Driver Tips

How to use the brakes when descending a mountain

Whether because you are traveling or for any other reason, when going down a mountain it is necessary to take a series of precautions in order to preserve the car’s brakes . After all, depending on how you choose to descend, it is possible to just damage the system and create greater problems and concerns for you, having to go to a workshop urgently.

It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter if you’ve had your license for a while or are just starting to drive , there are some precautions that are essential to prolonging the life of your brakes, so pay close attention!

The first thing we should keep in mind is that we are not going to talk about how to apply the brake correctly , but rather how to use it in the most appropriate way when going down beaches, for example. So to find out how to use the brake correctly when going down the mountain , in this content and understand all the essential points on this topic.

Why is it advisable to use the brake correctly when descending a mountain?

The main reason why it is recommended to use car brakes correctly when descending the mountains is because, if you use them excessively and incorrectly, it will cause the entire system to heat up too much, evaporating your brake fluid. As a consequence, the system becomes less efficient, until it reaches the level of not functioning correctly, which is highly dangerous.

But don’t worry, even though it’s something that many people do, it is possible to find some signs that the system is less efficient to stay alert, and there are two of them: the brake pedal appears to be more rubbery and the pedal may be lower.

If this is your case, the best option is to be more careful and, as soon as possible, take it to a trusted workshop to carry out the necessary maintenance, before even hitting the road, traveling or anything like that.

How to descend correctly then?

During the mountain descent, the driver must mainly use engine braking, using the gearbox in the most appropriate way possible. It is worth remembering that this type of brake maintains a constant speed when descending — without you having to step on the pedal frequently and taking your foot off the accelerator.

For this, the most recommended is to use as a base the gear you would use if it were going uphill. In other words, if it is an incline for second gear, for example, use the same second gear to descend the mountain , and so on. This way you don’t end up with a very low rev, which is enough to not strain the engine and not waste a lot of fuel either.

And for those who own an automatic car?

Okay, but how do you go down the mountains with an automatic car ? In a case like this, it is more difficult for you to control the gear the vehicle is in, for obvious reasons.

Therefore, the recommendation is to analyze whether the rotation is too low (a sign that the engine brake is not in action) and, if this is the case, use the butterflies on the steering wheel to reduce it — if your model has this item. If not, use the lever, put it in manual mode and decrease by one gear so that the speed is maintained, reducing the use of the brake pedal.

The benefits of using engine braking

More than just a safer way to go down the mountain, using engine braking is great for preserving all parts of your vehicle’s braking system.

As if that wasn’t enough, you also have greater fuel economy , generating less costs (putting in gas and spending time away from the workshop ) for your pocket and more peace of mind at all times.

And what to do if the brakes run out while driving?

To address the subject of what to do in the event that your vehicle’s brakes fall flat, we should initially comprehend how they work. Cars have plate brakes with pressure driven cushions and calipers. When you press the pedal, pressure is transferred to the caliper, which makes contact with the disc and continues to reduce speed until the car comes to a full stop. However, if this occurs frequently, the assembly’s temperature rises and efficiency decreases.

Therefore, if there is no brake at any time — whether when descending the mountain or in another situation —, the most recommended thing is to reduce gear to reach the engine speed limit and, thus, gradually reduce the speed. This makes it easier to stop at the side of the road to wait for it to cool down, as the brake works perfectly again when it cools down.

Also remember not to replace the pedal brake with the handbrake, even if the overall efficiency is low. After all, this lever acts on the rear wheels and, if the steering wheel is turned a little, it is possible that you will spin on the track.

Furthermore, don’t delay going to your trusted mechanic as soon as you notice any changes in the system. This way you can change the system and avoid major problems that may arise while you are in traffic, okay?


Descending a mountain requires specific braking techniques to ensure safety and prevent damage to your vehicle’s braking system. Utilizing engine braking by appropriately downshifting gears helps maintain a constant speed and reduces the reliance on pedal brakes, thereby preventing overheating and brake fluid evaporation. For automatic cars, manual mode or paddle shifters can be used to control the descent effectively. Signs of brake system inefficiency, such as a rubbery pedal feel, should prompt immediate maintenance to avoid critical failures.

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