How to do engine braking

How to do engine braking
Michael Fernie 5 years ago
Blog

The Ins And Outs Of Engine Braking

Here's a quick low-down on how engine braking occurs in petrol and diesels engines, along with where it can be utilised!

Remind me later
Share Tweet Email Whatsapp
How to do engine braking

The art of engine braking can either be a help or a hindrance when driving, exploiting the suck, bang and blow of internal combustion in an inverse form. Experienced when acceleration has stopped and at 0% throttle, engine braking can be used to slow a car down as much as possible in tandem with the brakes. Engine braking can make coasting while off the throttle slightly frustrating as it saps your road speed at a rate that needs further throttle input down the road. But it does have its uses, so lets take a look at how engine braking occurs and how it works in petrol and diesel engines.

Petrol engine braking

Video via YouTube channel Morozov Automotive

In its simplest form, engine braking occurs in a petrol engine when the throttle is released. When the throttle pedal is actuated, a butterfly valves opens at the engines intake, allowing air to enter the intake manifold to be mixed with fuel for combustion. So when the throttle is released, this butterfly valve shuts, allowing only a very small amount of air through to the engine.

This sudden closing of the airway forms a vacuum within the intake manifold which produces an opposing force to the pistons reciprocating within the engine. Imagine placing your finger over the end of a football pump and then trying to move the plunger upwards - a large opposing force formed by a vacuum within the cylinder will mean that the pumping piston wont shift much at all.

How to do engine braking
The inlet manifold houses the resultant vacuum once the throttle valve is closed

The effort that the pistons have to exert to oppose the manifold vacuum saps energy from their reciprocation, forcing them to slow down and thus rotating the crankshaft slower, reducing road speed. This braking is therefore emphasised when engine speed is high as the large amount of air previously entering the cylinders is suddenly shut off, creating the vacuum that opposes a higher rotational force from the cylinders.

On top of the vacuum element, a minimal amount of engine braking is also achieved by friction between the moving parts of the engine. Although the oil system provides a more than suitable amount of lubrication to make sure the moving components dont end up welding themselves together due to heat, there is natural friction between every moving piece of the engine as they interact with each other. This friction has a negative influence on the positive energy of the moving engine, thus stripping rotational energy from the crankshaft and braking the engine.

Diesel engine braking

How to do engine braking

Unfortunately, diesel engines dont have a throttle valve, so instead they use an exhaust valve that closes during the exhaust stroke of the engine cycle. Back pressure is then created which fights back against the motion of the pistons, slowing them down.

Another method used within diesel engines in through something called a jake brake; this is a device that uses a rocker arm to open the exhaust valve at the top of the compression stroke which allows a small amount of air to disappear off down the exhaust manifold instead of being fully compressed and then ignited. This results in a reduction in volumetric efficiency of the engine and therefore a decrease in power. Despite these two methods, diesel engines are much more efficient at coasting down the road off throttle due to the lack of reverse force that acts against the pistons in comparison to the powerful vacuum created within a petrol engine.

Jake brakes are popular on large vehicles and can sometimes be banned due to the noise they create during the engine braking process. Video via YouTube account stealthwavef22raptor

Engine braking has its real world advantages, one of those being on-road safety. That extra braking force will always help a car to slow down quicker and - if used regularly on purpose - it shows that the driver is aware of their surroundings and is in-tune with the capabilities and behaviour of their car. Your brake pads and discs will also thank you in the long run, as they have to scrub off less speed than if the clutch is disengaged and all stopping force is isolated to your brakes.

Another scenario where it has its advantages is when the ground is covered in snow. Instead of applying any sudden braking which can cause a sudden loss in friction between the tyres and the road, engine braking can be used to provide a much smoother reduction in speed.

How to do engine braking
Next time you're out and about, try some well-judged engine braking to give your brakes a rest!

Engine braking can resemble an art form if you are fully aware of the road ahead and can be implemented into daily driving with a bit of concentration and good judgement. Although to some extent it shows that the internal combustion engine is inherently working against itself, its good to know that your powerplant has a potential helping hand to give you if needs be. And to be honest, if you have a fairly meaty exhaust system, theres nothing better than cutting off that air supply to the engine with a simple lift off the throttle, letting the revs slowly tick down in diminuendo of crackles and pops.

55 comments

Sort by Best Sort by Latest
Show Comments
Recommended
How to do engine braking
Blog Why We're Giving The 'Warm' Suzuki Swift Sport A Second Look
How to do engine braking
Car Throttle Submit Your Videos To Get Featured On Our Social Channels
How to do engine braking
Blog I Put 'My' Mazda CX-5 On All-Terrain Tyres Because Why Not
How to do engine braking
Blog BMW G80 M3 Vs M340d: The Precision Tool Vs The All-Rounder
How to do engine braking
Blog What Are Petrol Particulate Filters, And Why Do They Make Cars Sound Worse?
How to do engine braking
Blog 5 Things I've Learned From Driving A Suzuki Swift Sport 3,500 Miles In 2 Months
How to do engine braking
Blog Wheeler Dealers: When Is The New Series, Who Are The Presenters, And Why Edd China & Ant Anstead ...
How to do engine braking
Blog I Took My Mazda CX-5 Off-Road, So You Don't Have To
How to do engine braking
Blog I'm Driving An SUV Now, To Hell With The Haters
How to do engine braking
Blog The Places In The World Where You Can't Pump Fuel Yourself