Brake Safety: Valuable Tips and Tests to Ensure Safe Operation

Summer is a busy driving season when families enjoy long trips to the beach, mountains, or to visit with extended family and friends.  Although most road trips end safely, it is important to make sure that your vehicle is well maintained before any outing, particularly a long drive.  Brakes are one of the most important parts of any vehicle.  Thankfully, sudden and catastrophic brake failures are rare.  However, they can and do occur.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.

Most instances of brake failure can be avoided with regular maintenance.  The old adage:  “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is particularly true with your car.  Check and change your brake fluid according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  These can be found in the owner’s manual that came with your car.  You should also have your brake system inspected on a regular basis or take the car in for service if you notice any changes in brake performance.  If your car is due for routine maintenance or a mechanic suggests repairs, by all means don’t put it off.  Your safety and that of other motorists could be at stake.

If the red “brake warning” light on your dash stays on or flashes when you start your vehicle, the brakes need prompt service.  Drive your car (if you can do it safely) or have it towed to the nearest repair shop.  If the brake warning light illuminates while driving, it could indicate a brake system failure.  Stop your vehicle in a safe location as quickly as possible, turn your hazard lights on, and call for help.

Other warning signs for potential brake failure include unusual sounds and vibrations.  High pitched squeaking, grinding and scraping noises can indicate brake issues.  Vibrations that only occur during braking can also indicate that something is wrong.  If you feel a rocking motion as you slow or stop your car, your brakes need attention.  Slow braking or the brake pedal going all the way to the floor are also signs that immediate brake work is needed.

Always inspect your car for signs of leaking fluid before you drive it.  If you are leaking brake fluid, you should not drive your car.  In addition, make sure to keep trash, drinks, and other items out of the floor board of your vehicle, in particular on the driver’s side.  Many “brake failures” are actually caused by debris such as a toy or plastic drink bottle getting trapped underneath the brake pedal.

Always test the brakes when renting a vehicle or driving a vehicle that is new to you.  Perform a “static brake test” by pushing the brake pedal while the car is parked to ensure that it offers an appropriate amount of resistance.  If the brake pedal feels unusually firm or soft, there could be a problem.  Then perform a “rolling test” by driving slowly and applying the brakes.  Look to see that the car stops appropriately, listen for unusual sounds from the brakes, and feel for proper resistance from the brake pedal.

Hopefully by following these tips you will enjoy a safe and fun Summer on the road.

The attorneys at the personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen specialize in all types of accident cases involving motor vehicles including cars, trucks, motor cycles, buses, and tractor trailers.  Call us today for a free consultation.

About the Author: Jason Konvicka is a personal injury attorney with the law firm of Allen & Allen, working out of their Richmond office. Jason is a founding member of the firm’s medical malpractice team but his practice also includes serious and complex injury cases involving brain injury, truck accidents, bus accidents and wrongful death.