Almost every motorist understands the true value of a properly functioning brake system. However, few are as keenly aware of this as those that have been left to contend with brake failure of any type, while in the midst of day-to-day travel.
We all too often take proper brake operation for granted. After all, it seems only natural for our vehicle to come to a smooth, concise stop with little more than a second thought when we depress the brake pedal.
What Does it Mean When Your Brakes “Lock Up”?
Brake “lock-up” can be most simply defined as any situation in which a vehicle’s brakes are applied, but do not release as expected. This is a serious situation, in any event, but can be especially dire when it occurs while driving. In the most serious of cases, a wreck may take place as a result.
Contrary to popular belief, brake lock-up does not always mean that a vehicle’s brakes have remained clamped to the point of causing full-wheel lock-up.
By definition, the term brake lock-up can be used to describe any situation in which a vehicle’s brakes do not return to their “rest” position following a pedal application.
What Can Cause Brakes to Lock Up?
Though brake lock-up is nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the days prior to the use of modern ABS brakes, such issues do still occur on occasion. The vast majority of these issues are caused by substantially worn or otherwise compromised, brake system components.
The following are the most common causes of a vehicle’s brakes locking up while driving.
- Use of improper brake fluid
- Overheated brake system components
- Damaged or exceedingly worn brake pads, calipers, and rotors
- Damaged or exceedingly worn brake drums, shoes, and wheel cylinders
- Accidentally engaging the emergency brake
- Seized/stuck brake caliper or wheel cylinder
Experiencing brake lock-up while driving can be a harrowing ordeal. However, there are several key steps that should be followed to prevent a bad situation from becoming much worse. These steps are as follows.
Do Not Panic
The single most important thing to remember when experiencing brake lock-up is that it is imperative not to panic.
While this certainly sounds easier said than done, you also carry the responsibility of doing everything within your power to protect your passengers, as well as the other motorists around you.
Panicking robs you of your ability to think through the additional steps to follow.
Find a Place to Stop
The next item of consideration pertains to locating a safe place to come to a stop. Quickly scan your surroundings to determine what is at your disposal.
Parking lots, wide driveways, or even an empty shoulder make suitable locations for this purpose.
Carefully Exit the Roadway
Once you have determined the point at which you intend to stop, exit the roadway as carefully as possible. Though somewhat difficult to do at the moment, take into consideration all traffic that surrounds you.