Dealing with Failing Brakes

 

If you look closely at your dashboard, you might notice that it includes a warning light for your brakes. This light is normally off, but it can come on (and stay on) for a variety of reasons. Your owner's manual should contain the full information about your brakes and this warning light, but generally it means that the electronic "brain" of your car has detected some sort of problem with the brakes.

Sometimes the warning light will come on if the emergency brake is engaged on the car. Check to see that the brake is fully disengaged, and recheck the light. If the light stays on, or if it comes on when you push the brake pedal, there may be something wrong with your car's main braking system. In any event, it is best to pay immediate attention to any possible brake problem.

It could be that the brake pads are worn to the point that they need to be replaced, or perhaps that the hydraulic brake fluid levels are low. The light could also mean that the brake system is losing pressure. Any of these may sound dire, and they could be if left untreated. You'll want to go to an auto repair shop as quickly as possible to have your brakes checked.

If your brakes fail completely or you notice that the brake pedal pushes all the way to the floorboard, turn on the hazard lights, pull to the side of the road, and slow to a full stop. Keep in mind that you may need more distance than usual for braking; you may have to press the brake pedal harder and it may depress further.

Pump the brake pedal rapidly to build up pressure. If that doesn't work, use the handbrake or change down a gear so that engine drag slows the car. When you have almost come to a complete stop, pull onto the shoulder of the road and turn off the ignition.

If none of these measures halts the car, you may have to sideswipe something—a curb, a hedge, even a parked car—to come to a stop. Sound your horn and flash your lights to alert other drivers of your emergency.

More Car Tips

How to Check Your Brake Fluid

Too many people go by without checking their brake fluid themselves, and leave it for their periodic tune up. Instead of ...

Discover More

Bleeding Your Brake Lines

Bleeding your brake lines is an important part of vehicle maintenance and should be done whenever you change your brakes. ...

Discover More

Fixing Squeaky Brakes

Squeaky brakes can be annoying and embarrassing. Knowing how to fix them can help you keep your sanity while saving money. ...

Discover More
Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 8?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Videos

Subscribe to the Tips.Net channel:

Visit the Tips.Net channel on YouTube