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Best Ways To Stop A Vehicle With Brake Failure

Imagine you are on the expressway and suddenly there’s need to push the brakes and nothing happens. Careening at 120km/hr. What do you do? Brake failure is a terrifying and dangerous experience no matter where it occurs. Although it’s certainly not what any driver would pray for,  but the frightful reality is that it can happen.

By reading the following instructions, you will know how to safely get the speeding vehicle to a halt:

1.) Don’t Panic! Overreacting to this situation will only make it more dangerous.

2.) Take your foot off the accelerating pedal and off the cruise control if it’s on. Cruise control systems should turn off as soon as you touch the brake or clutch, but to be safe, make sure it’s switched off.

3.) Pay attention to how the brake pedal feels. If it’s soft and goes to the floor, you may have low fluid, a faulty master cylinder or problems with your drums or calipers. You may be able to rebuild some braking pressure by pumping the brakes. If, however, your brake pedal is hard and does not move, something in your brake system may have seized or you may have an obstruction under the pedal. Try to feel with your foot (or have a passenger look) to see whether you have something under the brake pedal.

4.) Pump your brakes. Pumping your brakes several times may rebuild enough pressure in the braking system for you to stop. This may take a while, so keep trying. You should do this even if your car is equipped with ABS, as the ABS is only activated when your car is braking too hard (which won’t be the problem if your brakes have failed). Then, regardless of whether the car has ABS brakes or not, quickly squeeze the brakes down to the floor to make the most out of all of the pressure you have preserved or built-up, as hydraulic (or air) brakes rarely fail all together. Keep the brakes squeezed to the floor.

5.) Shift into low gear. Shifting into lower gears helps slow you by using your engine to slow the car. If you have an automatic transmission, down-shift a gear at a time into low range (generally labeled as “1” on the shifting mechanism). If you have a manual transmission, down-shift a gear or two at a time, feel the car slow, and repeat as you work down through the gears. Unless you need to slow the car as soon as possible, be careful not to down-shift too quickly; rapid down-shifts into first or second gear can cause you to lose control.

6.) Use the emergency brake. The emergency brake, or parking brake, can usually stop a vehicle, although it will take longer than usual to come to a stop because it only stops the rear wheels. Apply the brake (depending on your vehicle this is done either by pulling up on the handle or pushing down on the pedal) slowly and steadily; your emergency brake can lock your tire if applied too hard or too fast, especially at high speed. If you pull up the brake quickly, you may lose control of your vehicle. To prevent this, keep the release button engaged (if your car has one) as you apply the emergency brake. This allows you to modulate the pressure with which you are applying the brake.

7.) Keep your eyes on the road and continue to steer. Pay attention to what’s in front of you, and maneuver to avoid heavy traffic, pedestrians, and dangerous obstacles.

8.) Warn other drivers and pedestrians. Turn your hazard lights on, and honk your horn to make others aware that there is a problem. (Be sure to know the location of the hazard light button prior to such a situation.) While they may not be able to figure out what the problem is, a warning should cause most people to proceed with caution and pay attention to what your vehicle is doing. Open windows to allow air resistance to slow you down as well as enable you to shout to other passengers and drivers.

9.) If you have room on either side of you, steer sharply from side-to-side.  Turning creates friction, which slows your car naturally. If you do not have brakes, try turning sharply from left to right over and over to slow your car down. Do not do this at high speeds. Turning at high speeds may flip your car and turning too sharply at any speed can spin your car around, so be careful.

10.) Look for a safe spot to pull over or to crash. Scan the road ahead for a safe area to pull over once you’re able to come to a stop. If you’re not able to bring the vehicle to a complete stop, look for open spaces that you can coast across without hitting anything. If all alternatives have failed, plan a crash stop. The safest method is to look for a bushy protrusions or shrubs and run it through, the friction will significantly reduce car speed to a halt. if there are no bushes go for grass, especially tall grass run the car through the tall grass and it will come to a halt. finally if there is none, the last way is go for sand, sand is so unstable and will definitely halt your car, especially wet sand. Keep in mind, however, that this technique can be very dangerous – especially at high speeds – and should only be used as last resorts.

About Nonso Okafor

I've worked as a technical support representative in major auto centers in Nigeria for more than twenty years. I have dealt with a variety of problems in my capacity as a customer service representative and auto diagnostics expert. I'm committed to assisting people in properly maintaining their automobiles and in appreciating this magnificent innovation known as an automobile.

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