Whenever you are driving and getting close to a stop, or your destination, you hit the brakes to slow down your car and finally bring it to a halt. If your brakes don’t respond, you car won’t stop, and you will experience a terrifying moment. If your brakes aren’t working properly, or at all, something is wrong and must be repaired.
Don’t put yourself this situation! There are easy ways to avoid brake failure, which is one of the leading causes of road accidents. There is a saying that goes, “prevention is the best cure.” So, let’s take a look at tips to prevent and avoid brake failure.
Regular brake maintenance to avoid brake failure
While all vehicle components are important for your car to function effectively, some are more demanding than some, and some of the most important components make up your brake system. If something goes wrong with the braking system, stopping your car safely and effectively becomes an issue. Ensure you regularly inspect your brake system components!
Components of your brake system
The brake system consists of brake pads, shoes, drums, master cylinder, brake booster, pedals, rotors, calipers etc. If one faulty brake component isn’t kept in good condition, it could lead to it’s failure, or even damage other components creating a larger and more complex problem, or point of failure. So be sure you have your brakes inspected from time to time, and replace any faulty component(s).
Your brake pads operate under high friction and temperature and the pads eventually wear out from constant usage. Keep and eye on them. your brake fluid may also need to be topped or change. Brake fluid does break down over time and will lose it’s hydraulic efficiency. Your vehicle owner’s manual should contain the manufacturer’s recommendation for the proper brake fluid, and provide recommendations for when to periodically inspect the brake system.
Listen to your brakes
Even with regular inspection and maintenance, there might be an oversight. So always be listening to how your brake reacts while you use them. Look out for unusual noise when you step on the brake pedal.
There might be an underlying problem if your pedals start to feel soft, pulsing, or otherwise unusual. If you are not getting proper stopping power to bring your car to a halt something might be wrong with the fluid, pads, calipers, rotors, or other parts of the system.
Nothing should be under the brake pedals
Many may not notice this, but you could be struggling with your brakes for nothing when in fact, nothing is wrong with your brake system. Before you start driving, ensure there is no thick carpeting, mats, cups, bottles or other things under the pedal! That seems basic, but it does happen. Many items can interfere with the pedal when you push it down, hence not slowing or stopping your car.
How To Handle Brake Failure
So, you’ve been diligent and have done everything stated above, yet you find yourself in a situation where your brakes are having a serious problem, or comletely failing; what should you do? Below are some steps to take in case of a failure in your brake system.
1. Keep calm
Okay, sometimes, it’s easier said than done. But keeping calm is critical, especially if you are moving at a high rate of speed. You need your mind and your nerves to be relaxed. or else, you will be inclinded to do something that will only worsen the situation. So stay calm, look for alternative ways to slow the vehicle, and use your horn to alert other drivers if there is an issue.
2. Try the brakes again
Some automobiles come with a dual braking system that controls the front and back wheels independently. While you won’t get the usual braking power, the brakes could still have some power to help slow or stop your car.
3. Pump the brake
For cars with regular brakes, pump the brakes; 3 to 4 pumps should be enough. Pumping the brakes help build up brake fluid pressure to slow or stop your car.
Important Note: Many vehicles are equipped with ABS. ABS means “anti-lock braking system”. Activating the ABS system should get the anti-lock brakes working. Instead of manually pumping the brakes, the ABS automatically pumps it for you. If the ABS system is working properly, it will build enough stopping power for your brakes to function again. Giving the brakes a constant smooth pressure is necessary for the ABS system to work since the ABS brakes won’t lock up. When you feel some vibrations on the pedal, do not panic; it may be an indication that the ABS is working. Be sure to test how your vehicle reacts both to pumping the brakes, and applying constant pressure to enable the ABS system, before you have an emergency situation.
4. Use your parking or emergency brake
The emergency or parking brake may be the next best option. But if possible, only use this braking option when you have already slowed down the car. It’s dangerous to use the parking brake while on highway speeds as it could overheat the emergencye brakes or cause your wheels to lock and cause your car to skid off the road. Always keep your hand on the emergency brake release when using them to stop a vehicle in case the wheels lock up.
5. Downshift to use the engine as a brake
Downshifting to a lower gear may help slow your vehicle. For cars with manual transmissions, press the clutch and change slowly into a lower gear. The engine will help slow the car. For automatic vehicles, remove your foot from the gas which helps lessen the number of RPMs and shift your car consecutively into lower and lower gears to help slow the vehicle.
Look for a safe place to direct your vehicle into
If all fails, put the car in a lower gear and look for a safe place to operate until the vehicle comes to a stop, or if necessary look for something to hit that will slow the vehicle safely, or with the least amount of damage. Options include downhill runaway ramps, bushes, etc. Don’t over steer too much, so you don’t lose control. Be calculative; running into a fence, wood, or grass is better than driving into a tree or another vehicle.
6. Call for help
If you finally bring your car to a stop after experiencing an issue, it is recommended that you not drive the car even if the brakes start working again, until you can check out the system, or have a qualified mechanic do so. If you have roadside assistance, call for a towing company to help take your car off the road and get it inspected. You really won’t want to experience a braking problem again.
- When you experience brake failure, do not turn off the car. Turning it off could make you lose the steering power.
- If your brakes overheated leading to a failure, they may start to work again after cooling down. Even if they start to work again damage may have occured that can lead to catastrophic brake system failure. See #6 Call for help above!
- Ensure you know the kind of brake your car uses, and keep track of maintenance and any preferred products. This will help you easily source them in case of emergencies.
How do I know my brake is failing?
Loss of stopping power, weird noises or unusual pedal feel when you hit the brake pedal are culprits. If your car pulls to one-side when you stop, there is an issue.
Brake fluid on your tires could mean brake fluid leakage from your brake calipers, wheel cylinders, or brake lines. A burning smell from areas near your tires may also be something to take seriously. Brake pads or shoes can become sticky and caus overheating. Lastly, stay aware of your brake warning light, and proceed to service the brakes immediately if it is triggered.
What can damage the brakes?
Constant usage causes brake components to wear. How fast the wear occurs depends on the quality of the pads and rotors you purchase, your driving environment, and your driving style. Sporty driving, towing, and overheating are common reasons for accelerated brake wear, or even damage. It is also possible for a rock or other foreign material to become wedged in the brake assembly. This is why it is important to regularly check to see how they are doing, and respond to any clues or indications of improper operation.
When do I maintain the brake system?
Most vehicles owners’ manual contains manufacturers’ recommendations on when to carry out brake maintenance. However, if you notice symptoms of brake failure, head straight to an auto mechanic to have it checked or do it yourself if you have the skills and experience. Your brake components will wear less quickly if you inspect and maintain them regularly.
Do all brake components go bad at once?
All brake components do not generally go bad at once. Excessive wear or component failure usually surfaces from one component. One faulty brake component not given attention will, in turn, damage others since they are all interconnected. In general, when replacing one brake component, it is usuall best to recondition or replace all of the components at once. It is common on most vehicles that the front brakes wear faster than the rear brakes. Therefore many vehicle owners will have the front and rear brakes serviced independently.
We believe that these tips to avoid brake failure are what every driver should know. Knowing the information we have presented will help prevent excess expenses, or even the terrifying situation of your brakes failing. If you have questions, please CONTACT US.