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Emergency Tips: What to do if Your Brakes Stop Working

When your car’s brakes fail, it is important to know what to do to protect yourself and others. Whether you are on a highway or just a back road, this is a scary situation that no driver wants to face. Unfortunately, brakes wear out and, on occasion, they can stop working properly. If you ever find yourself in this situation, follow these tips to protect yourself.

Steps to follow
The most important thing to do in any emergency situation is to keep calm. Take a deep breath and try to rein in any panic you may be feeling. Staying calm allows you to think clearly and make smart decisions.

When you first realize your brakes are not working, there are a few things you can try to get them working again. Defensive Driving suggested shifting into a lower gear and then trying to initiate your brakes. Pump your car’s brake pedal to help build brake fluid pressure.

In case this does not work, your next priority is to get off of the road. If you are on a highway, try to get into the breakdown lane. Turn on your emergency lights so that cars around you know that there is a problem. As you switch lanes, make sure to use your blinkers to alert oncoming traffic of your movements.

Keeping your car in a lower gear will help to slow it down faster. Make sure you do not apply any more gas. The National Safety Council recommended drivers switch gears to neutral and then coast along the side of the road while applying the hand brake. After gradually slowing down, your car should come to a stop along the road.

An important thing to remember, according to Esurance, is to never shut off your car while it is still moving. If you do this, you will lose steering power and be unable to control your situation.

Watch for signs that your brakes are worn down
As you drive, it’s important to be in tune with your car. You should know what is normal for it and what is not. J.D. Power and Associates listed signs of brake wear to be on the lookout for.

  • Less responsive brakes – You may notice that your brakes are not as sensitive as they normally are and that you have to push down harder on the pedal to get the response you want. J.D. Power and Associates reported that this could be a leak in the brake hose or in the brake fluid.
  • Grinding noises – If your brakes grind or make a strange noise when you press down on them, it is time to get them replaced. This can be caused by the brake’s disc and caliper rubbing against each other.
  • Vibrating pedal – When you drive, if your pedal feels loose or is vibrating, this is a bad sign. It means that your rotors may be warped. It is also a sign of vehicle misalignment. Your wheels may need to be realigned.

Take preventative measures
The best thing to do is to ensure that you are never in a situation where your brakes fail, which you can do by keeping your car in top shape. Bring your car in to your local auto repair shop for a tune up on a regular basis. If you feel that your brakes might be wearing down, don’t hesitate to get them repaired.

Keeping your car well maintained could save a life.

"Emergency Tips: What to do if Your Brakes Stop Working" (2014, August) Precision Tune Auto Care. Retrieved from http://www.precisiontune.com/emergency-tips-what-to-do-if-your-brakes-stop-working