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Old 20th May 2011, 07:07   #1
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Default Emergency driving - Without brakes

Wow. The response and participation in the thread "Emergency Driving - Without clutch" got me thinking of other emergency driving situations. Brakes failure though rare can be potentially be fatal. Being prepared for it can prevent from you becoming a statistics at worst or avoiding a costly repair job at best.

One part is emergency stopping when brakes fail. The second is driving without brakes in emergency situations.

This thread idea was born since I had gone through both situations at different times. And chances are if you survive the first you have to do the second in order to get to a place of safety for your dear passengers, if not for yourself.

The schematics of stopping are simple enough:
1. Down shift through the gears as fast as you can
2. Use additionally the handbrake
3. Switch off ignition when in first gear and let vehicle judder to a halt

Let us hear some experience from other of situations when the had a "brake" failure. The I'd like to build in more elaborate list of actions and precautions to bring the car to a halt. Later we can discuss the driving without brakes part.
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Old 20th May 2011, 09:22   #2
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Driving without brakes is just as you have described. Extensive use of low gears and very controlled throttle inputs to stay in control, in addition to maintaining safe distances and looking far ahead and planning your moves depending on road traffic and conditions. Also needed is the extensive and smart use of horn/s.

Stopping without brakes; In larger vehicles hand brakes dont really seem to have much effect. To come to an emergency stop during brake failure, downshift through the gears till the lowest possible speed can be attained, as in from 3rd gear directly to 1st gear and then if required, nudge diagonally into a stone/tree/obstruction/divider at the roadside to bring your vehicle to a complete stop. This needs to be done in a way so as to in a way so as to cause minimum damage to your vehicle.

Your next thread should be " Kamikaze - Emergency driving without clutch and brakes"

Last edited by jaysmokesleaves : 20th May 2011 at 09:25.
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Old 20th May 2011, 09:28   #3
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

I have had brake failures on several occasions - broken feed pipes, jammed brake cylinders, failed brake boosters, broken belts, and so on.

Depends on cause of brake failure. In SUVs like mine, brake pedals are assisted by the booster and that can fail because of either a booster failure or when the main belt snaps. There is limited braking action because the pedal goes very hard, but you can somehow stop by slamming brakes to the maximum extent possible.

Recently, I had a brake problem that took almost 2 months to diagnose (turned out to be a asynchronous rear brake cyclinder where each piston was working without synchronisation with each other), and I learned to brake in 2-3 bursts (since at first try, there was no braking action) to finally stop the car.

I have broken a feed pipe and stopped my Matiz on the highway by using the gears and hand brakes, but that was after some distance.

Having the AC on helps because it exerts a drag on teh speed once you take your foot off the accelerator.
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Old 20th May 2011, 09:43   #4
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

I had a brake failure in my M800. Was quite young and foolish. Was driving my family. Realized the brakes are out.

Did not tell any one. I kept driving to the destination and since the entire trip about 10 kms or so was in heavy traffic, used the gears to keep the car in control.

My dad figured it out.

When I reached the destination. He asked me why was my driving so different.
Told him. He luckily did not get angry. But just asked me to stop at the nearest bunk and we topped up the brake fluid.

Car was back to normal. I don't know why the brake light did not come up.

The other time I had a brake fail was in my Morris Minor. But being a heavy car, taking foot of the accelerator meant it would stop on its own.

Lost the brakes on my bike, when I fiddled with the front disc. Riding an RE with front brakes is so much fun. Especially when the office parking is in a cellar and has a security arm kind of gate.


One common reason for brake failure is Incorrect Gear Usage when coming downhill.
The thumb rule is that you use the same gear coming down that you would use going up.

Last edited by bblost : 20th May 2011 at 09:53.
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Old 20th May 2011, 09:48   #5
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by sudev View Post
The schematics of stopping are simple enough:
1. Down shift through the gears as fast as you can
2. Use additionally the handbrake
3. Switch off ignition when in first gear and let vehicle judder to a halt

Let us hear some experience from other of situations when the had a "brake" failure. The I'd like to build in more elaborate list of actions and precautions to bring the car to a halt. Later we can discuss the driving without brakes part.
I had a hairy moment in an old Ambassador once, luckily the speeds were slow and we were able to stop with only a little damage to the fender. Pacifying the Jat owner of the Maruti Omni whose fender I damaged was another hairy episode. Luckily I escaped unscathed.

I would like to mention here that all modern cars run diagonal braking circuits, which separates the braking circuit right from the brake booster, which even in case of total failure of one circuit will provide you enough braking force to stop the vehicle.

Sudev Sir, If only you could give these instructions to the Bollywood stars of yesteryears who totalled a gazillion beautiful cars because of a brake sabotage and the resultant uncontrolled speeding up of the vehicle

Cheers
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Old 20th May 2011, 11:03   #6
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Driving without brakes in hills can be a serious exercise combating all known laws of physics. I ahve had 3-4 occasions -
1. Driving an old mark III ambassador from Nahan to Paonta. Brake failure the pedal goes to the ground. After 3-4 hair raising turns finally spot a kutcha path leading uphill from a turn. Hard time steering the Box into line for that track. But finally managed and the Box stops after about 10 mtrs of going uphill on that dirt track.
2. Driving an old Premier Padmani '87 model. A couple of times but this was surprisingly easy to be controlled just by throttle inputs and lower gears.
3. Mahindra Armada. Overtaking down slope, a truck appears around the bend up front, touch the brakes to slow and the pedal goes to the ground. Scary? With no where to go hard steer the driver side onto the rain channel between the road and the Hill side. The tyres drag over silt and stones and gravel while I desperately try to engage the lowest possible gear. The Bus I was over taking stops to allow the truck to come onto the right side so that I get more stopping distance on the left. Finally able to stop but the tyre sidewalls take a horrendous beating by scrapping against the channel walls.
4. Gypsy going up FOTULA. The accelerator cable jams and the gypsy is on overdose of fuel. Going up was still easy with the slope aiding the turns. Objective is to hit Lamayuru for repairs. What is not factored in is the downslope from the FLA top. Soon the brakes heat up and refuse to slow the gypsy. Each turn is getting scarier and scarier and finally when we are just able to manage one turn at the very limits of the road we decide not to risk it further but stop. The question is how? A few tugs at the handbrake doesnt seem to be doing any good and spinning the vehicle on a 10 ft road is not very advisable. Anyway hit a small straight stretch with negligible slope and alongside is the trench dug for the telephone cables and beyond is another small patch of dry land. One hop over the trench to the other side and then again back on to the road finally lets us stop. The broken accelerator cable is replaced by a strand of telephone cable, have a few snacks, joke around and we are on our way again.
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Old 20th May 2011, 15:24   #7
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Here's a related thread : What to do when your brakes fail? (What to do in case of Brake Fail !!)

My post from the same thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
The good news is, brakes rarely fail in modern cars. The bad news is, they still do (rarely)!

In the unfortunate event that your brakes fail, use engine braking....as heavily and aggressively as possible. That's your life saver right there. It's very easy to use engine braking and drop speeds to a pedestrian 20 - 30 kph in little time. At that point, start using the handbrake. Don't yank it up in one strong pull, unless you are at really slow speeds; rather use it gradually. Once you are slow enough, switch the engine off (with the car still in gear) to stop. Remember : Switch the engine off only at crawling speeds as your power steering will also loose assistance.

Easier said than done, but if you have no choice other than crashing, choose what to crash into. E.g. between the back of another car & a biker, it's the car always. Shankar's suggestion of brushing against a wall / footpath to slow down is splendid!
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Old 20th May 2011, 16:17   #8
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

I'm shocked at the people who will take their car on the road, knowing that the brakes are faulty. OK, we may have to get the car to a service station, but that is the only permissible journey, and, ideally, that should be done on a truck!
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Old 20th May 2011, 18:03   #9
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaysmokesleaves View Post
To come to an emergency stop during brake failure, downshift through the gears till the lowest possible speed can be attained, as in from 3rd gear directly to 1st gear...
No do not do that but do shift down from 3rd to 2nd to 1st. If you are in RPM band that allows directly slotting in to 1st then only do that. When you slot down directly skipping a gear or two your engine may go in to over rev band and can get damaged. And also perchance if you bust your engine gasket due to over revving all the engine braking can be lost.

Quote:
Your next thread should be " Kamikaze - Emergency driving without clutch and brakes"
LOL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gotzuk View Post
....If only you could give these instructions to the Bollywood stars of yesteryears who totalled a gazillion beautiful cars because of a brake sabotage and the resultant uncontrolled speeding up of the vehicle
I'd rather fancy them dying and stealing away the heroin myself ....but lets get back to reality.

Excellent set of experience coming up.

