Brake failure, at 11.4%, is the second most significant mechanical cause of car accidents on South Africa’s roads, according to the most recent National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) for 2016 - 2030. The document was published by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the government appointed agency tasked with ensuring safe, secure and responsible use of the country’s roads.
The report states that mechanical failure may be underreported to a greater degree than statistical evidence indicates and that, on closer inspection, accidents ascribed to poor driver behaviour could very well be the result of unroadworthy vehicles.
What Does "The Brakes Failed" Really Mean?
Road safety information portal ArriveAlive says that in the case of typical passenger vehicles, brake failure or the phrase “the brakes failed” could mean a number of things. The most common interpretations are as follows:
- A "leak" in the brake pipes is causing brake fluid to escape or leak out, and therefore there is not enough fluid to transfer pressure.
- Brake efficiency can be compromised by damaged seals that allow pressure to “escape”.
- The brake linings (brake pads) have become worn and therefore require increasing levels of pedal actuation to engage the brakes.
- Brake efficiency can be reduced by brakes overheating or even the brake fluid boiling or breaking down.
Which Brake Components are the Most Likely to “Fail”?
In cars, it would be the actual brake pads, the master cylinder (the main cylinder near the foot-brake that applies the initial pressure), and the slave cylinder (the cylinder at the wheels) that actuates the calliper seals.
Most importantly too, is to recognise that brake fluid deteriorates with age and braking efficiency is therefore reduced.
Danger Signals that Brakes are Starting to Fail
The most important danger signals to watch out for are:
- The brakes feel “spongy” and soft when engaged.
- The brakes work but seem to “fade” and become less effective.
- Braking produces a “scraping” sound.
- The brakes require “pumping” to stop.
- The car seems to veer or pull to either side when the brakes are applied.
“Drivers should acquire a daily habit of vigilance towards their cars”, says
Ary Coetzee, Technical & Product Specialist at tyre manufacturer, Bridgestone South Africa. “Make it a daily habit to do a quick walk around your car and check for strange smells or oil deposits in the vicinity of the parking area before you drive off in the morning. And absolutely never skimp on having your car, including your brakes, tested and checked regularly.”
Supa Quick has over 200 tyre fitment centres in Southern Africa and a national team of more than 4,000 auto fitment experts trained to assist you. We only use quality parts and ATE brakes offer a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.*
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