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How To Handle Brake Failure

One of the most frightening things that can happen while driving is experiencing sudden brake failure. You may step down on the brake pedal when approaching an oncoming stop sign only to witness zero difference in speed. In many cases, these situations can end up a lot worse than they need to because the driver did not know how to handle brake failure properly.

Prevent Brake Failure From Occurring

You can never be 100 percent certain your brakes will always work, but you can drastically reduce the likelihood of brake failure by taking your vehicle in regularly for maintenance. Have certified technicians examine the brake pads, calipers and rotors. Replace these items when they begin to show excessive wear and tear.

Additionally, you want to be vigilant of the signs of premature brake failure. If you hear loud grinding or screeching sounds every time you apply the brakes, then you need to fix the problem immediately. Other common brake problems include:

    • Brake light turns on
    • Brake pedal vibrates when you apply pressure
    • Fluid leaks
    • Car pulls to one side during braking

Relax When Brakes First Fail

If you experience brake failure while driving, the important thing to remember is to relax. This may be easier said than done but remaining calm will help you get through the situation safely. The first thing you want to do is alert other drivers that something is wrong. Flash your hazards and lay on the horn to signal to other drivers that you require a lot of space, and everyone else will probably stay far away from you. You also want to take your foot off the gas pedal.


Most vehicles have an automatic transmission, so you want to slowly go from D to 1. However, you do not want to go straight from D to 1. First, go to 3, then to 2. Finally, you can make your way to 1. Downshifting in stages is particularly beneficial if you are currently traveling at a high speed. Going too fast could lead to your vehicle skidding.

Build Brake Pressure

If you have a car that was manufactured in the last 15 years, then it most likely has an anti-lock braking system in place. You can activate this system by pressing down firmly on the brake pedal. It may take several seconds to see an affect, so give it some time. You may feel the pedal pulsing heavily, which is normal.

Utilize the Parking Brake

The parking brake is at not as fast as slowing down your vehicle as the regular brakes are, so be patient when at this step. You want to slowly apply the parking brake. If you are not careful, then your wheels can lock up.

If your vehicle is going faster than 40 miles per hour, then you do not want to apply a hand brake. With a foot brake, you can apply it very slowly regardless of the speed you are traveling.

Look for Friction

As you are following the above steps, you want to keep your eyes on the road at all times. Look for places where you can drive your car into that could potentially slow it down. For example, if the side of the road consists of gravel, then you can pull off to the side to impede your vehicle’s speed. Another option is to use guardrails. Cement dividers are ideal because they have a wide base, so only your tires will be impacted. You will definitely need to replace your tires after this, but it is the preferable option over a collision.

Keep These Points in Mind

Remember that you will be unable to put your car into reverse when the brakes have failed. You also do not want to try to put your vehicle in park. It is possible to practice these steps in an empty parking lot, but most people really do not have to worry about brake failure happening. It is extremely rare, so as long as you know how to react properly, you should be fine.

Take your car to the professional technicians at Sun Auto Service for a premium brake service. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and we will inspect your brake hoses, resurface the rotors and re-pack the front wheel bearings.