BRAKE OR BREAK?
According to PUSPAKOM, over 9 million vehicles are occupying our roads with faulty brakes. Yes, that means, from over 28 million registered private vehicles in our country, one third of their drivers are gambling their (and everyone’s) lives day in day out. The actual numbers could be higher though, as that figure is only based on inspected vehicles (well, even free inspection offers by PUSPAKOM cannot persuade people enough to get their vehicles inspected, which is another story).
This has put malfunctioning brakes or braking system on the list of leading causes in fatal accidents in Malaysia, as stated by the General Insurance Association of Malaysia (PIAM). To make it worse, we often do not realise it until it is too late.
So, what are the signs that your brake is problematic? The easiest would be when you see the brake indicator on your dashboard is on. Occasionally it might just be some computer-related issues, but it is always best to get it checked. Secondly, when you hear the squealing, high-pitched metallic noises, it does not necessarily mean that it is damaged yet, but it is good to let the mechanic to check the brake pads for you and change it if needed. Meanwhile, if it starts to make grinding noises, which is actually the metal parts in your car rubbing each other at some thousand times per minute, go to the nearest workshop pronto, or you will cause some seriously expensive damage to your braking system!
Or if you experience one of these less obvious signs – burning smell while driving, fluid leaking, vibration when braking, car pulling to one side while braking, or soft brake pedalling – yes, it means that your brake is wearing out, and yes, it is time for an immediate workshop visit.
There are a few causes behind the problems associated to the brakes and the system. One of the main factors are inefficient maintenance. We tend to think that as long as the vehicle can still move, there is no need to go to the workshop (despite experiencing the signs above).
Other than that, it is more about the driver’s braking habits. Some drivers tend to apply the brakes in an instant, while some tend to brake too often especially when going down a hilly road. The most appropriate way is to apply the brake gradually. Be more aware of the surrounding traffic. Always be anticipative; think few seconds ahead, so that you do not have to do emergency braking.
In case the brake stops functioning while driving, do not panic. Ignite hazard lights and starts applying the lower gears, one after another. At the same time, release your foot from the accelerator and keep trying both hand and foot brakes gradually. Remember not to turn off your engine, as this will also turn off your power steering and computer system, putting you in a much more dangerous situation.