Brake failure is one of the worst problems that can happen on a car. No doubt about it.
You don’t know what’s worse in that case, the fear or the possible outcome.
Well, if this happens for some reason, this article will give you some tips to perhaps overcome the challenge easier.
It would be good to read this just in case and have it in mind in case of an emergency.
If you’re interested in what could cause problems with brakes, click here to read our article dedicated specifically to that topic.
Besides this, you can also watch the video on our YouTube channel where you can find other useful car and driving tips.
BRAKE FAILURE -WHAT TO DO WHEN IT HAPPENS?
1. STAY CALM AND DO NOT PANIC
The first and by far most important tip is to stay calm, don’t panic, and try to keep the situation under control.
A swift and thought-out reaction is key for getting out of trouble in case of a brake failure.
This is easier said than done since every one of us will get scared and panic to some extent.
But if in any way possible, keep your focus and above all keep your eyes on the road.
Otherwise, you may lose control over the car and get yourself into even more trouble.
2. TURN ON THE HAZARD LIGHTS
The moment you notice a brake failure, turn on the hazard lights.
This will warn everybody else in traffic that something’s wrong and most importantly, let them know they should keep a distance from you.
At the same time start slowing down, go into a stop lane, or search for some sort of safe place to be able to slow down and stop.
3. SLOW DOWN AND KEEP YOUR FOOT OF THE ACCELERATOR PEDAL
To slow down, first start by taking your foot off the gas pedal.
Next, if you drive a stick shift, while the car is slowing down start to downshift. Go from a higher to a lower gear and as you’ll see this will also help immensely.
For automatics, depending on the gearbox, you can also do some sort of downshift, just be careful what you’re doing so you don’t damage the engine or gearbox in the process.
4. PUMP THE BRAKE PEDAL
If your brake pedal isn’t working (which is the most common case) if you don’t feel any pressure on it or if it’s soft, then try pumping it.
Try pumping it hard and fast a couple of times. This way you may be able to achieve some pressure and get some additional braking force.
Even if the pedal has totally sunk to the floor, try pulling it back up with your foot and then pump it again. Try to do this a couple of times.
5. USE THE HANDBRAKE
For the last and most effective tip: use the handbrake but in a specific way that we’ll show you.
This is why the handbrake is also called an emergency brake. It’s a redundancy system in case the main brake system fails for some reason.
Most importantly when the brake failure happens, do not pull the handbrake violently. If you do this will surely cause a loss of control over the car.
Instead, do this: press the release button on the handle of the handbrake, keep your finger on it, and slowly pull the handbrake lever up.
Keep the release button pressed all the time, both when pulling up and lowering down.
This will enable you to engage the rear brakes at your convenience and slow the car down. Also, you’ll be able to release the wheels at a moment’s notice.
All of this is much like using the brakes on a bicycle, the basic principle is the same.
Essentially this way you are in full control of the rear brakes instead of the braking system and instead of using the foot pedal.
By doing this carefully, you can successfully stop the car. It takes longer but it will do the job.
Once more on this part: when using the handbrake in case of a brake failure avoid sudden jolts of the handbrake and use it carefully.
If you have problems with the handbrake, click here to see some common reasons for this mishap.
Once more: when a brake failure happens, turn on the hazard lights, start looking for a safe place to slow down and pullover, keep your foot off the gas pedal, downshift, try pumping the brake pedal, and use the handbrake wisely to fully stop the car.
In real life all of this is done in a couple of minutes provided you stay calm, don’t panic, and stay in charge of the situation.
For the end, one more piece of advice: the moment you notice any, and I mean any anomalies with your brakes, check it out. Do not postpone and wait.
Also, do the brake maintenance according to the manufacturer’s schedule or how your trusted mechanic advises.
This will certainly help prevent this problem if not avoid it at all.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com