Sunday, February 20, 2011

When Engineers Get Bored...

2009 VW Tiguan rear caliper (removed), illustrating servo motor

...they design things like electronic parking brakes, where through the miracle of technology, they replace perhaps $250 worth of handles/pedals and cables with well over $1000 worth of electrical switches, control units, wiring, and servo motors. That is, of course, if they don't also use cables, as in models like the 2010 Subaru Outback.

2009 VW Tiguan parking brake control switch (located in centre console)

Theoretically, an electric parking brake does allow certain things, such as automatic application when the vehicle is placed in park - none that I'm aware of will do that, even if many will release when the throttle is pressed. Auto Hold, as seen here, will hold the vehicle when you come to a stop (until you press the throttle) so you don't have to stay on the brake in traffic, as well as preventing roll-back on inclines. Didn't a manual handbrake also do those things?

Using a switch instead of a handle or lever also potentially frees up space in the centre console which... ...wait a second, the Tiguan's switch is where the hand lever would go. No space gained there.

Well, you do get some added coin storage, I guess, but look at how much coffee has already found its way into the switch due to the proximity to the cupholders. This would, at worst, make a handbrake handle sticky, but it could potentially spell intermittent operation or even death for these two switches, which are not likely cheap to replace.

Speaking of not cheap, when the time comes to replace the rear pads (with or without the rotors), you now need to command the parking brake servo motors open, which requires either a VW-capable bi-directional scan tool, or a specialized, purpose-specific control device, like the one seen below. There is no other way to do the job properly, and you can bet the shop's added costs in equipment will be factored into the job.

Strategic Tools' 30369600 VW/Audi EPB service tool

We won't even get into Volkswagen's corporate fascination with unusual fastener drive systems, such as the "triple square drive" bolts that retain the brake caliper bracket (and, it appears, the wheel bearing assembly too). Thanks for making me spend even more on yet another set of special sockets - they'll complement the metric Allen drive set that already gathers dust in my toolbox between German car repair jobs...

2009 VW Tiguan - rear upright as seen from inboard side

Shameless Self-promotion

Audi e-tron Concept (Frankfurt), front; A1 e-tron, rear

You can read my Wheels coverage of Audi Tech Day on Electromobility and the company's future electrified vehicle plans here. (The uncaptioned image seen there is the instrument cluster of the white Audi A1 pictured above.)

A picture of the R8 mule mentioned can be seen in my earlier post for my Wheels article about my Best and Worst (Automotive) Experiences for 2010 here.

2011 Audi Q5 Hybrid

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shameless Self-promotion

2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro

You can find my Wheels preview of Audi's 2012 A6 executive sedan here.