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What to Do If Your Car’s Brakes Lock Up While Driving

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Advise for safely maintaining control of your vehicle when the brakes seize up

brake rotor

We often take for granted how dangerous it truly is to drive a metal machine at 65 mph, but we’re quickly reminded of that truth when we lose control of the vehicle. Your car’s brakes locking up is one of the scariest ways that control can suddenly, unexpectedly be snatched from you, and you’re left in a metal box barreling down the road.

To prepare you for that unfortunate chance, this is what you should do if your car’s brakes seize while you’re driving.

How to Respond When Your Brakes Seize

If your car’s bakes lock up, remain calm; panicking will cause you to react erratically.

Turn on your emergency blinkers and honk your horn so nearby drivers give you space. Turn off the cruise control and release the acceleration/gas pedal so your speed slowly decreases. If you’re on a highway, move to the shoulder and slow down gradually. Continue steering the whole time.

If you’re in a residential or business area with intersections, you’ll need to slow down sooner and quicker.

Gradually downshift your car from ‘D’ to ‘3’ to ‘2’ to ‘1’ (do not put your car in park or reverse while moving). Hold your foot on the brake pedal in case your car’s anti-lock brake system (ABS) decides to kick in. Pump the pedal to build up more pressure. Slow your vehicle even more by applying the parking brake (if below 40 mph).

Look for safe places where you can pull over that will slow the vehicle down, like gravel roads or flat, grassy fields. Do not turn your car off until it comes to a complete stop.

The reason behind your bakes locking up may be a number of things, from the calipers seizing to the brake cable locking to fluid being low. Have your car towed to a garage where it can be diagnosed and fixed before you drive it again.

Sources: Driver’s Ed Guru, How Stuff Works