Like most drivers, you’ve thought about the terrifying possibility of driving down the interstate and suddenly not being able to stop your car. And, like most drivers, you’ve put it out of your mind, hoping it never happens to you.
But did you know there are precautions you can take help prevent failing brakes? And did you also know there are maneuvers you can learn to safely stop a car without working brakes?
Causes of Brake Failure
Several problems can cause your brakes to fail, so preventive maintenance is important. Some of these issues to look for before your brakes become a problem are:
Overheated Brake Pads
Defective or Worn Out Hoses
Have your mechanic thoroughly inspect your brake system regularly to help prevent brake failure. Replacement of worn-out or defective parts is always preferable.
How Do I Know if My Brakes Are Going Out?
Sometimes, despite preventive maintenance, your brakes may still fail. Knowing the warning signs may help you offset a potentially dangerous situation. Pay attention if you experience:
Irregular movements when stopping. If your car pulls to one direction while braking, this could be a sign that one of your brakes is out.
Odd noises like grinding, scraping, or a high-pitched squealing.
Inability to stop as quickly as usual.
Warning Lights. This is an obvious indication that something needs attention.
Is It Bad if Your Brake Pedal Goes to the Floor?
If your brake pad is going all the way to the floor, this needs to be addressed immediately. This problem can be the result of several things:
Brake Fluid – Your issue could simply be low brake fluid, but have your mechanic refill your fluid and check for leaks.
Bad Booster – Brake boosters amplify the force from your brake pedal. Working boosters are crucial for stopping time.
Master Cylinder – If you aren’t losing brake fluid, the master cylinder is your most likely culprit. This cylinder compresses brake fluid to give you ample stopping power.
What Should You Do if Your Brakes Suddenly Give Out?
So what do you do if you do find yourself in the dangerous situation of brake failure? The one thing you don’t want to do is panic. Sure, easier said than done, but if you read the following guidelines and learn them, it will help you not to panic.
How Do You Slow Down a Car Without Brakes?
First, downshift into a lower gear.
Whether your vehicle is manual or automatic, you can gradually shift from Drive down into a lower gear. This uses your engine’s power to slow your speed.
Do this a little at a time, matching the engine’s RPMs. Once the RPMs have slowed, shift to the next lower gear. This will begin to slow you down for the next steps.
While your engine is slowing, keep your eyes open for a clear shoulder, median, or other open stretch to avoid other vehicles.
Second, put on your emergency flashes.
This lets other drivers know you are having a problem and may provide you with more space and maneuvering room.
Third, do your best to navigate out of traffic and into a safe space.
Use your horn if necessary.
Fourth, start slowly and gradually applying your parking or emergency brake.
This brake is separate from your hydraulic brakes. It will take much longer to stop the vehicle this way, so the key here is to go slowly.
You want to gradually stop your car, not cause it to skid or lock up. Continue until your car is completely stopped.
Fifth, put your car into park and take a deep breath.
You did it! Now call for help, and don’t attempt to drive the vehicle.