How Brake Failure Works

By: Chris Marlowe  | 

Brake Failure While Towing

You have the afternoon off and decide to spend it at the lake. You're pulling the boat behind your pickup when your brakes suddenly fail. What happened? And what can you do?

Trailers go out of control if they are pushed beyond their maximum speed. Even good drivers can lose control if the road surface is rough, or if there's a sudden strong wind or drag caused by a passing vehicle. Needing to maneuver a vehicle suddenly, to avoid a collision or an obstruction in the road, can also cause a lack of control. Remember to always operate the vehicle at a safe speed.


Starting and stopping a vehicle with a tow trailer must always be done slowly. It takes more time to stop your vehicle when you've got a trailer attached. Plan for twice the time and distance you would need without a trailer. Looking ahead and anticipating stops is another smart way to drive. That way, you won't need to hit the brake suddenly. The trailer may jackknife if you hit the brake in a panic. If that happens, or if the trailer appears to be playing tag with your rear bumper, remove your foot from the brake pedal [source: DMV].

Overheating can result from overusing the brakes. Use lower grades when going down a hill. This will allow engine compression to slow and stop the vehicle.

In the event of brake failure, especially in mountainous regions, runaway truck ramps are your best bet. Let's look at them in more detail.