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how to avoid panicking when your brakes fail

Thankfully, brake failure is rare these days. But that doesn't stop it from being nerve-racking (and dangerous) when it happens. Here's how to handle it without breaking a sweat.

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A step-by-step guide to handling brake failure

If you want to stop, but your car has other ideas, all is not lost. You can still steer to safety.

Step 1: Carefully check under the brake pedal with your foot.
A stray soda bottle or baby rattle could be jammed under the pedal. If nothing's there, here's what to do next.

Step 2: Gently push down on the brake pedal.
If you don't have antilock brakes, pump the pedal a few times before you lightly step on it.

Step 3: Shift into a lower gear.
Even if you drive an automatic, downshifting will help your engine slow the car.

Step 4: Gradually apply the parking or emergency brake.
Don't do this too quickly, though, or you could lose control of the car. (Not good.)

Step 5: Try to pull over to the side of the road.
Ideally, you'll safely come to a stop on a shoulder. If there isn't one, use your surroundings to slow the car (a hill, a guardrail, a bush, etc.).

Step 6: Call a tow truck.
Once you've stopped, take a deep breath to calm down. Then call a tow truck and get those brakes fixed.

Preventing brake failure

Regular maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your brakes in optimal condition. And if you hear a squeaky, screeching, or grinding sound coming from your brakes, it's time to get them checked out.

Related link

How to detect brake failure
Look for these telltale signs to spot the early symptoms of brake failure.

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