The most important item of the car is the brakes. Unlike in the earlier days, brake failure in vehicles is rarely heard of these days. This may be due to the system of brakes in modern days are getting better or that we have better mechanics nowadays.
Motorcycles have disc brakes in front and drum brakes at the rear. Most cars still have a combination of disc in front and drum at the rear. More expensive vehicles have both disc in front and the rear as well.
Having both disc brakes at both ends would be most ideal. Larger vehicles like buses, lorries and trailers have what is known as air brakes. They are extremely powerful and efficient.
As mentioned earlier, brakes are important items of a vehicle. Amongst emergencies faced by a driver, brake failure would undoubtedly rank as the most feared by drivers.
Can you ever envisage speeding at 110 km/h on an expressway or highway, and suddenly you realise that you have no brakes!
New drivers and inexperienced ones frequently ask me to enlighten them on how to deal wit this emergency situation.
1) The air pump.
First of all, a driver should understand that most cars have an air pump. It supplies compression to enable brakes to function. My earlier article on ‘coasting’ or ‘rolling along’, especially downhill, has never recommended that a driver switch off the ignition.
Doing this means, the engine which supplies the compression which is needed for the functioning of the air pump is cut off. Brake failure will then result.
This article, which predominantly will concentrate on why vehicles sustain brake failures, will therefore advise drivers to check the air pump first and foremost.
2) Worn out disc or drum brakes.
Brakes can wear out from time to time. Have your mechanics inspect your brake lining periodically. Dust can also accumulate. So service your brakes periodically.
3) Leakage in brake pipes.
Pipes, which carry brake fluids, are normally made of copper. As brake fluids are very corrosive, these copper pipes sometimes undergo leakages. Get your mechanic to inspect the brake pipes from time to time.
4) Inspect the brake reservoir.
By inspecting the level of the brake fluid in the brake reservoir, a driver would be able to diagnose if something is wrong with his vehicle’s brake condition.
5) Brakes become wet when crossing flooded areas.
When a vehicle crosses into a flooded area, the brake pads become wet. Brake efficiency thus become affected. The advice to be given is to pump your brakes a number of times. Hopefully, your brakes would regain its former efficiency.
6) Leakages at the slave pump.
Four units of “slave pumps” control the brake system of a car. At times, these slave pumps and washers undergo wear and tear. They begin to leak.
Either the pump or the washers have to be changed. Finally, we arrive at the point whereby a driver may wish to know what he has to do when meeting brake failure whilst driving.
Amongst some of the advice to be given are:
i) Do not panic. You can use the handbrakes.
ii) Quickly change into lower gears. This will eventually slow the car down.
Some experienced drivers advocate you could ram into another car on the road. However, select the cheaper models to ram. Avoid hitting the expensive ones.
Do not forget, you have to pay for the cars you hit!
My lorry driver father advised, if you face an emergency whereby you have no brakes, hit or ram into the side of a hill. By doing this, less damage is incurred.