It’s quite possible that, even in the worst scenario, a driver would never imagine a moment when the car's brakes fail. All motorists sincerely want to believe that this will definitely not happen to them. However, this is a very real-life picture that everyone, even the most experienced driver, can get into. What should you do if your brakes fail unexpectedly, and how can you save not only yourself and your passengers but also other road users? Let's review some recommendations that will help handle the situation.
What Should Be Done in a Second After Detecting a Malfunction?
You have to act really fast. As soon as you realize that there are no more brakes, you must immediately notify all the surrounding traffic participants that your vehicle has become dangerous. Foremost, you should turn on the emergency/hazard signal so that the cars driving behind and in front of you are potentially ready for surprises. It's quite possible that the drivers around you will understand what's going on, and it's also important to honk in a hasty manner as often as possible to help them realize the situation.
At the same time, all passengers must be ordered to double check their fastened seat belts because the probability of collision with other cars or overturning is very high. If we speak about speed, it only takes 20 mph (ca. 32 km/h) for an unseated passenger to get seriously injured during driving.
In addition to the preceding actions, the driver should assess the situation and understand what to do for a quick emergency stop of the vehicle. If the situation happened on a climb, then it'll be enough to turn on the parking brake and wait for the vehicle to come to a complete stop. It's recommended to immediately find the nearest curb or fence if the trouble happened on a descent. Neither the parking brake nor the reduced gear will be able to completely stop the car on a steep descent. Wait for the car to slow down and slowly start to lean against the fence or curb. The force of friction in this case will work no worse than a functioning brake, and even a damaged car
body shouldn't bother you much because this is the best possible result.
Three Main Reasons for Brake Failure
In fact, there is a completely functional way for the driver's actions to be taken when the brakes fail under normal conditions. It's important to follow the instructions clearly and understand that hitting the roadside is a better option than crashing into a truck. Let's consider this nightmare scenario in more detail and review the driver's course of action.
One of the most common reasons for car brake failure is a low level of brake fluid. Therefore, if the vehicle doesn't stop when you press the brake pedal, release the brake and press again, and so on until the remaining fluid is pumped through the system. As a rule, after two or three presses, the brakes will return to their original parameters. After you normalized the situation and stopped in a safe place, don't forget to go to the service station immediately, check the brake fluid level, and top it up to the needed grade.
The second frequent reason why the car may refuse to brake is because of a foreign object that got stuck under the brake pedal. Most often, such items are plastic bottles that easily roll into the wrong place for them. Gently pull the bottle out with your left foot and press the brake pedal. A great piece of advice here is to never store objects that can roll freely around the car interior in the area of the driver's seat. This can even cause the braking system to fail eventually.
Breakage of brake hoses is a situation when it's no longer possible to return the brakes to working condition. The main sign of this damage is a brake pedal that has completely failed. To brake a car that has lost its main braking system, you can turn on a reduced gear, and on cars with an automatic transmission, use the handbrake. If the road conditions allow, rock the car to the right and to the left with as wide an amplitude as possible. The inertia of the speed will swing, and the car will start to stop noticeably.
What Not to Do When the Brakes Fail
First, don't panic. At least you have three options to effectively brake the car, and any panic will increase the decision time, which can be fatal. In situations like that, you remain face-to-face with the problem, and the sooner the correct decision is made, the sooner the vehicle will brake with minimal harm for both the driver and all the surrounding road users.
It's not necessary to immediately pull over at high speed. If you suddenly feel that your brakes aren't working, it can cause your vehicle to overturn, leading to injury or even death. If the road is smooth and clear, you are lucky to have enough time to collect your thoughts and make the right decision. The best option here is to brake slowly with the gearbox, after which you can safely call a tow truck and go to the nearest service station.
If a collision can't be avoided, it's better to hit the car that is driving ahead. Thus, the total speed when two vehicles collide will be minimal—from 6 to 20 mph (around 10 – 30 km/h). Having turned left into an oncoming traffic lane, you risk receiving the force of a frontal impact from 90 to 125 mph (150 – 200 km/h), which in any case will end badly.
Finally, always pay close attention to the technical state of your vehicle and monitor the condition of the most vulnerable car parts, including the brake system and brake pads. Remember that you’re responsible not only for yourself but also for other road users when driving. So, keep your vehicle maintained and your mind cold when you’re behind the wheel of an automobile.