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How to React to Brake Failure

Brake failure rarely occurs but if it happens to you, be prepared.


  • Step 1: Remail calm Remain calm. Assess your surroundings -- note the traffic, pedestrians, and intersections around you.
  • TIP: Pump the brakes. You may be able to rebuild enough brake pressure to slow the vehicle.
  • Step 2: Warn other drivers Turn on your hazard lights and honk your horn to warn other drivers.
  • Step 3: Steer to a safe place Find a clear place to steer toward so damage will be minimal. Shift to the lowest gear possible. If you have an automatic transmission, this is usually noted as D1 or L1.
  • Step 4: Use the parking brake Gently engage the handbrake or parking brake. If you apply it while you are moving fast and the car starts to skid, release it before you lose control of the vehicle.
  • Step 5: Throw the car into reverse Throw the car into reverse if you're unable to stop the car and are heading towards pedestrians.
  • TIP: Shifting into reverse while the car is moving can irreversibly damage the transmission.
  • Step 6: Call roadside assistance Call roadside assistance once you've stopped. Don't try to drive it again until it is fixed. Get out of your car and move a safe distance away from it while waiting for assistance.
  • Step 7: Get your car checked out thoroughly Have your car repaired. Also, contact your car’s manufacturer and make sure that it is not a manufacturing problem.
  • FACT: In 1902, an Oldsmobile going 14 miles per hour took 21.5 feet to stop.

You Will Need

  • Your car instruction manual
  • A cell phone or public telephone
  • Roadside assistance information

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