How to stop a car when brake fails

It is possible to master a defective brake while driving with the appropriate measures.

One step on the brake pedal and nothing happens – a horror scenario for many drivers. Fortunately, sudden brake failure like this is relatively rare. Nevertheless, it is important to know exactly what to do in an emergency. Lets look into possible causes of a defective brake and what to do in such a case.


Causes of brake failure

When the brakes fail, it is imperative to keep calm

First you should take your foot off the accelerator and immediately check the function of the brake pedal. If the brake pedal can be depressed completely, it could be that there is not enough brake fluid. A defect in the brake drums or the brake master cylinder can also be the cause in this case.

Try to carefully depress the brake pedal several times in a row to generate brake pressure

If the brake pedal cannot be moved, the brake system could be blocked. If possible, use one foot to feel whether something has become wedged under the pedal.

What to do if the brake fails

Apply the engine brake by shifting down a gear. Repeat the process and switch back further. Proceed with caution, because a sudden, hasty downshift in such a situation quickly leads to a loss of control over the vehicle. On vehicles with automatic transmission, you can use sport mode with gear selector or low range gear to decrease the speed.

You can also make a difference by pulling the handbrake slowly. However, the braking effect occurs comparatively slowly, since the braking force only affects the rear tires.

Note on braking with the handbrake

Applying the handbrake too quickly could lock the rear wheels. This is very dangerous at high speeds. Instead, make sure to gently regulate the brake pressure with the handbrake to prevent tire blockages. Slowly apply the handbrake and listen for the click with every pull. With every further movement, the speed of your vehicle will slowly decrease until, ideally, it finally comes to a standstill.

Maneuver the car so that nobody is endangered. Avoid obstacles while continuing to focus on slowing down. Switch on the hazard warning lights to signal to other road users that you are in a precarious situation. You may be able to sound the horn to increase the warning effect.


Braking with steering

If the brakes of your vehicle are defective, you can try to brake using the steering. To do this, steer your car in sweeping zigzag movements from right to left in open spaces or wide streets with little traffic. The distance that the car covers reduces the driving speed and it becomes easier to come to a standstill.

Such an approach is of course not possible on narrow or heavily used traffic routes.

Prevent faults on the brake

Brakes are one of the most heavily stressed components in any vehicle. Due to the natural wear and tear, the braking effect can be reduced considerably over time.

Vehicle owners are obliged to check the roadworthiness and safety of their car or to have it ensured by a specialist workshop. This also includes a regular brake check. The brakes should even be completely replaced in the following cases:

  • When the braking effect diminishes.
  • As soon as a metallic squeak or a grinding noise can be heard when braking.
  • If the brake pedal can be depressed too deeply.

Act correctly with a defective car brake

Even if it seems impossible: keep a cool head if the brake fails. With the help of the engine brake or the handbrake, it is possible to stop the car. If you feel that you cannot handle the situation on your own, call the police. They will help you on the phone to calm down and do everything right so that nobody is harmed.

Regular vehicle checks in a trusted workshop can increase your safety and that of other road users and help avoid dangerous situations.

Contact the author: carolray@wheelsjoint.com



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