“Hydraulic” brakes in Sim Racing Pedals are not hydraulic nor meaningful beyond a buzz word

Sim Racing Technology

The SimRacing pedals market has a number of new product entrants since the demise of Cannon Simulation Technologies (CST) a couple years back, and SimCraft’s Tilton PRO set is one of many newer options to consider.   But there seem to be two sides, or two schools of thought, when it comes to how to recreate the feel of real racecar braking:  using some combination of mechanics and pressure sensitive load cell technology, or, incorporating a hydraulic system that also incorporates pressure sensing.

This debate is not about sensing, clearly, since both approaches utilize a pressure based system of reading the driver’s input.   In short, the harder the brake pedal is pushed, the more brake that is applied in sim.  This approach is universally recognized as superior to a linear sensor method where the position of the brake pedal is what dictates the brake input.

What is at debate is the recreation of feel, and so the topic is more about mechanics than anything else.

The SimCraft Tilton PRO set utilizes an adjustable mechanical system to recreate feel.  A spring and rubber combination mounted to the top side of the vertically mounted load cell allow for literal and exact adjustments of travel and pressure ratios to whatever you want them to be.   The turn of a nut precompresses or uncompresses the spring to adjust for travel, and for a greater level of customization, the spring and rubber contents can be easily switched out with alternate components.   Lighter or heavier springs, softer or harder durometer rubbers.   Various lengths and sizes, all in 3 minutes time.

Hydraulic systems utilize fluid power.   Hydraulics are especially useful in real world braking systems because of the amount of force required to slow down a multi-thousand pound car with the momentum of racing speeds.  The relatively small pressure of the driver’s foot on the brake pedal is multiplied through the hydraulic system to contact the calipers and brake pads to the rotors.   The rotation of all four rotors matches that of the tires and wheels, and at racing speeds, the amount of inertia is substantial.   Friction of the brake pads on the rotors leads to slowing the car down but at the cost of substantial heat, glowing red hot rotors and boiling hydraulic brake fluid; the effect of substantial and sudden energy dissipation.   This is what happens in the real world.

But a sim doesn’t have the same need, does it?  There is no momentum or inertia that might require a mechanical system designed for such force multiplication.  It should be noted that the reason this multiplication occurs is fluid power.  Fluid power is made possible by a hydraulic pump, which forces the fluid through the hydraulic system, and an electric motor that drives the pump.  Are SimRacing pedals that claim a “hydraulic” brake even hydraulic?  If so, can you point out the hydraulic pump and the motor that drives it?

So why use a pseudo hydraulic “system” in a SimRacing brake?   There is no hydraulic pump or electric motor in any of the “hydraulic” brake pedals on the market.  Additionally, there are no rotors, or calipers, or pads.  There isn’t any friction, or heat dissipation, and certainly there is no boiling brake fluid.  Arguably the most important point to make about “hydraulic” brake pedals as they relate to SimRacing is there is no adjustability or customization of feel.   You cannot manipulate the ratio of travel and stiffness of liquid.   While you can add a spring loaded travel adjustment to the pedal, remind me again about the reason for the “hydraulic” system in the first place?

In conclusion, “hydraulic” SimRacing brakes exist purely for marketing purposes.  There is nothing wrong with this in concept, but please recognize your argument about realism isn’t justified because of a buzz word, and half of a system taken from the real world.  The concept for a sim is to try and recreate the real world, virtually.   This idea does not always require that we utilize components from the real world however.  Would a gasoline powered PC make your sim more realistic?

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