Brake failure is a situation nobody wants to experience while driving, especially at high speed.
But what if it happens?
What should drivers do in case of a brake failure?
Whether you’re a truck driver or a car driver, you should know how to stop safely in the unfortunate event of brake failure.
It’s also essential to know if your vehicle has anti lock brakes or regular brakes, so you know how to react appropriately. If you see an illuminated ABS light when you start your car, you have anti lock brakes. If not, then you have traditional car brakes.
This Article Contains:
- What Should Drivers Do in Case of a Brake Failure?
- 4 Symptoms of Impending Brake Failure That You Shouldn’t Ignore
- 4 Brake Failure FAQs
Let’s brake it down.
What Should Drivers Do in Case of a Brake Failure?
No one wants to experience sudden brake failure while driving.
However, should you find yourself in that situation, here’s what you need to do:
1. Stay Calm and Take Your Foot Off the Gas Pedal
Staying calm is very important. Panicking may endanger you or others, so remember to keep your head clear. First, take your foot off the gas pedal and firmly hold your hands on the steering wheel. Your end goal should be to pull over safely.
2. Turn on Your Hazard Lights
If you’re still in control of your vehicle and the roadway is relatively clear, turn on your hazard lights and honk your horn.
Why is this necessary?
It’s to warn others around you. Even if they don’t fully understand what’s happening, they’ll know to steer clear of your vehicle.
3. Try to Pull Over
Once your hazards are on, move toward the right side of the road, if possible.
Important: Watch out for oncoming traffic while doing so.
4. Downshift Your Vehicle (Slowly)
If your brakes are still unresponsive after testing them again, slowly start downshifting to a lower gear. Whether you have an automatic transmission or manual, downshifting into a lower gear allows for engine braking.
Downshifting helps prevent your car from skidding as it engine brakes. Since you’ll need engine braking and power steering working for you, don’t put your car in neutral or shut it off.
5. Keep the Car Running Until You Stop
As mentioned, keeping the engine running until you reach a complete stop. Turning the ignition off will shut down your power steering, which makes the vehicle more difficult to turn or even locks the steering wheel into place.
You should turn off your vehicle only once you safely pull over and completely stop.
6. Pump Your Brake Pedal
Drivers with regular brakes (not antilock brakes) should try pumping their brake pedal quickly to build up brake fluid pressure in the brake line system. If the brakes still aren’t working, you should use your parking brake (but not if you’re still at speed, and we’ll explain why in the next section).
However, if your vehicle has antilock brakes (ABS), press the brake pedal hard and hold it. In emergencies, the ABS pumps the brakes much faster than the driver ever could.
7. Gradually Apply Your Emergency Brake
If none of the above methods help, try your parking brake. Your emergency brake could be a pedal or a hand brake. Don’t abruptly pull the brake, especially if you’re driving at high speed, as your vehicle could spin out of control and roll.
8. Use Your Surroundings
If you’re going too fast, you might have to scrape your car to create friction to slow it down. Only consider this as a last option.
To avoid a car crash, approach the highway guard rail or divider at a shallow angle and gently rub your car against it. The friction of your car rubbing on the divider should slow your car down.
You can also use an open field with grass or dirt to slow down.
9. Call for a Tow Truck or Mobile Mechanic
Once the vehicle has stopped and you’ve applied your hand brake, do not drive your car with failed brakes. Instead, call for a tow truck and have your vehicle taken to your mechanic for inspection or call mobile mechanics, like AutoNation Mobile Service, to come to you.
Now that we’ve covered how to stop safely with failed brakes let’s look at what symptoms could point to potential car brake failure.
4 Symptoms of Impending Brake Failure That You Shouldn’t Ignore
There are a few warning signs that point to a brake issue you should mention to your mechanic. These include:
1. Bad Brake Noises
If you hear squealing, grinding, or scraping while pushing on your brakes, it may be time to contact your mechanic. These noises stem from worn brake pads or rotors.
2. Irregular Movements
If you have warped rotors or defective brakes, your car might shake or veer to the left or right.
3. Increased Stopping Distance
If you notice you take longer to brake, you might be experiencing brake fade, worn-out brakes, or brake fluid leaks.
4. Warning Lights
You should check an illuminated brake warning as soon as possible. The light could get triggered for multiple reasons, including a defective brake booster, a faulty light from your rear brakes, damaged brake calipers,or a disconnected brake line.
Remember to watch out for the above warning signs to catch defective brakes early and have them sorted. You should aim to avoid possible car brake failure.
4 Brake Failure FAQs
Let’s dive into four frequently asked questions about brake failure.
1. Why Do Brakes Fail?
Brake failures usually happen because of a loss in brake pressure. There are several issues that can interfere with the functioning of your brake system — most of which stem from poor maintenance practices:
- Brake fluid leak
- Worn-out brake pad
- A blocked brake master cylinder
2. How Do I Prevent Brake Failure?
Routine maintenance can help prevent brake failure, rather than trying to fix the brake issue after it occurs.
Here’s what you can do to kick poor maintenance habits:
- Regularly replace your brake pads, and check your master cylinder, brake fluid pressure, and oil seals.
- Aim to replace your rotors between 50,000 and 70,000 miles. You don’t need to replace them as regularly as a brake pad.
- If your car brakes gradually weaken, have your vehicle serviced to ensure your master cylinder is functional.
- Loss of brake pressure due to worn-out brake pads causes brake fade and eventually brake failure, so always pay attention to how your brake feels.
- To prevent problems, regularly have a professional inspect and maintain your car. Regular visits with your mechanic allow you to catch failing brake symptoms early.
3. What is an Escape Ramp?
Truck escape ramps are traffic tools used on steep grades to slow high vehicle speeds in emergencies. These ramps bring runaway vehicles to a stop using momentum-halting media—gravel or sand—and an incline.
They’re usually for emergency use by a heavy-load truck driver to avoid causing a truck accident.
Runaway truck ramps can help slow any vehicle and prevent a car accident. Therefore, regular car drivers can use the escape ramp when experiencing a brake system malfunction in heavy traffic.
4. Does My Car Insurance Cover Accidents Caused by Braking System Failure?
You’re probably wondering if your insurance would cover an accident caused by a malfunctioning braking system. Well, if you’ve invested in comprehensive car insurance, you should be protected against any accident.
Vehicles experiencing brake failure are more likely to cause an accident. To prevent an unfortunate outcome, stay on top of regular maintenance.
At AutoNation Mobile Service, our services are available seven days a week, with upfront pricing, and we have a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty.