What do I do when I'm driving a car with ABS and the brakes fail?

I have a 2007 Honda Civic that I bought brand new. It’s been a great car, but recently, the brakes feel strange. I took the car in and the mechanic assured me that everything’s tip-top. As a failsafe, I just want to know what to do in a braking emergency. What should I do if my car has ABS and the brakes fail?

Eric Schad · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
You made a smart move by taking your
Honda Civic
to the mechanic. And I’m happy to answer your question. When driving a car with ABS, if your brakes fail, you should pull over and let your car coast until it stops.
ABS stands for anti-lock brakes. The system was designed to prevent cars’ wheels from locking up so drivers can steer to safety. But like most other things, the system can fail.
If you’re driving a car with ABS and the brakes fail, follow these steps:
  • Try not to panic.
  • Release the brakes and depress them again. Sometimes, this action will get bubbles out of the brake line or correct other issues that are preventing proper braking.
  • Make sure no motorists are behind you and pull the emergency brake located between the driver’s and passenger’s seats.
  • Manually shift the car to a lower gear. This is easy in a stick shift, but even if you have an automatic, you should be able to lower your gear by shifting into L (low gear) or S (second gear).
  • Pull over onto the shoulder and let your car coast to a stop.
Once your car is stopped on the side of the road, take a huge breath! Then, call a tow truck to take your car to a mechanic to diagnose the problem.
If you don’t have roadside assistance or towing and labor coverage on your car insurance, make sure to add it in the future by shopping for car insurance with the
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