How to Handle Your Car When the Brakes Fail

It’s a nightmarish situation: You need to slow your car down to avoid an obstacle or adjust to changes in traffic patterns, but your brakes suddenly stop responding. It’s easy to panic in this situation, but it’s critically important to keep a clear head. Staying calm will help you remember the following steps.

Downshifting the Gear

If you drive a manual transmission, you should downshift right away. Don’t try to do it too quickly, however, as this can cause your car to skid. Even if you drive an automatic, you can downshift the gear by keeping your foot off the gas to slow the car down. In addition, if you have a newer automatic car, it might feature paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Use these to downshift. 

Trying the Brakes Again

Your car probably features a dual braking system, which means it might still have some power even if either the front or rear brakes fail. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, steady pressure to the brake pedal. If you have regular brakes, use a pumping action.

Slowing the Car Down Gradually

Depending on where you are, it may be safest to simply let the car slow down and come to a stop by itself. If traffic is light, put on your four-way flashers and move your car to the side of the road as you come to a stop. However, if you’re in a busy urban area and stopping gradually isn’t possible, you’ll need to use the emergency brake.

Using the Emergency Brake

It’s a common misconception that the emergency brake will immediately bring the car to a halt. It will actually take longer to stop by using the emergency brake compared to using regular, functioning brakes. However, it’s still a good option if your brake system completely fails. Engage your emergency brake carefully while trying to aim your car in the direction least likely to result in an accident.

For more than 50 years, residents throughout Arizona have relied on Barnett’s Towing to lend a hand in emergency situations. Our skilled tow truck operators can swiftly and safely tow any vehicle—from small passenger cars to big rigs. If your car’s brakes have failed, you can give us a call at (800) 722-2302 to request emergency assistance.