How to stop your car when your brakes fail
When buying or selling a car online in Kenya, every driver should know whether or not they have anti-lock brakes or regular brakes. If you have a logo that lights up whenever you start your car that says ABS then you have anti-lock brakes, if not, you have regular brakes.
If your brakes go out, you want to do three things:
- Downshift to a lower gear. For a vehicle with a manual gearbox this should be easy, however, for an automatic gearbox, you may have an “L” setting or sequential style gears which can help with the process.
- Second, if you have regular brakes, pump the brake pedal fast and hard to build up brake fluid pressure. If the brakes haven’t started working after three or four pumps go on the step. If the pedal goes to the floor, pump it a few times then push it to the floor. There might not be much braking, but anything is better than nothing.
- Three which use the parking brake. Gradually apply the parking brake and be prepared for the car to skid.
- If none of the brakes work, put the car into a low gear and steer in a safe direction until the car completely rolls to a stop. Don’t turn the steering wheel too much but just enough to avoid obstacles. If you’re at highway speeds it may be advisable to scrap your car against the guard rail or divider using the friction to slow the car down.
- If you have anti-lock brakes, you should practice sudden stops on both dry and wet pavement in a safe off street situation. When using anti-lock brakes the rule of thumb is to press the pedal all the way to the floor. You will feel a strong vibration in the pedal which is a sign that the ABS is working properly.
- Other traffic needs to know what you are doing, so your indication is important. If you need to move to the left off the road or across lanes, signal left and try to move into a gap. put on your hazard warning lights to let other drivers know that you are experiencing difficulties. Hooting is also a good idea at this point.
- The air conditioner should be turned onto the coldest setting with the highest fan speed. This will absorb a couple of kilowatts of power and will create some drag on the alternator.
- Don’t pull the handbrake on at high speed because you risk spinning out. There’s also the risk that it could overheat and become ineffective. Wait until engine braking has dropped your speed to below around 20km/h, then pull the handbrake on gradually. The handbrake only works on the rear wheels and if they skid you could lose control, so be careful.
- If you see a side road that is uphill, you can turn up to stop more quickly.
- Gently running your wheels against the kerb won’t do wonders for your tyres or alloy wheels, but it will create extra friction. The same applies for concrete dividing barriers on motorways.
- Grass verges will create more resistance, but they will increase your risk of spinning out.
- Hedges and bushes will damage your paintwork, but have been used before in an emergency.
Things not to do if your brakes fail
- Don’t put your gearbox into neutral or you’ll have no engine braking.
- Don’t put your gearbox into reverse unless you want it to be converted to thousands of tiny metal shards (and you’ll have no engine braking).
- Don’t weave from side-to-side at high speed. Yes, it creates more friction, but you risk spinning out, and if your brakes have failed, any electronic stability control measures (which work by braking individual wheels) might not work. At low speed, it’s probably fine.
- Don’t stop the engine – you’ll lose your power steering
Sometimes, brakes will fail when your tyre bursts. It is important to know how to change a tyre.