12 Ways To Stop A Car With Faulty Brakes

Imagine you’re exiting the freeway on that killer ramp with the
steep grade and the hairpin turn. You try the brakes and...
nothing happens. Careening toward the guardrail at 75 mph
(121 km/h), you brace yourself for a 400-foot dive into a
shallow lake full of fire-breathing alligators.
Okay, that scenario is a bit unlikely, but the fact is that brake
failure is a terrifying — and dangerous — experience no matter
where it occurs. To learn how to stop a car if the brakes fail,
read the following instructions.

1. Don't panic! Overreacting to this situation will only
make it more dangerous.
Take your foot off the gas and turn off cruise
control (if on). Cruise control systems should turn off
as soon as you touch the brake or clutch, but to be safe,
make sure it's switched off.

2. Pay attention to how your brake pedal feels. If
it’s soft and goes to the floor, you may have low fluid,
a faulty master cylinder or problems with your drums or
calipers. You may be able to rebuild some braking pressure
by pumping the brakes.
If, however, your brake pedal is hard and does not
move, something in your brake system may have seized
or you may have an obstruction under the pedal. Try to
feel with your foot (or have a passenger look) to see
whether you have something under the brake pedal.

3. Pump your brakes. Pumping your brakes several
times may 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).
Then, regardless of whether the car has ABS brakes or not,
quickly squeeze 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 squeezed to the floor.

4. Shift into low gear. Shifting into lower gears helps
slow you by using your engine to slow the 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. Unless you need to slow the
car as soon as possible, be careful not to downshift too
quickly; rapid downshifts into first or second gear can cause
you to lose control.
If you have tap-to-shift, shift into manual
"M" (generally to the right or left of "Drive" on
console-shift vehicles or the bottom gear on column-
shift vehicles) and press the minus button to shift
down. Again, if you can’t go directly into the lowest
range, try gradually shifting down.
If you have an additional means of slowing down the
car, like a retarder, exhaust brake, or Jake brake, use
it slowly.

5. Use the emergency brake. The emergency brake, or
parking brake, can usually stop a vehicle, although it
will take longer than usual to come to a stop because it only
stops the rear wheels. Apply the brake (depending on your
vehicle this is done either by pulling up on the handle or
pushing down on the pedal) slowly 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 modulate
the pressure with which you are applying the brake.
If you feel or hear your tires lock, release a small bit
of pressure from the brake application and hold it
there. It should be stated that if the tires do squeal
slightly, it does not necessarily mean that they are
indeed locked-up. With a handlebar E-brake, one can
initially apply it up to three clicks (to enable a
controlled slow-down) and then apply an additional
one or two extra clicks (to bring the car to a final

6. 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.
Warn other drivers and pedestrians. Turn your
hazard lights on, and honk your horn to make others
aware that there is a problem. (Be sure to know the location
of the hazard light button prior to such a situation.) While
they may not be able to figure out what the problem is, a
warning should cause most people to proceed with caution and
pay attention to what your vehicle is doing. Open windows to
allow air resistance to slow you down as well as enable you to
shout to other passengers and drivers.
If you have room on either side of you, steer
sharply from side-to-side. Turning creates friction,
which slows your car naturally. 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.

7. Use your surroundings to slow the vehicle. If
the above measures fail to stop you, or if you must
stop very quickly, do whatever you can to get under control.
Ideally, you could use a runaway truck ramp, but as these are
not particularly common, you’ll probably have to improvise.
Keep in mind, however, that these techniques can be very
dangerous – especially at high speeds – and should only be
used as last resorts.

8. Use terrain to your advantage. Try to seek out inclines
that you can go up. If this does not bring your car to
a stop, be prepared to do some reverse driving and/
or use the emergency brake at the appropriate time.

9. Use guardrails to slow your vehicle. Cement dividers
are built pear-shaped so that contact is made with the
wheels, not with the precious metal and paint of your
automobile. Applying friction to the rubber on your
wheels will slow the car considerably without harming
other portions of your vehicle. You can also gently
sideswipe whatever is available.

10. Use road friction to slow your vehicle. Driving through
gravel or dirt (such as you might find right off the
side of the road) can slow your vehicle considerably.
Be very cautious when using this technique. Sudden
terrain changes -- especially if only under the wheels
on one side of the car -- can cause the car to flip,
and may cause serious injury or death to yourself or
others. Approach to a graveled or grassy shoulder
must be made progressively, smoothly and gently.
Afterward, the car must be stabilized as it is driving
along the shoulder of the road.
Small trees and shrubbery will slow your vehicle when
all else fails. Try to put your vehicle through the
center of a line of shrubs or saplings, being careful
not to pick a tree that is too heavy for your car to go
through. Trees with trunks over 4 inches (116 mm)
are considered dangerous to occupants of motor
vehicles. Large trees can be fatal.

11. Hit the back of another car. While obviously not a first
choice, it will slow your vehicle. If you’re going to do
so, try to warn the driver in front of you by honking
your horn. Try to strike a vehicle that is traveling at
about the same speed as yours (hitting a slow-moving
or parked car will stop you, but the deceleration will
be quick and extreme) and attempt to make impact
squarely on the back of the vehicle. Glancing blows will
likely send both vehicles out of control. Be extremely
careful not to hit too hard as your airbag may go off.

12. Look for a safe spot to pull over (or to crash).
Scan 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.
If all alternatives have failed, plan a crash stop. The
safest method is to look for a bushy protrusions or
shrubs and run it through the friction will significantly
reduce car speed to a halt. if there are no bushes go
for grass, especially tall grass run the car through the
tall grass and it will come to a halt. finally if there is
none the last way is go for sand, sand is so unstable
will definitely halt your car, especially wet sand.
If the safest spot to "crash land" your vehicle
requires you to jump a curb, extra caution must be
taken. Even with power steering, the cars' initial
reaction will be to rip the steering wheel from your
hands, bounce from the curb and back into traffic. It
is imperative that you grip the steering wheel in a firm
manner and angle your car deep enough into the curb
so that it will go up and over, yet shallow enough so
that you don't turn the car completely and lose control
in a spin.

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