How to Handle Brake Failure While Driving

How to Handle Brake Failure While Driving

While brake failure accidents are rare, they still can happen to you. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey revealed that roughly 2% of all motor vehicle crashes are caused by some sort of vehicular problem such as brake failure or a blown tire. Brake failure accounts for roughly 22% of these car accidents. So the good news is that type of accident is rare. Brakes on modern cars don’t fail often, but as the recent GM recall shows us, it is possible. Would you know what to do if you were in this situation?

Here are some tips on how to handle a brake failure situation:

1.   Take a Deep Breath: This is step one to averting any crisis situation. You have to gather yourself and allow your brain to function properly instead of in crisis mode. Your immediate reaction will be to continually slam the brakes, which may work depending on the issue (i.e., your brakes simply lost pressure), but isn’t always the best solution. So take a deep breath and gain your composure.

2.   Make Sure You Take Your Foot Off The Gas: This may seem self-explanatory, but again you are likely not thinking straight. Allow your car to begin slowing down naturally by taking your foot off the gas.

3.   Turn Your Hazard Lights On: If you’re driving down a side street then putting your hazards on should be enough to warn others of the situation.

4.   Downshift: If you drive a vehicle with a manual transmission you know how to downshift. Doing so will cause your engine to slow the car down for you little by little. You will want to downshift a little at a time so you don’t destroy your transmission, but this will help. A good rule of thumb is whenever your car stops slowing down it’s safe to downshift again.

5.   Shift into Neutral: Once you’ve reached first gear you can’t downshift anymore so you have to begin using alternative brakes such as your emergency brake.

6.   Begin Pulling Your Emergency Brake: Most, if not all vehicles have an emergency hand-brake. Usually this is a lever near your center console. Pulling up on this slowly will help you brake. Ripping it up in one clean pull on the other hand will likely result in your car spinning out of control. Use this to slow your car just like your normal brakes.

7.   Park: Most of the time you can completely stop your car using your emergency brake (this is how you park your car in a manual) but in some instances the emergency hand brake on an automatic may not be correctly adjusted or assembled. If you run into this problem slow your car as much as possible and then shift it into park. This should bring your car to a halt and your crisis to an end.

If someone did not know how to handle their brake failure situation and caused an accident that you were involved in, call Core Rehab at 702-577-1962 or visit our website at




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