What To Do If Your Brakes Fail (Part 4: What NOT to do)

Northern Virginia Brake Repair

In our last few blogs, we discussed things you can do if your brakes fail to safely bring your vehicle to a stop. However, not all the popular wisdom out there is correct on what techniques will work. So in this post, we’d like to cover two categories of stopping techniques: First, ones that you should definitely NOT do (because they simply don’t work). Second, things that are extremely debatable but that you could try as a last resort (being aware that they will cause a lot of damage).

Do NOT do these things

  • Do NOT put your vehicle in neutral. You would be amazed at the number of people who think that this will help. It won’t help. In fact, it will do the exact opposite of what you want. A vehicle going downhill in neutral will accumulate speed without any hindrances, while a vehicle going downhill in first or second gear will be limited to a max speed of 25-30 mph because the engine will be going at such high RPMs that it won’t want to go any faster.
  • Do NOT open the door and drag your foot. While this idea may occur to you, it will NOT work. Your foot will do nothing towards creating the necessary amount of drag to slow your vehicle down, and you could quickly scuff your shoe’s tread completely off. Even worse, you could wrench your ankle or knee, causing a sprain or a break, and circumstances beyond your control could cause the door to get slammed onto your leg.
  • Do NOT attempt to put your vehicle in a spin. This will make you go out of control and increase the chances that you will hit something, but the bigger risk is that instead of spinning out, your vehicle will flip, putting you at a much higher risk of severe injury or death.

Be very hesitant to do these things

  • Shove the car into park (if it’s an automatic). This will do a lot of damage to your car (for one guy who did this, it tore the engine out of the motor mounts and the fan ate up the radiator). You will have to weigh whether it is preferable to do this if it’s your last resort before hitting someone else.
  • Turn off the engine. The downside to this is that you will lose your power steering (and maybe lose your ability to steer at all if your car’s steering wheel locks up when your engine is turned off). Losing power steering is not a dealbreaker, but you must be aware that it’s going to happen and be prepared for how much harder it will be to turn the wheel.

Reduce the chances that you’ll ever have to put any of these tips into practice by getting regular brake maintenance. Since our mechanics come to you, you’ll never even be inconvenienced. Schedule your appointment with one of our mobile technicians today.


Effective Preparation (Part 1)
Strategies that work (Part 2)
More Strategies That Work (part 3)
What NOT to do (part 4)