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What To Do If Your Vehicle’s Brakes Fail While Driving?

Cars on the road at night

December 3, 2020 Topic: Safety Tips

What do you do if your brakes fail while driving?

Have you ever experienced complete brake failure while driving? Most of us have not, mostly due to advanced technology fail-safes. However, the unlikely scenario is still possible. It is essential to know how to react if your brakes fail. The split-second decision could be lifesaving.

To help you prepare, we’ve created this guide with advice on what to do if your brakes fail while driving along with tips to prevent brake failure in the first place.

How to stop a vehicle that has total brake failure.

  1. Pump the brake pedal continuously.  This could build residual pressure in the brake system to slow the car, but will most certainly warn trailing traffic you are attempting to stop.  If you feel brake pressure return, gradually press the brakes until you come to a stop.
  2. Slowly and gradually pull or press down on your parking brake. Your parking brake is mechanical, not hydraulic, and will slow the car down from the rear wheels.  However, DO NOT activate your parking brake too quickly or forcefully, as your vehicle could spin out of control.
  3. If your parking brake does not work, you can shift into lower gears one gear at a time to slow the car down with the engine. This is called engine braking. If you have an automatic transmission removing your foot from the gas pedal will allow your vehicle to downshift. Some automatic cars have a paddle shifter that allows you to control what gear you are in which you can use to downshift. You DO NOT want to downshift too quickly, as it can cause your vehicle to skid out of control.
  4. Drive into the least hazardous area, not only for you but for other vehicles and pedestrians around you. You should prioritize avoiding injuries to yourself and others. If you do not have a safe area on the road to pull off safely, look for a grass median, open field, or bushes to help slow the vehicle.
  5. Don’t turn off your vehicle before you come to a complete stop. Turning off your vehicle will turn off your power steering, making it much harder to control. Some vehicles will cause your steering wheel to lock, giving you no control of your direction.
  6. When the vehicle has come to a stop, place it in park with the emergency brake on and not attempt to move it.
  7. If you or anyone else is injured or there are significant damages to your vehicle, call 911. If no injuries or damage occurred, call a tow truck.

Worried about your brakes failing while driving? Brakes To Go will evaluate your brakes for free, anywhere in the Austin and Dallas + Fort Worth areas. Schedule your evaluation today, or call (tel:1-844-625-2757) and get a quote.

How can you prevent brake failure?

For your safety and car’s health, it’s better to prevent brake failure through routine maintenance than fix the issue after it occurs.

Most brake failures are due to vehicles losing brake pressure. Brake pressure is most often lost when a caliper is overextended because the brake pads and rotors are too thin. This happens when you go too long without replacing your brake pads. Your rotors should not need to be replaced nearly as much as your brake pads. You should aim to replace your rotors between 50,000 and 70,000 miles.

The other most common hydraulic issue is master cylinder failure. If you feel your brakes gradually becoming weaker and weaker, you should have your vehicle serviced to ensure you don’t have a faulty master cylinder. 

Here are some signs your master cylinder may have an issue:

Brake fluid loss due to breached brake lines will also cause brake failure.   Maintaining your vehicle will ensure you don’t develop brake line leaks.

Brakes To Go can help with any of these problems. Our inspections are free! And proper maintenance of your braking system is the only way to ensure safety.  Even though brake failure is rare, you can be ready in the event this happens to you.

Request a free brake inspection as preventative maintenance and ensure your brakes are safe to drive with. If your brakes fail while driving, follow these steps and contact us immediately — we can come to you and provide on-site repairs in about 45 minutes.