How to stop a car when the brakes fail

It can be one of your worst nightmares, an event you hope will never happen to you. The time of day doesn't matter - neither does the weather. But when you press your foot down on the brake pedal and your car doesn't slow down, what do you do?

Failing car brakes and resulting manufacturer recalls have made headlines in recent months. Brakes can fail for a number of reasons, including poor maintenance.

If you find yourself pressing the brake pedal on a road trip, and your car isn't responding, here are some emergency preparedness tips on how to safely slow your vehicle down:

* Turn off the cruise control (if it's on). Start pumping your brakes, which might build up enough pressure in the brake fluid to slow the car down. Do this even if you have anti-lock brakes. Then quickly press the brake pedal all the way to the floor in an effort to squeeze out all the pressure.

* Downshift into low gear, which forces the engine to slow the car. Do this one gear at a time - no matter if you have a manual or automatic car. As you go into the lowest gear, slowly apply the emergency brake - which only targets the rear wheels of the car. If you have a hand brake, keep the release button pushed in, in case you need to let up on the brake because it is causing your wheels to lock. Same with a foot brake - keep your hand near the release lever as you're pushing down on the brake.

* Communicate your car's distress with other drivers by turning on your hazard lights, honking your horn and blinking your lights. Open your windows - which also can help slow you down - and shout to other drivers if needed. If you're still having trouble slowing down, look for ways to safely change your car's acceleration like guard rails, grassy or gravelly terrain, or a hill.

* Find a place to pull over once you've slowed down enough to stop. Set up road flares to help guide traffic around your vehicle, and call for a tow truck service as quickly as possible.

Failing brakes don't happen very often, but keeping your cool while following the tips to slow your car down safely will help you come out of your stressful situation safe and sound.


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