You’re cruising down the street – the highway, even – when you get no response from your car as you gently press on the brake pedal. It sounds like your brakes have gone out! It’s every driver’s worst nightmare, but by reacting quickly and with a level head, you can come to a stop safely. Just follow these steps.
Whatever you do, don’t panic if your brakes go out. Keep calm and act methodically to help you come to a complete stop without incident.
Keep the Engine Running
While turning off the car may seem like it might help you slow down, don’t fall for this gut reaction. With the ignition off, your power steering shuts down, and the wheel might lock into place. No steering and no brakes is a very dangerous combination, so keep the car on until you’re off the road and have come to a complete stop.
Try Braking Again
Unless you drive a classic car, your vehicle probably features a dual braking system to control the front and rear brakes separately. Therefore, to fully lose control of your brakes, both halves of the system have to fail at the same time. Having your braking power cut in half still isn’t good, but you should still retain some stopping power. Apply forceful pressure to the brake pedal again to see if you can slow down.
Employ the Parking Brake
This type of brake is separate from your primary braking system, and it can help stop your car if the hydraulic brakes go out. Carefully depress the emergency brake with your foot, or lift up on the handbrake, depending on what type of car you have. Be prepared to release the brake if the vehicle starts to skid, and continue to steer carefully to avoid running into anything.
Downshift So the Engine Slows You Down
Another option is to keep your foot off the gas and downshift through the gears. You can do this in multiple ways depending on your transmission:
- If you have a manual transmission, downshift by hand with the clutch and the gear shifter.
- If you have an automatic transmission, the car should shift into lower gears as it slows down.
- If you have a newer automatic transmission that also allows for manual driving, put the vehicle in manual mode and downshift to the lowest gear.
Get Off the Road
It’s critical to get out of traffic to avoid being hit. First, focus on getting into the right lane, using your blinkers and horn as needed. Once there, turn on your hazard blinkers to let other drivers around you know you’re experiencing difficulties.
Now, steer from the right lane into the shoulder. Shift into neutral and continue to use your parking brake to come to a complete stop. If you need to, rub your tires against the curb to create friction or drive onto a soft shoulder that will help you slow down.
The best thing you can do is stay in your parked car with the hazard lights on and use your cell phone to call for help. Friends and family are a great option, but a mechanic that offers towing service is even better since you can get your car directly to a shop with no detours or delays.
Once a towing service is on the way, it’s time to assess the damage. You may have hit the curb, a guard rail, or another obstruction as you guided your car to a stop without the brakes. Carefully exit your vehicle, being sure to stay clear of oncoming traffic, and see if body damage occurred as you maneuvered off the road.
Have Your Car Repaired at Scott’s
Whether your vehicle sustained damage or you just need to have the brakes fixed, count on Scott’s Fort Collins Auto. We offer towing services and free loaner cars for qualifying repairs. We also provide preventative brake services so you can avoid this scary situation in the future.
Give us a call at (970) 682-4202 if you’re stranded without brakes and need a lift to our auto repair shop in Fort Collins.