Total sudden brake failure in modern vehicles is thankfully very rare. Problems with brakes are more likely to manifest themselves over a period of time, due to the way they are designed.
Modern brake systems use the principle of hydraulics to transfer the movement of the brake pedal to the movement of the brake pads. In essence a fluid (brake fluid) is compressed when the foot pedal is pressed, this pressure is transferred along a pipe to the brake pads which then grip the brake discs.
This is normally a sealed system, but if it leaks, the fluid will slowly drain away and the brakes will become less and less efficient, and eventually they will stop working completely.
This situation manifests itself by the brake pedal starting to feel 'spongey' and it will require more pressure on the brake pedal to slow the car down. If this starts to happen you should get your vehicle checked as soon as possible.
In the event of your brakes failing completely, it is possible to use the handbrake to stop the car. You will need to use an on-off pumping action rather than just pulling it on hard, otherwise the car will skid. If you have time, you could also change down to second gear and bring the clutch up gently - the change in gear ratios will help slow the vehicle down.
If you have been involved in a road accident, just give us a call on 0845 6768898 for free help and advice or start your free claim enquiry using our online claim form.