How To Safely Stop A Car With Failing Brakes in 11 Steps

1) First thing is first, DO NOT PANIC. When dealing with a dire situation like being behind the wheel of a uncontrollable speeding hunk of metal, it is important you don’t lose your cool. Panicking can cloud your judgement and cause you to think irrationally, which is the last thing you want to do in a situation like this.

2) Take your foot off the gas and check to make sure cruise control isn’t on.

3) Pay attention to how your brake pedal feels. If it’s soft and goes to the floor, you more than likely need to replace your braking fluid, have a faulty master cylinder or just general problems with your drums or calipers.

-If, however, your brake pedal is hard and does not move at all, that means something in your braking system may have stopped working or you may have a something 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 could possibly 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). Next,  whether the car has ABS brakes or not, press 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 pressed to the floor.

5) Shift into low gear. Shifting into lower gears is one of the least known ways to slow your car. If you have an automatic transmission, downshift a gear at a time into low range (generally labeled as “1” on the shifting mechanism). If you have a manual transmission, downshift a gear or two at a time, feel the car slow, and repeat as you work down through the gears.

6) Use the emergency brake. The emergency brake, or better known as parking brake, can usually stop a vehicle, although it will take longer than usual to come to a stop because it only applies stopping power to the rear wheels. Apply the brake carefully 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 control 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) Make sure other drivers know you’re there. Turn your hazard lights on, and honk your horn to make others aware that there is a problem. While they may not know what your issue is, a warning like that should cause most people to proceed with caution and pay attention to what your vehicle is doing.

9) If you have room on either side of you, steer sharply from side-to-side. Turning creates friction, which naturally will slow you down. 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) Use your surroundings to slow you. If none if the aforementioned is working, try to use the guardrails, terrain, runaway truck ramps or even shrubbery to slow your car. Use the back of a car as a last resort.

11) Look for a safe spot to pull over (or to crash). Search 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.

I hope you have learned something from these 11 easy steps! If you never have to use them thats good, but it is wise to learn these tips just in case you have to.

Thank you to WikiHow for the tips