a balance of speed without compromising control. Cadence braking could be better if the scenario is right, but threshold braking will work better in almost every other track.

Threshold Braking to Test Your Car’s Limits

Drag racers and car enthusiasts alike have played with brakes to get around tracks faster. The threshold breaking definition accentuates this ideal. Knowing about threshold braking is helpful for more casual drivers, as it’s also useful in emergencies. Threshold or limit braking might sound like it’s just for racers, but it’s fascinating to see how drivers become familiar with their vehicles and how far they can push them.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.