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How Do Brake Failures Happen?

Posted on May 9, 2018 Car Accidents
The braking system is one of the most crucial components of any vehicle. It’s important to carefully track your brakes, pay attention to changes in your car’s braking, and seek prompt service when you notice a problem. A brake failure is a terrifying experience, especially when the car is travelling at a high speed. Pay close attention to the sounds your brakes make and test them before setting out on the road to prevent brake failures. Most brake failures occur due to fluid issues in the vehicle’s braking system or mechanical problems with the braking structure of the vehicle. Brake pads wear down over time and require replacement and attempting to brake with faulty or eroded pads can damage the vehicle’s brakes. A fluid leak will cause the pressure in the braking system to drop, which can cause a brake failure. Some brake failures happen because of brake pads overheating, though this is rare, but it can happen if brakes are ridden down a very long hill. Once the brakes cool down, they will work as intended again. Water in the brake fluid system can also cause problems. Hot water will vaporize and the resulting steam causes the braking pressure to compress the steam instead of flowing through the braking system.

Testing Your Brakes

Two main methods exist for testing your vehicle’s brakes. First, do a static test while the car is immobile. Simply press the brake pedal with your foot to make sure you feel some resistance. If there is very little pressure, or the brake seems to immediately sink to the floor with little effort, then it probably isn’t safe to drive the vehicle. The second test is a rolling test: Start the vehicle, put it in gear, and as it starts to roll forward, immediately press the brakes to make sure they work. Vehicle brakes work on a fluid-based system, so problems with the fluid can interfere with the pressure behind your brakes and cause a malfunction or failure. As fluid leaks out of the braking system, the brake pedal will feel weaker and less resistant when you press it down with your foot.

Handling a Brake Emergency

You have a few options to bring your vehicle to a safe stop if your brakes stop responding. First, you can try to build up brake fluid pressure by pumping the brakes. As long as some fluid remains in the braking system, pumping may be enough to pressurize it so the vehicle stops. You can also pump the hand lever for your vehicle’s emergency brake to stop the car. However, remember that doing so at high speeds can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. The last-ditch option for stopping your vehicle after a total brake failure is a controlled car crash. This sounds dangerous because it is; it’s essential to control the crash and avoid hitting anything head-on. The goal of a controlled crash is to “drag” the car to a stop. You can accomplish this by guiding the vehicle slowly toward a curb, guard rail, or lane divider until the friction from dragging along the surface stops the vehicle. Keep in mind that attempting this at high speeds can cause severe damage and may cause the vehicle to spin out of control. Prevent brake failures from happening in the first place. Pay attention to the sounds your vehicle makes, and if you start to notice a strange noise when you press the brakes, take your car to a trusted mechanic to have it checked.