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in: Cars, Manly Skills, Visual Guides

November 15, 2018 Last updated: December 29, 2019

What to Do If Your Brakes Go Out

When you depress the brake pedal on your car, it pressurizes fluid in your brake lines which transmit force to your brake pads, forcing them to squeeze against your car’s wheel. The resulting friction is what brings you to a nice, comfortable stop. When your brakes fail, it’s typically because you’ve lost a substantial amount of brake fluid, or because your brake pads are incredibly worn out. The best way to deal with your brakes going out is to practice preventive maintenance on your car. Make sure to have your mechanic check your brake system whenever you go in for an oil change, or before a long trip.

If you are driving and think your brakes have failed, don’t panic. And certainly don’t just turn the car off — doing so while it’s moving could cause your steering wheel to lock. Fortunately, you’ve got other options; use the tips above to avoid an accident, slow down, and ultimately come to a safe stop.

1: Take your foot off the gas and turn on your hazard lights.

2: Try pumping your brakes fast and hard.

3: Shift to a lower gear.

4: Pull up on the emergency brake with smooth, even pressure.

5: Use a guardrail to slow down by rubbing the side of your car against it.

6: Look for a patch of open grass, soft dirt, sand, or bushes to turn into.

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Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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