Gimme' a Brake: How Getting My Brakes Fixed Saved My Life

By Ashley Bradish

Now, I know I work in an Auto Repair shop, but I'll admit I was terrible about taking care of my car. My boyfriend would do my oil changes, and he changed my windshield wipers on one occasion. But other than that, I was a neglectful car mom.


For months I noticed that whenever I hit the brakes, my car seemed like it lost traction. So when I had to slam on the brakes, my car would fishtail. The ABS light and Traction Control light were on, but I didn't know what they meant. I know, I definitely should have brought it in for a technician to look at it, but there was one thing stopping me: Money!


If you're within my age group (early-mid 20's), then you know what I'm talking about. We spend all our money on rent, food, utilities, and student loans. Anything like car repair is a luxury we can't afford.
I took the car in for an estimate at the closest auto repair shop where my family went for years. For a new tire hub, brake vacuum pump, and a non-relating issue of a transmission fluid pad, it would be around $1,400.


I was putting myself and others in danger, but I couldn't afford to do anything about it. So I drove slower and stayed further away from other cars. I was so nervous and vigilant that my eyes would burn. I even had to crack open my arthritic fingers from the steering wheel when I got out of the car.
But these precautions only worked for so long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


My brakes got far, far worse. And, of course, they did! I was putting off the problem for the whole summer! Now instead of fishtailing when I slammed the brakes, any pressure more than a tap made me slide out of control. But did I get them fixed then?


No, of course not.


Then one day, on my way home from work in late October, I was on a very windy road about 10 minutes from my house. I had been driving on this road for years; it was even my route for my internship back in college. This road was never busy, and I never thought I'd have to watch for what came next.


A white Honda flew out of a parking lot right in front of me, without stopping for a single second to check both ways! I jammed my brakes, but my steering wheel jerked and turned out of control!
I flew off the road. Over the curb. Over the grass. Just barely missing the guard rail to my right and the tree that was now right in front of me.


I almost crashed my car!


I was furious. I was scared. And I was shocked. All I could do was cry.


After that, I got a ride from my mom to that same auto repair shop I mentioned earlier and dropped off my car. On the order slip, I attached my previous estimate and wrote, "Just do it!"


So only $1,200 later, all my problems are solved. About two weeks go by with no issues.


Then one evening, on my way home from work, I was driving on that same twisty road. I made one of the sharp turns going downhill. And on the other side of that turn were brake lights right in front of me! A truck stopped in the middle of the road. His reason? I'll never know.


But when I slammed on my brakes to stop, I stopped. Even with a new brake vacuum pump and tire hub, I missed the truck by inches.


My first thought was, "What would have happened if I didn't fix my brakes?" I was driving a Jeep Wrangler (a vehicle with no aerodynamics) down a steep winding hill next to a cliff! If I had to slam on my brakes before the repair, would I have hit the truck? Would I have spun out and rolled over the cliff?
I can live with not knowing the details. But there's the chance I would not have lived at all if I hadn't fixed my brakes.


So now here comes the part you don't want to hear: even though it may cost too much, take care of your car. Get it checked regularly, change the fluids, get repairs, and do what you need to do to stay safe on the road. You may end up in a position where it saves your life.

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