Many of us take jumping into our vehicle for granted. We have faith it will safely get us to our destination without fail. So if you’re driving along and have to come to a sudden stop and you press the brake down it just goes to the floor, try not to panic. What are some of the first things you should do?
- Downshift to the next lowest gear. This allows the engine to slow the tires down as much as possible.
- If you have regular brakes try pumping the pedal to build up pressure in the line. This can help slow your vehicle down enough to pull off the road. If you apply your brakes with ABS, you’ll notice they will vibrate to avoid locking up. Avoid pumping the brakes and wait until the vibration stops, then brake again. If the ABS doesn’t kick in, proceed to the next step.
- If brakes are to the floor and nothing’s happening, use your emergency parking brake. It’s located near the bottom of the dash or on the middle console. This should stop the vehicle. Keep in mind, if you’re driving fast or in wet or icy conditions when you pull the emergency brake, the car could skid. Be prepared to handle the vehicle should it lose control.
- As a last resort if the emergency brake fails, shift to a lower gear and get to the side of the road and away from other drivers. Utilize guard rails to help slow your vehicle down further. Come up on the rail at a shallow angle rather than head on, and use this friction to slow the vehicle down. Don’t forget to turn on your hazards to alert other drivers.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
Accelerator gets stuck. Another time where your brakes are really no good is when the accelerator gets stuck. This occurs when driving along on a freeway or road at a high speed and you apply the brakes, but the engine accelerates or stays the same. The brakes work but can’t stop the accelerated vehicle, so they begin to smoke. Put the vehicle in neutral to help slow the engine. Keep applying the brake. When you get off the road and don’t need to change direction, you can then turn the ignition off.
Slippery or icy road conditions. Whether you live in Florida or Michigan, when the road surfaces are wet, it will affect stop time. This can lead to hydroplaning. Don’t speed, and if you feel your vehicle losing control on the pavement apply brakes slowly. Don’t slam them on — this could send your vehicle off the road.
Ice can also make it difficult to stop on a dime. Try not to brake hard or at all on ice; it can cause your vehicle to slide, especially if you don’t have four-wheel drive. If you must, slowly tap on your brake to bring your speed down before coming to a complete stop.
Prevention. Routine brake and vehicle maintenance is the best way to avoid a disaster. An inspection will determine if any braking components need to be upgraded or replaced. Be sure to have tires and suspension checked too. Insufficient air and lack of tread can also lead to poor braking.
Not being able to stop is frightening and dangerous. Most accidents can be prevented if your car is in proper working condition and you’re in control at all times. If your brakes fail, don’t freak out! Handle the situation calmly and walk away with a story to tell.
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