Dear Car Talk:
I'm in a long line of cars at a stop light. The car at the front of the line creeps forward. The next car does the same. It's my turn. The light is still red.
My concern is the brakes. My thought is that I'm using brakes unnecessarily, adding wear and tear to them and shortening their life.
I feel like once I'm stopped, I'm done; the brakes have done their job. And if I just sit there and wait until the light turns green, I'm saving my brakes from further wear.
My husband, on the other hand, feels that creeping forward, which almost requires riding the brakes, is not hurting the brakes at all and keeps the idiot behind me from beeping his horn.
What say you, Oh Great One? — Janeen
Janeen, you've made my day. It's been ages since we've gotten a letter in which a husband is actually right.
The wear and tear on the brake pads and brake rotors is directly related to how hard the brakes have to work. And how hard the brakes have to work depends on the speed of the car.
And the truth is, at one or two miles per hour, the speed at which you creep forward at a traffic light, the brakes are barely working at all.
In that way, they're very much like my late brother.
It's the equivalent of worrying about the wear and tear on your biceps from picking up a paper clip.
When you're trying to stop a 4,000-pound mass from 70 mph, it takes a lot of friction. And that friction is what wears away the pads and rotors. It takes very little friction to stop a car that's barely moving.
And here's another reason to keep up with the car in front of you: It helps you stay alert to when the light does turn green.
Have you ever been in this situation? You're at a red light, and the light turns green. But the guy in front of you is busy picking lint off his cashmere boxer shorts, and he doesn't move. Finally, you tap your horn, and he looks up, and realizes the light has been green for 20 seconds and there's no one in front of him. He floors it, and as he makes it through the light, the light turns red, and you're stuck again. Then you have to curse him and his progeny for all eternity.
Don't let that happen to you, Janeen. So, consider me pro-creep.