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Dozens of Motorists Killed by Defective Brakes & How to Stay Safe

Fast, easy, steps to check your car’s brakes as figures show faults contributed to thousands of incidents since 2013

 UK road casualty figures

Dozens of people were killed and thousands more injured via collisions whereby defective brakes were a contributing factor between 2013 – 2017 in The United Kingdom, Kwik Fit analysis of Government data suggests. 49 people therefore died, 677 were seriously hurt and a further 4,238 sustained less serious injuries.

Casualties totalled 4,964 which equated to about 3 per day (on average). Furthermore, the number of people killed and seriously injured via such collisions both fell then rose within the aforementioned time frame. Between 2013 – 2015, for starters, the casualty figure fell 8.9%. It then rose 12.2% for the next 2 years.

How a brake works

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Clearly, it is important to ensure your car brakes properly to feel safe, confident and happy on the road. Whereas it is essential to have a trained, experienced, technician periodically inspect such parts it is easy to spot some issues yourself. Simply, therefore, note below how a brake works then look, listen and feel for faults.

Recognise first that your car has disc brakes at its front (and possibly its rear). Such a brake incorporates a large, circular, metal disc that spins with the wheel. Furthermore, the disc is surrounded by a calliper that is little more than a claw. The calliper also contains brake pads. When you press your brake pedal:

  • Hydraulic fluid travels through lines to the calliper
  • Calliper pushes the pads against the disc
  • Disc slows
  • Vehicle slows
  • Disc and pads wear so get thinner

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Simple, fast, brake checks

There are a few primary faults to note. A grinding noise, for starters. This suggests that the pads have worn to virtually nothing. The disc can be damaged in this scenario. Squealing is noteworthy, too. Perhaps the calliper is not fully releasing the disc. If so, your vehicle is braking even if you release the pedal.

Furthermore, pulsating implies that the disc overheated then warped. Its face is not flat, in other words. Maybe, in contrast, the car pulls left or right as you brake. Both problems can be caused by a calliper that cannot release properly. The latter can also be caused via a calliper which struggles to engage. Also note:

  • Spongy brake pedal might be caused by air in the lines that restricts the flow of essential, hydraulic, fluid
  • Soft brake pedal that can be pushed to the floor might be caused by a dangerous, catastrophic, loss of hydraulic fluid
  • Handbrake that rises too far might be caused by bad adjustment

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I find those figures (Kwik -Fit analysis of Government figures)? totally incredible. Having been a patrol officer for over 31 years in both Surrey and the Metropolitan Police during which time I attended and dealt with over 1,600 road traffic collisions, a miniscule percentage were caused by other than human error. I remember one particular accident where the driver of a vehicle involved claimed his brakes failed. The vehicle was examined and no defect whatsoever was found. Apart from that incident and possibly a few others, memory of which has faded over time, that's around 1600 drivers over a 30 yr. plus period who made no such claim, either admitting fault or placing blame on the other party. In 1958 my cousin aged 12 who was standing at a bus-stop in Perivale, Middlesex, was killed by a lorry with alleged defective brakes & which careered down a hill at speed and hit the bus-stop. The driver was prosecuted but was not convicted.

. I have a mercedes car. It has a sensor which, if it senses that the brake pedal is being pressed hard. jams the brakes on full. Mercedes carried out research into the causes of collisions and from this determined that many vehicle accidents occur simply because the brakes had not been applied hard enough. The only time I experienced the brakes jamming on hard was in a supermarket car park where a driver reversed her car out right in front of my car. I jammed the brake pedal down hard, the automatic sensor took over and the car screeched to a halt with smoke rising up from all four tyres. The lady in the car got a fright and so did I. My car stopped a foot or so away from hers. I would certainly have hit her car if the emergency braking had not operated. .

I have dealt with quickfit a few times due to work commitments and wish I had not, so I wouldn’t place much faith anything they say. ie. both front wheel nuts finger tight. Top struts not bolted down

And when they do tighten them they use pneumatic nut runners which over torque the nuts or bolts leading to premature failure