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null Defensive Driving Primer: What to Do When Your Brakes Fail

Here are some suggestions on how to stop safely when your brakes fail.

Remain calm

This might be easier said than done, but having a calm demeanour behind the wheel can most likely be a big help in emergency situations. Panicking could put yourself in a situation where you may have an illogical reaction, which could affect you and other drivers on the road. When you first notice your brakes fail, your priority should be getting your car to a safe area.

Try brake pedals again

Give the brakes another shot. Keep pumping the brake pedal to help build pressure within your car’s brake’s system. This will also help alert other drivers you are desperately trying to stop as the brake lights will continue to flash. You can honk your car horn as well.

Use the emergency brake

If the brake pedals aren’t helping, there is always the emergency brake. Located separately from the hydraulic brake system, the emergency brake can assist in safely stopping. Depending on the car, the emergency brake can be a hand-activated lever or a small pedal on the left side of the gas and brake pedals.


To help slow down, you can downshift. If you drive an automatic transmission vehicle, taking your foot off the accelerator will most likely cause you to shift to a lower gear. If you drive a manual, downshift into the lowest gear. The lower gears will aid in slowing down, but not fully stopping. If you are fortunate to be on a non-busy road, the lower gears could help steer your car into a safe direction.

Pull over

Your goal is still to get the car to a safe area. Turn on your hazard lights and move towards the right side of the road to pull over. If you are driving on a highway or a large road, focus on getting safely into the right lane and don’t forget to use turn signals, mirrors and pay attention to the traffic around you. Once you are safely off the road, don’t turn your car off until you have officially stopped. Turning off the ignition will affect your power steering, which makes turning more difficult and can potentially lock the steering wheel.

Call for assistance

After you have come to a safe stop, keep your hazard lights on. If you have any road flares in your car emergency kit, you can use them behind your car to appear more visible, which is especially important at night. Use your cellphone to call a tow truck and roadside assistance.

How to prevent brake fail

No driver wants to be caught off guard with their brakes failing. A routine brake maintenance inspection can most likely uncover any potential issues. Maintaining your car care and having proper auto insurance is crucial is for your safety.

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Defensive Driving Primer: What to Do When Your Brakes Fail

Having brake failure when driving is a scary scenario. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen too often and there are ways you can handle the terrifying situation carefully.

These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.

In Quebec, Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc. In Ontario and Alberta, Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Direct Insurance Company, underwriter of automobile and property insurance.

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