Break Failure – Dos and Don’ts

Having your brakes fail while you are driving is a dangerous and horrifying experience, especially when you are traveling on an interstate highway or other high-speed roadway. When you encounter a vehicular emergency, it is imperative that you understand ways and options to address the emergency, particularly since emergencies seem to happen in the least desirable moments and circumstances. You should always remember and practice below tips in case you ever face sudden brake failure while driving:


Newer vehicles have a split braking system in effect, which means that brake failure is generally only partial. If you have lost the use of your brakes, the brake system warning light will appear on your dashboard. This means that while you may have partially lost the use of your brakes, you may still have brake usage in two of the four wheels on your vehicle. This is often one front wheel and one back wheel working together as the split braking system is set up this way.

The partial braking failure will allow you to pull off the road and into a place where you may be able to get assistance with your vehicle, such as a car repair shop or a service station. When the vehicle begins to slow, you will feel the brake pedal pushed down further than it usually goes, and this requires you to push harder on the brake pedal than the pressure which is normally required to bring your vehicle to a full stop. Due to this, your stop distance is increased, and you will need to understand this when you are trying to safely park your car. Give it extra space and time when you begin braking so that you do not overestimate where you are meant to stop and end up moving further than you initially intended. Be aware of where your vehicle is headed, and steer and brake accordingly.

Note that shifting to a lower gear will help your vehicle to slow down.


These are steps you will need to take if your car is older, and does not have a split braking system installed.

  1.  Shift to a lower gear and look for a place to stop.
  2.  Pump the brake pedal several times, as this will generally cause the vehicle to slow down and stop. You must continue to do this until enough pressure has been placed on the brake system.
  3.  Use the emergency brake if pumping the brake pedal does not work. Hold the brake release so that you can let off the parking brake, if the rear wheels lock, and you begin to skid.
  4.  Do remember to remain aware of where you are steering and pay attention to the road. The best places to drive toward are into an open area with plenty of room to try to stop your vehicle, or uphill.
  5.  A last resort option is to turn your vehicle off. This is only to be used if your vehicle will not stop and you are in danger of crashing. Do not turn the ignition to the lock position as this will lock up your steering ability. Shift into the lowest gear. This method should only be used as a last resort if you are in danger of crashing your vehicle because it can be damaging to your engine.

Once your vehicle has stopped, do not attempt to drive it again. Call for help.