home > learning center > safety > when your brakes fail

safety

when your brakes fail

You hit the brake pedal and … nothing. Uh-oh. Before this happens to you (and we really, really hope it doesn't), we'll help you understand what to do if it does and the steps you can take to prevent it.

How to stop after your car's brakes fail

stop

Your goal is to get your car to a safe place and bring it to a stop as soon as safely possible.

Step 1: Stay calm and slow down by laying off the gas pedal.

Step 2: Turn on your hazard lights to signal that something is wrong. You can use your horn, too.

Step 3: Whether you drive an automatic or a standard, shift your car into a lower gear to help it slow down.

Step 4: Carefully work your way over to the shoulder. If you're on a highway, you might also use an exit ramp. (Remember that you want to get to a place where you can safely slow down, which in some cases may mean driving a little farther.)

Step 5: ABS (antilock brake system) brakes only: Brake firmly while you continue to steer.

Standard brakes only (non-antilock brakes): Drivers with standard brakes should try pumping the brakes, using short taps.

Step 6: When you're slowing to a stop, try shifting into neutral and applying your emergency brake.

Step 7: Once you've successfully stopped your vehicle, don't attempt to drive it. Call for help and have your car towed to a mechanic.

One more tip: Don't shut your car off until you've come to a complete stop. Shutting it down will disable your power steering and make it hard (if not impossible) to maneuver.

How to prevent brake failure

Never underestimate the value of brake-system inspections. They can uncover all sorts of problems, from a leaky brake line, a warped drum, or worn brake pads to air in the system or faulty wiring. And while you're driving, trust your senses. You know your car better than anyone, so if you hear suspicious squeaking or grinding noises coming from the brakes, get them checked out. You can also refer to your owner's manual for recommended brake maintenance information.

While some of these brake problems are more serious than others, maintaining your car can go a long way toward avoiding the startling stress of brake failure (and, of course, the possibility of an accident).

Related links

Maintaining your brakes
Learn a bit more about how brakes work and why they can sometimes fail.

Defects and recalls
We'll help you find out if your car's had any recalls on its brake system or any other part.