Experiencing a brake failure while driving is a frightening situation, but knowing how to respond can make a significant difference in your safety. Here’s what you should do if your brakes fail while driving:
The first and most crucial step is to remain calm. Panic can impair your judgment and make the situation worse. Take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand.
Downshift (Manual Transmission)
If you are driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, downshift to a lower gear. This can help slow the car down gradually and take some of the load off the brakes.
Pump the Brakes
Try pumping the brake pedal rapidly and firmly several times. Sometimes, a brake failure may be caused by air in the brake lines or a temporary loss of fluid pressure. Pumping the brakes may build up enough pressure to slow the vehicle down.
Use the Emergency Brake (Parking Brake)
Gently engage the emergency brake (parking brake). Pull up or push down on the emergency brake lever or pedal slowly and steadily. Do not yank it, as this could cause your vehicle to skid.
Downshift (Automatic Transmission)
In an automatic transmission vehicle, shift the gear selector into a lower gear if possible. This will also help slow the vehicle down gradually.
Look for Escape Routes
Keep an eye on the road ahead and look for a safe place to pull over or an escape route, such as a parking lot, shoulder, or side road. Signal your intentions to other drivers by using your turn signals.
Use Engine Braking
If you cannot downshift or the emergency brake doesn’t work, use engine braking by turning off the engine. This should only be done as a last resort because it will also disable power steering and power brakes, making it harder to control the vehicle. However, it can help slow the vehicle down.
Sound the Horn and Flash Lights
Honk your horn and flash your lights to alert other drivers to your situation. This can help them give you space and avoid collisions.
Brace for Impact
If all else fails and you cannot slow down the vehicle enough to stop safely, prepare for a collision. Look for a soft obstacle, such as a bush or a pile of soft materials, to aim for, and try to steer the vehicle in that direction to reduce the impact force.
Remember that prevention is critical to avoiding brake failures. Regular maintenance, brake inspections, and fluid checks are essential for ensuring your brakes are in good working condition. If you experience a brake failure, your safety and the safety of others on the road should be your top priority.