Luckily most people will never experience brake failure thanks to a variety of mechanical checks and balances built into every vehicle. Although most drivers will never experience this problem, it is wise to know what to do in the event that it does happen. As recently as 2010, Toyota issued a recall on several different models of their cars and trucks for brake failure related to a software problem. This means that although unlikely, brake failure can occur, and it never hurts to know what to do. Follow these steps to get your car to stop:
1. Evaluate the traffic situation, and make your decision on how to proceed based on the proximity of crossroads, steep hills, and most importantly, other vehicles.
2. Watch for a safe location to steer your vehicle and downshift to a low gear. You can downshift both manual and automatic transmission cars. Automatic gear shifts do not only have reverse (R), drive (D), neutral (N), and park (P), there is also a second gear (2), and a low gear (L). Simply move the gearshift from the drive position to the 2. This low gear will force the car to slow.
3. Build up pressure in non-antilock brakes by pumping the brake pedal firmly and rapidly. After pumping three or four times, the brakes should have enough pressure to be able to engage. If your car has antilock brakes, do not pump them. Instead, push very hard on the brake pedal and assume that it will take a bit longer to stop. You will likely feel a pulsing sensation in the pedal of a car with antilock brakes, this is normal.
4. If pumping the brakes is unsuccessful, pull the emergency brake (also known as the hand brake). If the car begins to skid, release it promptly.
5. Remember to continue steering the vehicle. Swerve only if it is absolutely essential. doing so can result in loss of control of the vehicle.
6. If none of the previous steps in successful in stopping the car, throw it into reverse. It is highly likely that you will cause some serious damage to the transmission by putting the car into reverse while it is moving. However, getting the car to stop may save your life.