You Press The Brake Pedal And...Nothing Happens
May 23rd, 2016
It's a nightmare come true...you step on the brakes and the pedal just goes to the floor without even slowing the car down. What do you do? First off, don't panic!
- Let off the gas pedal right away and turn on your emergency flashers, and don't be afraid to flash your lights or lay on the horn to alert other drivers that there's a problem.
- Keep trying the brakes...pump the pedal and you might be able to get some hydraulic pressure in the system again.
- Shift the transmission into a lower gear and let it and the engine slow the car down. Don't worry about damaging the transmission, it's better than wrecking the car!
- Carefully apply the parking brake or emergency brake -- it will slow you down, albeit more slowly. Just be wary of locking up the rear wheels and going into a skid.
- Look for an escape route onto the median or shoulder, away from obstacles and traffic, where you can safely come to a stop.
The good news is that complete brake failure doesn't really happen very often, unless you have something catastrophic like a ruptured brake line (which is quite rare). More likely, though, are worn brakes that can seriously compromise your braking ability. Here are things to look out for...
- Tendency for one or more wheels to lock up and skid while braking
- Longer stopping distances
- Noticeable pull to one side while braking
- Pulsation or vibration through brake pedal
- Excessive brake pedal travel
- Squealing, groaning or metallic grinding sound while braking
The friction material of brake pads wears very slowly, and brakes can typically last 50-60,000 miles before needing service. Considering the slow wear, it can be easy to get used to brakes that don't perform like they used to and not notice brake wear. That can be a mistake, though -- you should at least have your brakes inspected a couple of times a year and replace them before they can turn into a safety issue.