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If you’ve never experienced a brake failure, the thought of one happening likely doesn’t cross your mind too often. But if you have experienced a brake failure on the road, you know how important it is to be ready to react in a split-second. We can help make sure you’re prepared.

How to stop when your brakes won’t work

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what you’ll need to do to stop your vehicle if your regular brakes aren’t doing the trick:


Now let’s break it down in a little more detail. If you try to brake but your car shows no signs of slowing down, keep calm and…

  1. Continue trying your brake pedal to see if your brakes start working again. Pumping the brake pedal fast and hard can build up brake fluid pressure and wake up your brakes. Once the pressure has built up, you can try pressing down firmly on the brake again. Pumping your brake pedal will also make your brake light flash, warning other drivers that you’re trying to stop. If your brakes still don’t work…
  2. Smoothly and gradually apply your parking brake (also known as your emergency brake). If you aren’t in the habit of using your parking brake regularly, it might not work when you need it, but you should still give it a try.
  3. If your parking brake won’t work, try shifting to a lower gear to slow your vehicle down. Shifting to a lower gear should slow your vehicle down pretty quickly and may cause a startling sound, especially if you’re travelling at a high speed. Shift down gradually, one gear at a time, instead of going straight for your lowest gear.
  4. If you still can’t stop and you’re approaching stopped traffic or pedestrians, make sure they can see and hear you coming. Turn on your hazard lights and honk your horn several times to warn them you’re approaching.
  5. Drive into the area where you’ll do the least damage. Your first priority should be avoiding injuries to yourself and others. If there’s no shoulder, look for a grassy area, an open field, or soft-looking bushes that will cushion your vehicle as it comes to a stop. If you have to choose between running a red light at a busy intersection and ruining a prize-winning garden, choose the garden — the consequences of running the red could be much more serious.
  6. Once your vehicle has come to a complete stop, put it in park and turn it off. Whatever you do, don’t try to move your vehicle again.
  7. Call for help. If anyone is injured or there’s significant damage to your vehicle or surrounding property, call 911. If no one is injured and there’s no significant damage, call a tow truck so you can safely get to a mechanic who can repair your brakes.

If your brakes won’t work and you’re approaching stopped traffic or pedestrians, turn on your hazard lights and honk your horn several times to warn them you’re approaching.

How to prevent a brake failure

So, now that you know what to do in the event of a brake failure, you may be wondering how you can prevent one from happening in the first place. The simple answer is to keep up regular brake maintenance and pay attention to how your vehicle feels and sounds while you’re driving. Stick to the service plan recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer; most will recommend having your brakes serviced after you’ve travelled a certain number of kilometers. You should also call your mechanic if your vehicle starts taking longer to stop than it should or if you feel or hear anything strange when you hit the brakes. Keep an eye out for the brake warning light on your dashboard, too, as it’s a pretty good indicator that something is wrong with your brakes.

To avoid a brake failure, keep up regular brake maintenance and pay attention to how your vehicle feels and sounds while you’re driving. Keep an eye out for the brake warning light on your dashboard, too.

Will my car insurance cover a brake failure?

Yes, your car insurance policy would likely protect you if you had a collision caused by a brake failure — but insurance doesn’t cover wear and tear, so repairs to your brakes themselves wouldn’t be covered. If you make an insurance claim, damage to your vehicle would fall under your collision or all perils coverage, and damage you cause to other people’s property would fall under your third-party liability coverage. If you don’t have collision or all perils coverage, you’d be on your own for repairs to your vehicle. Eligibility for coverage and claim payouts depend on a number of factors, so you’ll have to talk to your group’s insurance broker to find out how your own coverage would apply.

While we hope you never experience a brake failure, hopefully you’ll feel a little more prepared if it ever does happen to you. Share these tips on Facebook or Twitter to help your friends get prepared, too.