The danger of being seriously injured if you lose brake power while driving is great. Thankfully, brake technology has improved over the years, greatly lowering the odds of this occurring. But brakes can still fail.
Sometimes a manufacturing defect can cause brakes to fail. Manufacturers that are aware of serious safety defects must inform dealers and owners of the defect and pay for any necessary repairs.
Another cause of brake failure is loss of hydraulic brake pressure from brake fluid leakage. You can test your brakes for this by pressing the brake pedal when you get in the car. There should be resistance from the pedal. If it feels soft, or easily pushes to the floor, you may have a fluid leak and should not drive the car.
There are usually signs that the brakes need servicing before they actually fail. If the anti-lock brake system (ABS) light on the dashboard goes on, do not ignore it. Bring the car in to a mechanic to check the brakes immediately.
Other signs of problems with your brakes may include:
- You feel drag while accelerating
- The brake pedal pulses when you brake (in normal circumstances, rather than engagement of the ABS)
- You hear clicking, grinding, or squealing when you apply the brake
- The car pulls to one side when braking
The best way to avoid brake problems is proper car maintenance. Have your brake pads and shoes checked annually and replaced if they are worn. Brake fluid should also be changed regularly.
Although the frequency will depend on the make and model of your car, a good rule of thumb is to have the brake fluid changed either every 48,000 miles, every four years, or during regular brake servicing.
What to Do if Breaks Fail
If you are driving and the brakes fail, there are some techniques to reduce the risk of a serious accident. For manual transmission cars, downshift while bringing the clutch up gently, then use the parking brake to stop once you are below 30 miles per hour. This method is referred to as engine braking. For automatic transmission cars, downshift through the gears or shift to ‘low’ if available.
You may use the parking break to stop in an emergency. However, this must be done gradually, or the brakes can lock and lead to loss of control. For pedal operated parking brakes, you must use the brake release handle at the same time as pressing the parking brake pedal. Otherwise, the rear wheels will lock.
Using an electronic parking brake is a last resort, because it tends to operate on an ‘on/off’ basis and will likely lock the wheels up.
Turning off the engine is not a good option. It will turn off power steering and make it almost impossible to turn the wheel. It may also engage the steering lock mechanism.
A last resort would be a controlled crash. This can be done by skimming the side of your car along an object (like a parked car or Jersey barrier) to slow it down. This will cause extensive damage to your vehicle and anything it hits, but it may be a better option than hitting oncoming traffic or having a potentially more life-threatening accident.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers of McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Assist Individuals Injured in Car Accidents
If you have been injured in a car accident due to defective brakes or the negligence of another driver, contact one of the experienced Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC for a free initial consultation. We can be reached at 302-888-1221 or you can contact us online.
We serve clients throughout Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.