Saturday, April 7, 2007


good motoring
What to do when your brakes fail

H.Kishie Singh

It does not happen very often. Actually there is one in a million chance it will happen to you but no harm in being prepared. What to do if your brakes fail?

One point that the rally school instructor impresses on you is that you must have an escape route at all times. In case the two cars in front of you collide and block your way, you must have an escape route. If you donít, you could be the third car that contributes to the crash.

The other day, I went to visit a friend who had been involved in an accident. "What happened?" I asked. "The brakes failed!," said the husband, "and my wife was driving. I told her to leave the road and drive into a tree!" Wrong! It was a very bad and wrong move. Driving into a tree will stop you and bring you to a dead halt. Pun not intended. The damage to the car could be considerable.

If you are on the highway, other than trees there are bushes and open fields to drive into. Avoid trees. They will smash the car. Bushes will grab the wheels and the under-carriage and possibly bring you to a slow but sure halt. Driving into a field, especially if it has been ploughed will bring you to a gentle halt, with little or no damage to the car. These are the escape routes you should be looking out for.

However, the first move you should make after your push down on the brake pedal and it sinks to the floor board and you realise you have no brakes is to change into a lower gear. From filth gear into fourth and immediately into third and second gear. Finding first gear may be a little difficult. All cars these days are quipped with a synchromesh gear box. They are designed to allow you a quick downshift which will slow down the car.

At the same time use your hand brake. Today the same fitment, hand brake, is referred to as an emergency brake. When your foot brake fails, it is time to pull up on the emergency brake, gently, very gently. The emergency brake is connected to the rear wheels and a sharp yank all the way up will lock the rear wheels. This could de-stabilise the car and possibly put the car in a spin.

A trick that rally drivers use is to use the emergency brake to execute quick turns. They have practiced this manoeuvre and are used to putting their cars into a spin and doing a 180 degree turn. Itís a really fun move and you could also learn to do it. But first learn to use the hand brake (read emergency brake) before graduating to 180 degree turns.

Practice this on a deserted read. Slow your car down by using gears and once down to about 30-40 kmph, start pulling up the emergency brake gently. Your right hand should be on the steering wheel to hold the car in a straight line, in case the car decides to spin. Surprising, as it seems, during hand-braking cars do develop a mind of their own.

Should you be in the city or even on a national highway, drive your car into the pavement or an empty ground and scrape the side of the car or the wheels along the pavement. Do not climb the pavement, simply scrape the car. The maximum damage will be to your tyres or the lower end of the car. The scraping action will slow and stop the car without too much damage to you or the car.

One final word of advice. Do not use a tree to stop.!

Happy Motoring.



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