Virginia Auto Service

How to Stop Safely When Your Brakes Fail

Do you know what to do if your brakes fail while driving? The difference could mean life or death.

The best thing you can do to prevent brake failure from happening to your vehicle is to perform regular maintenance per the intervals described in your owner’s manual.

Should a situation arise where you are driving a vehicle in which the brakes have failed, here are seven tips, provided by Allstate, to help you stop as safely as possible:

  1. Don’t Panic

This may be easier said than done, but keeping a clear head will be in your best interest when things go awry behind the wheel. Remain calm and proceed with the below tips and attempt to get your car off the road safely.

  1. Try the Brakes Again

Your vehicle most likely has a dual braking system, unless you are driving a classic car. Dual braking systems control your front and rear brakes independently, so both halves of the system would have to fail for you to lose all braking power. Unless you’re behind the wheel of a classic car, your vehicle likely has a dual braking system, which controls your front and rear brakes independently. As a result, both halves of the system would have to fail for your car to totally lose all braking power. Nonetheless, your car’s braking ability being reduced by half can be enough to make it feel unsafe, however, you may still have some stopping power. Try applying strong, consistent pressure to the brake pedal to see if you can slow the car down.

  1. Take Steps to Slow Down

According to Tech-Cor Research, if your main braking system isn’t working, one option is to very carefully employ the emergency brake. The emergency brake is separate from the main, hydraulic brake system, so it can help stop the vehicle when they fail. However, it will take the car longer to slow to a stop this way than it would with your traditional brake pedal.

Autoblog suggests keeping your foot off the accelerator and downshifting so that the engine can help slow the car down as another way to slow your car and help you stop. For manual transmissions, work your way down through the gears to slow the car down. For automatic transmissions, taking your foot off the accelerator will cause your car to shift to lower gears as it slows down. For newer cars with automatic transmissions that allow you to also drive them manually, you may want to use the paddle shifters (if available), which are levers on the steering wheels of cars with this feature, or put your transmission in manual mode and downshift to the lowest gear. Check your car owner’s manual for information on using your automatic car in manual mode.

  1. Work Your Way to the Right and Out of Traffic

Once you’ve slowed down, it’s critical that you get your car off the road to minimize the chances of getting hit. When you are on the highway or a larger road, you will first want to focus on getting your vehicle to the right lane safely so that you can work towards getting it off the road. Use your turn signals, and pay attention to the traffic around you. Once you get into the slow lane, make sure your hazard lights are on. Steer around any possible hazards and use your lights and horn to alert other motorists if needed.

Move to the shoulder, or somewhere safe off the road like a parking lot, and shift into neutral. Use your emergency brake to further slow the car, but be prepared to release it if you start to skid. If the emergency brake doesn’t help, look for other ways to stop. PBS.org recommends rubbing your wheels against the curb to scrub off speed or drive onto a soft shoulder to help you slow to a stop.

  1. Wait Until You’ve Stopped to Turn Off the Vehicle

You may reason that shutting off the vehicle will help it slow down, it is better to keep your engine running until you have come to a complete stop. Shutting off the ignition will also shut off your power steering, which will make your vehicle even more difficult to handle.

  1. Get Help

Once your car is safely off the road, you’re going to need some assistance. Do not drive the car again, even if the brakes suddenly appear to be working. Keep your hazard lights on, and if you have reflective triangles or road flares, you can also put them behind your car to make yourself more visible. Stay out of oncoming traffic, and avoid standing next to (or behind) your car if you can. Have the car towed to Virginia Auto Service for inspection and repair.

  1. Be Safe

Have your brakes inspected by one of our professional service technicians before you try to drive it again. Remember, you can also prevent problems before they start by having your car’s brakes inspected regularly.

If your brakes go out, knowing what to do could help prevent damage to your vehicle as well as serious injuries. If you are still a little unsure what to do in the event of brake failure, there are helpful instructional videos that can be viewed on YouTube.

At Virginia Auto Service, we love to help you with your vehicle and safety in any way we can. We hope you find these tips for stopping safely when your brakes fail helpful.  For high-quality auto repair services, give the experts at Virginia Auto Service a try. Call (602) 266-0200 or schedule an appointment online.

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