@GTO : You may merge the threads. In fact if there are other such threads then may be they can be titled similarly and put in to a sub section - "Required reading for noobie drivers" ;-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
I'm shocked at the people who will take their car on the road, knowing that the brakes are faulty. OK, we may have to get the car to a service station, but that is the only permissible journey, and, ideally, that should be done on a truck!
Agree with you. But here we are talking of emergency. The definition of which may vary from person to person and situation to situation.

Suppose your lil one is in the car and running fever. Would you wait by scorching road side or get to hospital? And then call a tow truck. Or this happens at night on highway. I'd drive carefully to nearest dhaba or some where I could park till day light.

Only in an emergency I'd recommend driving without brakes.

Last edited by GTO : 23rd May 2011 at 12:18. Reason: Merging both back-to-back posts
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Old 20th May 2011, 18:21   #10
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by sudev View Post
3. Switch off ignition when in first gear and let vehicle judder to a halt

.
Never ever try and switch off the ignition unless you know the car would stop in some distance and that there is nothing ahead.But why would you try and brake when there is nothing ahead .

Switching off the ignition will lock your steering and add to the panic situation.
Its important to remain calm and use engine braking ( you dont have any other option) .Using hand brakes can cause the rear wheel to lock up and add to the complications.

Most modern cars will never have a brake failure unless its negligence in maintainance .Regular maintainance and adhering to service intervals would prevent such occurances most of the times.
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Old 20th May 2011, 21:52   #11
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by speedsatya View Post
Never ever try and switch off the ignition unless you know the car would stop in some distance and that there is nothing ahead.But why would you try and brake when there is nothing ahead .

Switching off the ignition will lock your steering and add to the panic situation.

Ive had my share of scary moments! The first time one experiences it will always be etched in ones memory forever!


Steering lock does not happen till one pulls out the key, but expect your brake pedals to become heavy after a few applications, since the booster will not work. but if your brake pedal is dead, obvious fluid leak it really wouldn't matter If you drive a petrol thats the best bet apart from downshifting.

On older gen diesel vehicles one had to pull a knob to shut it down, so the ignition would never be of much use. I guess its a lot different these days with the arrival of Control units.
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Old 21st May 2011, 00:14   #12
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by sudev View Post
1. Down shift through the gears as fast as you can
2. Use additionally the handbrake
3. Switch off ignition when in first gear and let vehicle judder to a halt
Well, before trying out or while trying out these points, I would suggest one more point.
  • Pump the brakes as much as you can. There is a slight probability of some pressure building, and brakes may respond, even mildly, assisting the situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by speedsatya View Post
.... Switching off the ignition will lock your steering ...
Just switching off ignition will not lock your steering. It will just cut power assistance, but will still function as a non-power assisted steering.
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Old 21st May 2011, 01:19   #13
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by speedsatya View Post
Switching off the ignition will lock your steering and add to the panic situation.


Quote:
Originally Posted by YaeJay View Post
Steering lock does not happen till one pulls out the key, but expect your brake pedals to become heavy after a few applications, since the booster will not work.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhanushs View Post
Just switching off ignition will not lock your steering. It will just cut power assistance, but will still function as a non-power assisted steering.
I wouldnt want to switch off the engine in such a situation, it may be the deciding factor which will help you steer away from danger when you're brakes are out. IMHO, switching off power steering would only add to the problem rather than solving it. (unless you've been driving alone on a straight 6 lane highway and can do without PS, but then I would just let it roll to a stop rather than do any of these stunts )
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Old 21st May 2011, 01:43   #14
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by amolpol View Post
... I wouldnt want to switch off the engine in such a situation, it may be the deciding factor which will help you steer away from danger when you're brakes are out.....
Switching off the ignition helps reduce stopping distance. Well, of you have enough time, then steering is always the better option.
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Old 21st May 2011, 03:21   #15
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Default Re: Emergency driving - Without brakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by amolpol View Post






I wouldnt want to switch off the engine in such a situation, it may be the deciding factor which will help you steer away from danger when you're brakes are out. IMHO, switching off power steering would only add to the problem rather than solving it. (unless you've been driving alone on a straight 6 lane highway and can do without PS, but then I would just let it roll to a stop rather than do any of these stunts )

Have you experienced it yet? The 6 lane highways you talk about are pretty recent. And these are not stunts. Once you experience your first moment, you will realize the true meaning.

There are cars without power steering even in this age! And there are a few of us that still like the feed back from such sets of wheels. When you have absolutely no brakes, ( who said you always have to loose them on a 6 lane highway?) even 10 km/hr can feel really fast.

you could perhaps try not to use your brake for a few kms to get a whiff of it?

Unless one is on a boat, most cars can steer clear without PS.
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