What is Engine Braking?

Using a brake is a massive part of driving. Whether you’re approaching a stoplight or going down a huge hill, we always depend on our brakes to work properly. However, while we typically use the footbrake to slow down, there’s actually another braking tactic that many drivers don’t think about—engine braking.

Engine braking can be a great tool while on the road. It can lead to greater efficiency and longer-lasting brakes, including several other benefits. While many people believe using the engine brake is bad for your Ford truck, the opposite is true—it’s actually very beneficial for your ride.

In this article, we’ll discuss more about engine braking, including:

  • How it works
  • The benefits
  • When to use this brake
  • How to use the engine brake
  • Where to find exceptional performance parts

Keep reading to get started!

What is Engine Braking? Engine Braking in a Nutshell

In simple terms, engine braking involves using your gears to slow down. The driver lifts their foot off the accelerator pedal and shifts down on the gears. While this was common years ago, fewer drivers follow this braking method today. This is due to the invention of disc brakes.

Disc brakes are very powerful, allowing drivers to slow down quickly without much effort. However, engine braking is still beneficial, and some drivers still use it today.

In the average vehicle, engine braking works by limiting the amount of airflow in the engine, allowing it to decrease the speed of the rotating wheels. Once you take your foot off the gas pedal, this will close the throttle body valve, meaning less airflow in your engine. This causes a drop in energy, leading to less power and slower rotating wheels.

Benefits of Engine Braking 

Many people never use engine braking because they believe it can damage the truck. However, that isn’t the case at all—it can actually provide a number of advantages.

Take a look at the top benefits of engine braking:

1. Increases lifespan of brakes

A vehicle braking system depends on friction for slowing down. As time goes on, this process creates a great deal of brake pad wear. Furthermore, your rotors will also get worn. This is where engine braking can help.

When engine braking is combined with normal braking, this reduces brake pad wear and leads to longer-lasting parts. As you won’t have to apply your footbrake as hard, this creates less wear on your pads and rotors—leading to a longer lifespan on your braking system.

While engine braking can always be used, it’s most beneficial on long trips through the mountains or hills. As standard braking when driving down steep slopes can cause your brakes to overheat, engine braking significantly takes off the pressure. Also, while standard braking can damage your system, engine braking leads to less heat and less wear—resulting in longer-lasting brakes.

2. Improves fuel consumption

Whenever you hit the brake pedal, you’re still using gas. However, engine braking is a different story. When you try engine braking, your truck actually stops consuming fuel. This leads to using less gas and having fewer trips to the pump. Not only can this save you money, but it also leads to less wear on your truck. While engine braking won't save you thousands, it can certainly add up over time. If you make engine braking a habit, you will notice some hefty savings down the road. Be sure to always engine brake on those long trips through the mountains.

3. Quicker ability to brake

When you’re on the road, stopping quickly is essential. You never know when you need to stop on a dime. However, using just the foot brake isn’t the quickest way to stop. But when you engine brake while hitting the brake pedal, this makes you stop faster—which could be the difference between life or death. While you can always use engine braking, it’s best when driving downhill.

4. Added control of vehicle (safety benefit)

Driving can put you in some dangerous situations. That said, it always helps to stay as safe as possible. If you consistently practice engine braking, this can lead to better control on the road, especially when driving downhill. As normal braking causes excessive brake pad wear, it also results in less control as a driver. But when you shift to a lower gear right before a descent, you control the speed through the engine and not just in the brakes. This significantly lowers the chance of the calipers overheating or failing altogether.

Best Instances for Engine Braking


Engine braking can provide several impressive advantages. However, you want to know the best time to use this driving tactic. Below you’ll learn more about the best instances to use engine braking:

Downhill descents

Not many drivers realize this but driving downhill can be brutal on your truck. This is especially true for people who hit the brake pedal hard. By letting the car slow down on its own and switching to lower gears, you can significantly reduce brake pad wear and put less pressure on your brakes altogether. If you’re driving downhill for long periods, it’s essential to never overuse the braking system. As the truck is moving downward, the momentum increases, and the car moves faster. This means more braking power is needed to stop the vehicle, creating excessive wear and tear.

When you approach a decline, always make sure to lower your gears. This allows for less friction and pressure on your brakes, possibly saving you from an accident or costly brake problems. By switching to third or second gear, your vehicle stays at a steady speed. This leads to less brake pad wear, long-lasting tires, and a safer experience on the road.

To reduce brake wear

The brakes on your Ford truck aren’t cheap. That said, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure your brakes last as long as possible. While there are some maintenance tips to keep in mind, the best way to increase your brake’s lifespan is to use them as little as possible. The less pressure you put on your braking system, the longer your brakes will last.

When the braking system is kicked into gear, friction helps to slow the vehicle down. Over time, this process leads to significant rotor and brake pad wear. This is why it makes tons of sense to incorporate engine braking into your driving habits. If you drive downhill and constantly put pressure on your braking system, your brakes can eventually overheat. This can leave you in a life-threatening situation. Not only can it cause an accident, but it can also damage your braking system! If you want to stay safe and extend the lifespan of your brakes, engine braking is the way to go.

Emergency – brake failure

Engine braking can also be extremely useful when your brakes fail. In this instance, you’ll want to lower your gears until the car stops. This is the most efficient and safest way to stop the vehicle. 

If you find that your brakes have failed, you’ll want to stay calm. Many drivers don’t realize it, but you can stop a truck in only eight seconds after brake failure.

First, you want to take your foot off the accelerator pedal. Then, pull the manual handbrake about halfway up. Pulling it all the way can cause you to lose control. After hitting the brake, shift your gears down one by one. This will significantly help you slow down until coming to a complete stop. If your brakes ever fail, understanding how to engine brake can save your life.

Engine Braking While Towing

When you’re towing something, this creates tons of weight on the road. If you hit the brake pedal, this puts a great deal of pressure on your braking system, which can lead to a dangerous situation. To stay safe and limit brake pad wear when towing your cargo, it’s a good idea to practice engine braking. While driving a standard vehicle can lead to excessive wear on your braking system, this can happen even faster when towing. And not only can your brakes wear down faster with a trailer, but they can also overheat much more quickly. When brakes overheat, this typically happens on semis and other heavy vehicles. This is when engine braking is even more important! The heavier the vehicle, the more you should use engine braking. It can save your brakes and even save your life.

How to Engine Brake


Luckily, engine braking is easy to learn. If you’ve never done it before, it may take you a few tries to get it down.

Take a look at the following steps on how to engine brake:

  1. When trying to slow down, take your foot off the accelerator pedal. 
  2. Shift down to a lower gear, such as third or second.
  3. Use the clutch-and-brake technique to come to a stop.

When you try this for the first time, it may not be easy. But as with most things, practice makes perfect. If you continue to practice this driving habit, you can stay safe and do what’s right for your Ford truck.

Contact Specialty Performance Parts Today

After you’ve learned more about engine braking, it’s time to beef up your ride! Here at Specialty Performance Parts, we’re happy to offer industry-leading custom accessory solutions for your Ford F-150, Ford Raptor, and more. From light kits and superchargers to running boards and exhausts, we have exactly what you need for your Ford truck.

To learn more about engine braking, or to talk about one of our exceptional products, contact Specialty Performance Parts today. We can help you build the Ford truck of your dreams.