What to do if Your Brakes Fail?

What to do if Your Brakes Fail

Most people, when asked about what the worst thing that could happen while driving, will include brake failure in their list. This is perfectly understandable as suddenly being unable to slow down or stop while driving around a ton of metal at more than 50 mph is a terrifying idea.

While brake failure is thankfully very rare, it is not unheard of, so, if you do find yourself in this most hazardous of situations, here are the dos and don’t of safely navigating it.

What Not to Do

The most important thing to do if you brakes fail is to keep calm. Knee jerk reactions and panic are going to put you in more danger. Here are a few things to avoid doing:

Don’t downshift too quickly – Downshifting is a good way to slow your car if your brakes have failed, but it needs to be done in a controlled manner. Shifting directly from 4th gear to 1st gear could cause your wheels to lock up and your car to skid.

Don’t turn off your car – Turning you car’s engine off is not going to help, it could also disable systems that are going to help keep you safe, such as power steering, or it could lock your steering wheel entirely.

Don’t use the emergency brake right away – Hammering on the emergency brake is not a substitute for controlled braking and could cause you to lose control of your car. Use downshifting to lose speed and make sure you’re in a safe position to stop before slowly applying the emergency brake once your speed has dropped.

What You Should Do

  • Take your foot off the gas pedal
  • Turn on your hazard light and start beeping your horn. There’s no specific way to let people around you know that your brakes have failed, but enough noise and flashing lights will let them know something is wrong
  • Slow downshift to decrease your car’s momentum and start looking for a place where you can pull off the road
  • Pump the brake pedal hard and fast. Most modern cars have separate front and rear bake sets. Pumping the brake pedal might only get half of your bakes working, but its better than nothing
  • When your speed has dropped, gently apply the emergency brake. Do not immediately lock it out as this will cause you to skid
  • As your speed drops, find somewhere to pull over and use your emergency brake to come to a full stop

Expert Training

The Northwest Driving School and Traffic School provides the Las Vegas community with live driving and traffic classes taught by seasoned instructors. All of our driving instructors have passed background checks, each automobile is DMV safety-approved and every member of the Northwest family is committed to providing excellent drivers ed and behind the wheel instruction.

At Northwest, you can expect to find outstanding classes, both on campus and behind the wheel, that are engaging, fact-filled, entertaining and geared toward success. We make no bones about it, we believe that Northwest provides the best driving lessons in Las Vegas, no matter your age or background. We are proud of the fact that 98% of our students pass their test on the first try. Call us at (702) 403-1592 to start your driving adventure with one of our expert instructors.

Written by:
Rich Heinrich
Master Instructor, Emeritus

Instructor and Office Administrator

Frankie works and karaoke's in Las Vegas but his out-of-doors-heart is still out East. Born in Boston, Frankie loves the snow and mountains. As an avid snowboarder, Frankie has never seen a snow day he didn't LOVE! A graduate from…Read More