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What Factors Cause Brakes To Fade or Fail?

close up image of brakes

Brake fade is when you experience a decrease in your ability to properly stop your vehicle. Brake failure generally refers to when your brakes stop working completely. Thousands of accidents are caused by bad brakes every year in Texas. If you were hurt in an auto collision, an attorney specializing in motor vehicle accidents in our state can evaluate your situation and advise you of your legal options.

Factors That Cause Brakes To Fade or Fail

Overheating is one of the primary factors that leads to brake damage and eventual failure. Over time, brakes become worn down, and it’s recommended that brake pads, brake rotors, and brake fluid be monitored and changed as needed. Loss of brake fluid is another reason brakes may fade and fail. Depending on how often and how hard you drive your vehicle, brake components may need to be changed more or less frequently. The following recommendations can provide an idea of how often these parts may need to be changed or replaced:

  • Brake pads – every 10,000 to 30,000 miles, or as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer
  • Brake rotors – every 30,000 to 70,000 miles, depending on wear and tear
  • Brake fluid – should be checked regularly, and changed at least once every two to three years

Vehicle owners have a duty to maintain their vehicles to good working order. A poorly-maintained vehicle is a serious safety hazard to everyone on the road. While some aspects related to brake maintenance can be managed by the vehicle owner, there may be other factors out of the owner’s control, such as when a defective part fails during normal use. Adhering to best practices and following the do’s and don’ts of auto maintenance can help prevent accidents before they happen.

The following factors can cause brakes to fade or fail:

  • Not regularly checking brakes for signs of wear or damage
  • Using brakes parts past when they should be changed
  • Damaged brake pads from overuse and overheating
  • Water in the braking system
  • Oil, grease, dirt, dust, and debris in the braking system
  • Damaged or faulty brake hoses
  • Rusted master cylinder (reservoir for brake fluid)
  • Loss of brake fluid or leaking fluid
  • Bad brake booster
  • Defective brake parts (design or manufacturing defect)

It’s never a good situation when your brakes fail on the road. If you observe any warning signs that your brakes are fading or experiencing issues, stop using your vehicle until you are able to have your brake system inspected by a trusted auto mechanic. The following signs can indicate that your vehicle is in danger of brake failure:

  • Brake system warning light on your vehicle goes on
  • Longer stopping distances
  • Vehicle pulls to one side when braking
  • Vehicle shakes or vibrates when braking
  • Changes in the feeling of stepping on the brake
  • Resistance when putting pressure on the brake
  • Brake pedal that doesn’t move
  • Brake pedal that goes to the floor even when touched lightly
  • Brakes don’t return to the original position after removing your foot
  • Noticeably leaking brake fluid
  • Brown or black-colored brake fluid
  • Squealing or grinding noises when braking
  • Smell of burning when braking

What To Do if Brakes Fail While Driving

It’s extremely difficult to remain calm under the pressure of losing the ability to stop your vehicle. But when your brakes fail on the road, try to the best of your ability to stay balanced and focused. Panic can easily lead you to lose control of your vehicle and cause an accident. Brake failure while driving is a highly dangerous situation. When you aren’t able to prevent this situation from happening, you need to know how to handle brake failure on the road as safely as possible.

The following tips can help if you experience brake failure while driving:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator as soon as you discover a brake issue
  • Pump the brakes repeatedly—it’s possible that part of the braking system can be engaged
  • Turn on your hazard lights
  • Gently steer your vehicle toward a safe area to slow down—don’t turn the wheel sharply
  • Downshift when it is safe to do so
  • Use the emergency brake when your vehicle has slowed down
  • When necessary, edge against a guardrail or other object safely to bring the vehicle to a stop
  • Only turn the engine off after you have slowed to a stop
  • Call for roadside assistance as soon as you are able
  • Stay in your vehicle until help arrives

Although it’s natural that your first reaction might be to try to stop the vehicle by any means necessary, it’s best to practice a calmer, safer approach to slowing your vehicle to a gradual standstill. Yanking on the emergency brake, shutting down the car while driving, and shifting abruptly into a lower gear at high speeds can seriously damage your vehicle, and—more importantly—can lead to loss of vehicle control and an accident.

How Often Do Brake Failures Cause Accidents in Texas?

Brake failure is a factor in a much smaller number of motor vehicle crashes than other driver errors like speeding, drunk driving, texting and driving, or violating traffic laws. But many people in Texas are injured or lose their lives each year in accidents caused by faulty or failed brakes. The following statistics are taken from the Texas Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics 2020 annual report:

  • 2,696 crashes in Texas last year were caused by “defective or no vehicle brakes.”
  • 1,960 of these accidents occurred on urban roads, and 736 on rural roads.
  • 557 of crashes caused by brake failure likely resulted in injury to one or more party.
  • In brake-related crashes, 6 people died on urban roads and 6 were killed on rural roads.

Get the Help of a Car Accident Attorney in Dallas

Buckingham & Vega Law Firm represents auto accident victims who were injured due to the negligent actions of another party. When it comes to brake failure, negligence plays a role in a high percentage of brake-involved accidents. For example, if a driver fails to properly maintain their vehicle, or a manufacturing company produces a braking system that can fail under normal use, negligence may be a primary contributing factor if an accident results.

Individuals and families who were injured in motor vehicle crashes in Dallas and the surrounding areas may reach out to our team of attorneys for legal guidance. We will begin with a free initial legal consultation to hear your story and understand better how we may be able to help you recover after injury.

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