What to do If Your Brakes Fail While Driving?
The modern car is curated with great care and futuristic technology to ensure that you are never in a near-death experience. While most of the car components give a fair warning before crashing completely, the brake is an exception. Though the advance make and model of most vehicles make the brake failure episode almost an impossible one, it is very essential to know what to do if your brakes fail while driving.
If you experience the fleeting moment when you realize that your brakes aren’t working, or are simply preparing for a rainy day, it is good to know that you need to act on a split-second to save yourself from the impending doom. Some lucky of us might face this on a deserted road, but if you’re from the unlucky slot, it becomes even more difficult to navigate through the failed session. As a car enthusiast, I get the ‘what do you do if your brakes fail’ question a lot. And I would like to put this article out there for anyone who might be looking for some solutions.
Let’s take a look at some of the measures you can take when you have a brake failure.
What to do if your Brakes Fail While Driving?
Here are some of the split-second life-saving points to help you through the scariest part of driving a two-ton metal machine – the brake fails!
1. Accelerate No More!
It’s the most obvious thing to do, but you would be surprised how many people forget to do it. When your brake fails, it takes you in a state of shock and paralysing fear which translates into pushing into the accelerator like never before.
The first step to do is to take the foot off the gas as soon as you realize the brake has given up on you.
2. Give out Clear Signs
Like I mentioned before, the lucky lot face this situation on a deserted road, but for others, here’s a tip for when your brakes fail while driving; Make yourself heard/seen.
The first thing to do when your brakes fail is to make yourself seen and let others know that you have lost control over the vehicle. Put on your hazard lights as a warning for the passerby. If you’re moving to the emergency lane or away from the traffic, make sure you signal before doing so. If your hazard lights are not very visible, use the horn to grab the attention of the other drivers.
The brakes aren’t working, but you can try to reduce the speed of your car by putting it in a lower gear. This is done to decrease the momentum and gain more control over the vehicle. You might experience a startling sound when downshifting, however, that is perfectly fine as long as you’re changing the gears gradually, one at a time. Don’t do straight for the lowest gear!
Try to maintain the red line on your rev counter, and change the gear without exceeding the red line. With a manual gearbox, this means going through the number one by one to arrive at the 2nd gear as most vehicles do 60-70 mph at that gear.
With the newer automatic cars, use the sequential gears and put them in L. For the electric version, bring the gear to B. If you have a car that caters to a slightly different model, learn beforehand what can be done to reduce the speed in case of a brake failure.
DO NOT put the gear on neutral as that would take away the engine’s ability to brake and you would end up being in a very frightening situation.
Also Read: How Does a Car Brake System Work?
4. Pump Up the Brakes
The moment you realize you are going through a brake failure, all hope might drain out of you. But wait, with modern vehicles, there is always a way to find some back up to bring the vehicle to an eventual halt.
Pumping the brakes is essentially done to find the last bit of strength in the system, hoping it would be enough to bring it to a stop. Pumping the brakes fast will lead to the brake fluid pressure build-up and will wake up the brakes from the dead. The idea is to pump it up a few times before pressing on the brakes firmly.
The good news here is that modern vehicles and technology use the dual braking system, which gives separate power to the front and rear brakes. This translates into the fact that you might have lost just half of the braking power instead of a complete failure. Of course, even losing half the ability to stop the car is a terrifying moment, but at least all is not lost.
Pumping the brakes might allow the other half of the brake system to bring the car to a stop. For antilock brakes, press heavily on the brakes while you continue to steer. As for the standard one, use short taps to pump the brakes. On your net car brake replacement, ask your mechanic the kind of brake your car uses.
5. Emergency Brake for the Emergency Situation
The best answer to what do you do if your brake fails is that you use the emergency brake. It might seem like the quickest and most convenient option but you have to keep a few things in mind lest you end up spinning and losing the leftover control of the car.
Pulling the handbrake or the emergency brake at a high speed can send the car spinning or overheat the brake, rendering it useless. It is advised to use the emergency braking system after you have managed to bring your car to around 15-20 km/h and then pull the brakes. Since the handbrakes are designed to work on the rear wheels only, you might want to go slow and careful with this one.
The emergency brake is separate from the main braking system and hence works even when the main brakes fail. However, keep in mind that the emergency brake might take a longer time to bring your car to a halt. To ensure that your emergency brake is working at all times, opt for brake repair with your regular service.
6. Take the Power Away
Not the greatest tip, but coupled with others, this might actually work to slow down the car.
Turn on our air conditioner after setting it to the coldest setting and the highest fan speed. The idea is to occupy a couple of kilowatts of power, leading to a drag on the engine. We mention the air conditioner because it takes away the maximum from the engine, but you can turn on all the other accessories for an enhanced drag.
7. Steer Yourself to Safety
Once you have successfully slowed your car, it is very essential to get away from the main road to avoid getting hit, especially if you’re in the middle of the highway.
You cannot exactly bring your car to a halt in the middle of the road, which is why it is suggested to move towards the right lane. Make sure you use your signals and pay attention to the incoming traffic, taking care of any possible hazards. Use your lights and horn to make your presence known and seen.
8. Resistant Stop
This could be one of the last resorts that you apply to bring your vehicle to a stop. It entails a few damages to the car, but in the end, your life matters more than a few dents and scratches. Moreover, you can always bring your car to a service centre to get it back to being new.
One of the ways to create friction is my gently and slowly rubbing the wheels against the kerb. Of course, it isn’t the greatest tip for your tyres or alloy wheels, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The same can be done with concrete barriers if you’re on a highway.
The other way to stop the car is using the grass verges to create the required resistance or simply use hedges/bushes to bring it to a halt.
Avoid any rough or tall stone walls as your vehicle is most likely to spin or flip which isn’t the kind of solution we are looking at.
Make sure you attempt the resistance stop once you are a little further away from the traffic and have enough open space to do the deed safely.
9. No Turning Off!
The best advice I have ever gotten to the question of what to do if your brakes fail while driving is that you never shut off the engine. It might seem like the most plausible action when things are getting out of control, but once you shut down the engine, it will lock the steering and make the vehicle more difficult to turn.
Once you have managed to bring your vehicle to a halt, you can switch off the engine and call for help. Opt for a car brake service and get the car towed to the nearest car service centre. To avoid such situations, never miss your scheduled repair and maintenance.
This brings us to the end of our article on what to do if your brakes fail while driving. I hope this has prepared you enough if faced with a similar situation. If you have any question or doubts, feel free to comment below,
And for more such articles, keep watching this space.