Losing your brakes doesn’t happen that often but it is possible in old cars with aging braking systems. The most important thing that will get you safely through such an event is knowing in advance what to do because you won’t have enough time to figure things out. This means reading and thinking about the proper steps to take. As your automobile insurance agency, we are concerned about your safety and would like to provide this step-by-step guide for bringing your car to a stop if its braking system should ever fail:
Panic will make your situation worse. As we mentioned above, it’s all about knowing what to do and automatically going through the steps.
Take Your Foot Off the Gas Pedal
Remove your foot from the gas pedal, turn on your hazard lights, and continue to carefully steer your car. If you are using cruise control, turn it off. Never turn off the engine because you will lose your power steering and if you switch the key to the wrong position, the steering wheel will lock.
Feel Your Brake Pedal With Your Foot
Does it go to the floor? Or is the pedal jammed? If it goes to the floor, pump the brakes and you may build up some hydraulic pressure that will give you braking action. Push the pedal as far as you can and repeat. With ABS brakes, you should apply a steady and firm pressure to the brake pedal. If the brake feels jammed, there may be an object beneath the pedal. Check for this with your foot.
Downshift and Use the Parking Brake
The choice between down shifting or using your parking brake depends on your speed. If you are going at slow speeds such as in your driveway or are about to reach an intersection, you can aggressively use your parking brake. However, using them too hard at higher speeds will lock up your rear wheels and make your car fish-tail.
At higher speeds, downshift first to a slower speed, then use the parking brake to stop. Successively downshift to lower gears, letting in the clutch slowly with each downshift until you are in first gear, then use the parking brake. Some automatic transmissions allow you to manually downshift. When coming to a stop with your parking brake, put the transmission in neutral. Note: if pumping the brake in the previous step gives you sufficient braking power, there’s no need for using the parking brake. Downshifting combined with brake pumping is recommended.
Find a Safe Place to Stop
As you are slowing your car, find a safe spot that’s out of the traffic. Use the breakdown lane on large highways and interstates, and the shoulder for smaller roads.