December 6, 2022

Driving Without Brakes

Driving without brakes is akin to when one goes to reach for the parachute during skydiving and finds that it failed.

This happened to me three weeks ago. I had a 2000 Subaru Forester with 206,000 miles, and had gone cross country with me, and lasted close to two years.

Backing out of the overflow parking lot here at NCC, the brakes made a grinding sound when I backed the car out of the space. By the time I reached Green Pond Road, I realized there was something really wrong.

When I approached the intersection at Hecktown Road, I pressed the brakes slowly and gently, but the car shuddered and the ABS (anti-lock brakes system) engaged for no reason. Now I knew there was no way I could limp this car on to route 22 and get it home.

Additionally, it was hard to slow the car except for gearing down to the low gears, 2 or 1 so I started down the back roads toward Easton.

Behind the Koch 33 dealership there is a road that comes to T and as I went to turn, the car wouldn’t respond and I ended up skidding off the road. That moment when the car began to slide, I prayed fervently the car wouldn’t roll and hit one of the sapling trees ahead.

Luckily, there was a service lot at the bottom of the hill and it was late in the day so no one saw me sliding down the hill. Luckier still, I avoided hitting any cars in the lot.

I bit the bullet and got on the highway because I figured out that gearing the car down, combined with the fact that the exit I got off at was on an incline, slowing me down from highway speed naturally.

I made it home to my apartment, but when I exited the car, I could smell where the heated metal had ground against metal for an extended period.

The eventual autopsy report from my mechanic was that the wheel bearings, which were old and needed to be replaced, had failed. Additionally, the right front brake and both rear brakes were completely shot.

Moral of the story, keep an eye on your brakes.  I knew of the brakes being worn since late February. In my case, the car wasn’t worth fixing because the amount of rust would not allow it to pass inspection. As a rule, if you hear any squealing, grinding, funny sounds occurring during braking, get it checked out.

I was lucky but my apathy on getting the brakes fixed could have cost me much more than just a shaken experience.

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