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Brakes fail. Pull emergency brake. Automatic in lowest gear?

Driver was approaching a grade crossing with train passing.
He applies brakes but nothing.

Pull emergency brake hard. Pump brake pedal to see if you can pump up pressure.

Place automatic in lowest gear, or Neutral or Reverse?
Would transmission go into reverse if moving forward?
Thank you.

It depends on the tranny. A modern automatic will not, a manual would provide a struggle by could be forced.

I hope I’d have the presence of mind to do like the song says…“turn, turn, turn”.

Turn the engine off.

BTW, if your brakes completely fail, and you don’t have any psychopathic enemies, you probably screwed up. Modern brakes give you a lot of warning before they fail, because catastrophic failures (meaning “the line broke suddenly with no warning” have been failsafed by designing 2 sets of lines (one line per 2 wheels) so that if a brake line bursts, you still have stopping power.

A “brakes went out” failure is often because the brakes have been getting more and more mushy over time and the owner ignored it rather than getting it fixed.

When in doubt, try it out. Or let someone else do it.

I would shift to the lowest gear possible.

Try it out and risk damaging/destroying my automatic transmission?

Better to destroy a transmission than to run into a train . . . am I right?

Getting hit by a few hundred thousand tons of train (or whatever a train weighs) might also destroy the transmission.

RG: “Try it out and risk damaging/destroying my automatic transmission?”

It wouldn’t be the dumbest thing you’ve ever done. :wink:

You know, we always have a steering wheel as “same” alludes to and a sudden change of direction helps slow any vehicle. I wouldn’t be too concern side swiping a parked car if the alternative is a train. A train collision is instant " your worse day" you probably never walk away from and anything else is “softer.”

As stange as it seems, when we were doing driver training at the police academy, we were instructed to always be aware alternative choices if you will, to avoid the worse. Scanning for these alternatives as you drive is a habit I still practice today and encouraged my kids while learning to drive. It helps avoid the death grip, slam on the brakes single reaction scenario and continue in a straight line. If you approach a train intersection and haven 't already begun slowing down by coasting, you begin to eliminate other options if your brakes fail.

I have practiced destroying, for example, a bike by twisting the steering handle violently to avoid collisions. Other options( not the same) do work in cars as well if you are prepared for them.

I always thought it was common sense to choose the least hazardous situation in a case where you have to wreck the car in one way or another. Common sense doesn’t seem to common, though, as evidenced by the number of people I have heard of who chose to swerve into a ditch and rolled their car in order to avoid hitting a deer. I would rather hit the deer for a number of reasons, the least of which is that you may end up with a decent amount of venison out of the deal, the most of which is that hitting a deer will almost always cause less damage to a vehicle and it’s occupants than driving it into a ditch at high speed.

Unless we have actually been in a few real life situations, we can never accurately predict how we will behave. Common sense as we type our alternatives on a post may be completely different from what we will actually do. That’s why, it is important to mentally practice alternatives as you drive rather than just chock it up to common sense. My wife, “intentionally” hit a deer rather than put herself in greater harms way. I don’t know if I would have reacted as well.

I’ll chime in here. Years ago when I had my Bronco, it needed a transmission rebuild. On the way to the shop, I figured I’d go ahead and throw in park whilst traveling about 45 MPH. I was getting a rebuild either way, so further damage wasn’t a concern. My hypothesis was that the electronically controlled E4OD wouldn’t allow anything to happen that would potentially ruin the transmission. So I indeed threw the transmission into Park and not surprisingly nothing happened, I didn’t come to screeching halt, nothing broke, and the transmission didn’t fall out of vehicle. I put it back into drive and continued on.

Also on most automatics. If you’re going x MPH, it will only downshift but so far. If you’re going 60 MPH on the highway and you shift in 1st gear in automatic, it’ll only drop down to 2nd in most cars, the car knows that dropping down to 1st at those speeds will likely grenade the engine.

As you might expect there are multiple fail-safes build into the modern automatic transmission.

In an situation where you might lose your life (and assuming no brakes, etc) shove the transmission into PARK.

There is a slight chance the transmission could be damaged but the parking pawl is a pretty strong little device and odds are the transmission will survive this.
It will lock the tires up instantly and smoke them but in a life and death scenario any potential transmission and tire damage is irrelevant.

(Many years ago I was with a friend who did this just for a hoot. The car was a 68 Camaro RS and he ran it up to about 45-50 MPH and shoved it into PARK. The car stopped and stopped quickly with no damage at all to the transmission even after he did this twice in a row.)

It’s important to do more than just mentally practice. In order to get a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license, you have to master an emergency swerve maneuver, and in that part of the riding test, if you don’t get up to speed, you lose points. In the practice runs, the instructor will signal which way you have to swerve, and as the students progress, the instructor delays the signal more and more, eventually making students wait until they are almost upon the imaginary object before they know which way they have to swerve.

Why don’t we do the same thing in order to get a driver’s license for a car? Why don’t we practice reacting to different scenarios? Driving schools should have simulators students can use to practice emergency maneuvers.

I will add, though, that in truck driving school, we were told (not really trained, just told), that if we had a choice of hitting a deer, and swerving, that we should hit the deer. The reasoning was that it would minimize damage, and prevent the situation from becoming more danger than necessary. It’s better to have $2,000 in body damage than total a $100,000 truck, the trailer, and its payload. Does the same hold true in a car though? If you are in a small car, or on a motorcycle, couldn’t hitting a large animal, like a fully grown deer or a moose present more danger than swerving and rolling a car on a grassy median, or laying down and totaling a motorcycle and sliding to a stop? At what point do you stop caring about minimizing the damage, and only consider what you need to do to save your life?

Other truck drivers warned me that if I hit a deer, I should strap the deer carcass to the truck’s cat walk and take it with me as proof that I didn’t make up the part about the deer.

Deer probably won’t kill you. It usually won’t even injure you much, although there have been some unusual cases where the deer punched through the windshield and struck an occupant. Even then, you rarely get any serious injury.

Moose, on the other hand, I’m swerving every time. Those damn things are heavy, and all the weight is high up, which means it’s going to turn into a meat missile that goes right through the windshield.

"Better to destroy a transmission than to run into a train . . . am I right?"

Appeared that he meanto experiment justo see what happens.

I assume the parking pawl would not catch or would break off.
What would Reverse do?

Assuming neither would be effective, I would place it in 1st
and if necessary steer (rub) my vehicle against other objects to slow it down and stop it.
Even run into the grade crossing signal.
If I must hithe train, I would steer it heading the same direction as the train is moving.

When coming to a stop for a traffic signal, stop sign or operating crossing signal, I gently start slowing well ahead. If something suddenly were wrong, I would have more time and options to avoid a bad outcome.

I accelerate gently and decelerate gently.