Quite often, during a chase scene, the prey will find himself the victim of a brake failure. There are many reasons this could happen: his brake lines have been cut by the villain, rough terrain has damaged the car, or MyCarHatesMe and has decided that now would be a good time for them to randomly fail.

Losing your brakes is indeed a dangerous thing to have happen, but TV likes to up the danger by assuming that brakes are magical devices which hold in check the powerful forces which a car uses to kill its driver.

Specifically, without brakes, a fictional driver loses all ability to slow the car down. They don't think to downshift, de-clutch or even take the car out of gear. Applying the parking brake doesn't help, even though is a completely separate system from the normal hydraulic brakes. Throwing the car into reverse is another idea that never occurs to anyone (but in fairness, the Series/{{Mythbusters}} have shown this would never work in the first place since most cars won't shift from a forward gear to reverse until the car has stopped moving).

Worse than that, a car without brakes will not simply fail to stop. It will accelerate out of control, even on flat ground or up a hill. The engine may rev up. The driver will also be forced to [[DrivesLikeCrazy swerve back and forth a lot]]. Sometimes the implication is that the driver is panicking and not thinking straight.

With Magic Brakes being the only thing keeping the car from quickly accelerating to top speed, it's odd that no one ever notices the brake failure until they've reached highway speed-- despite any maneuvering and braking required just to get the car out of its parking spot. This is sometimes (but not often) HandWaved by having the brake line slashed, but not fully cut, so the brake fluid is slowly leaking out.

Fortunately, the magic does not kick in until the driver ''discovers'' that he has no brakes. The car will behave perfectly normally before that point, but as soon as he notices that he can't stop, the out-of-control acceleration will begin.

Of course, if there is a hairpin turn anywhere within a hundred miles, the driver will be on it at the moment the brakes decide to let go.

A note on heavy trucks and trains: air brakes on modern vehicles work opposite the way car brakes do. The brakes are set to hold themselves shut, but air pressure in the system is what opens them and lets the wheels turn. If an air line is cut, there will be no pressure to open the brakes and the vehicle won't move. Of course, this can be dangerous in its own way; if the air lines are cut while in motion, or something else goes wrong, the brakes will snap shut and cause a lockup, skidding, and perhaps a jackknifed trailer. You may see this on a highway in the form of two sets of closely-spaced rubber streaks.

Often overlaps with BrakeAngrily.
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!!Examples

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[[folder: Advertising ]]

* Subverted in one Burger King commercial. A group of moms incensed by the restaurant's new home-style melt hire a saboteur to cut the King's brake lines. This only causes him to accidentally ram ''their'' parked cars as he backs out of his parking spot.

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[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* ''SailorMoon'' episode 111, where Eudial's car falls off a cliff after she discovers that her rival Mimete destroyed its brake pedal. Not only did she have enough time and distance to simply steer away, but it also raises the question how she managed to get there to begin with - not only without brakes, but also without noticing it.
** Eudial is established as driving like an absolute lunatic; she'll do 80 driving up the stairs of a subway station. Mimette could have slashed her brake lines three episodes ago and that was just the first time she noticed.
** The weirdest part about that whole sequence is that Mimete didn't cut the brake line: she removed ''the entire brake pad and the bottom portion of the car''. Not only did Eudial not notice the gaping hole next to the gas pedal, but she didn't notice the snails Mimete left as a...as a...well, actually, I have no idea why she left snails in her car. The English dub didn't even seem to know, so they just said they were "[[HollyWoodAcid acid snails]]" and [[BigLippedAlligatorMoment never mentioned it again]]. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgmMkCo3g-s That sequence was weird]].
** Actually, the Japanese version established Eudial as being squeamish around snails. Mimete had earlier left snails inside her locker, which caused Eudial to freak out, and she may have left them in the car to make her panic and lose even more control of the car.
* First played straight and then unintentionally on two separate occasions in ''YoureUnderArrest'' - In the season 2 episode ''A Midsummer Night's Curse'', the brakes in Miyuki's Honda go out just as it reaches a crosswalk with two children crossing (The emergency brake however, did work and prevented any accidents from occurring). The other instance is in the opening to the ''Full Throttle'' season; As is typical of StudioDEEN's [[SarcasmMode testament]] of [[OffModel quality]], the brake pedal disappears for one frame ([[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMWk27Il9Po The scene in question is here, 2 seconds in]]).

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[[folder: Film ]]

* Played half-straight in the first ''CannonballRun'' film. A minor Cannonballer claims to a police officer trying to pull him over that his brakes are broken and he can't stop. After the police car pulls away to get backup, the Cannonballer discovers his brakes really ''are'' broken, leading to his truck jumping off the conveniently placed car hauler and over the single empty flatbed of the train that has everything else stopped.
* Occurs in the ''Film/TankGirl'' film when TG is stealing the Water & Power truck.
-->'''Jet Girl''': There's a big cliff coming up on you. Now hit the brakes. Hit the brakes!\\
'''Tank Girl''': Brakes aren't working, girl! Plan B!\\
'''Jet Girl''': Get outta there! Quick! Jump!
* ''GeminiMan''/''Riding with Death'' (Movie version). Atypically, the brake failure is treated as only a moderate danger in and of itself -- the danger is provided by the high explosives in the trailer and the hairpin turn just down the road. The truck does still accelerate out of control on a level road.
* In ''Film/BlackDog'', attention to detail on how trucks work is the film's main virtue. When a bad guy on a bike jumps onto the deckplate in-motion, and pulls off the connectors to the trailer, the protection valve on the dash of the tractor pops immediately, and the hero must get them re-connected before the air tank runs low and the brakes set.
* In ''SilverStreak'', the conductor's plan to stop (most of) the sabotaged train and minimize the damage from the crash at the end of the film is simple: uncouple the cars, all the air lines break, and the emergency brakes set, leaving only the locomotive running out-of-control. This is actually completely accurate.
** The same situation was played out in the film ''Film/{{Runaway Train}}''.
* This is how the titular character dies in ''Film/DrowningMona''.
* Borderline situation in ''TheBluesBrothers'', where the heroes glue the Good Ol' Boys' truck's accelerator pedal down.

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* Used in Creator/TomClancy's ''[[Literature/JackRyan Without Remorse]]'', when a truck going downhill loses all brakes, resulting in the driver downshifting. It did slow the truck down, but not enough...
* Borderline example in ''Literature/AScannerDarkly'' where it's the ''accelerator'' pedal that's broken, and won't come up from the depressed position, causing the car to keep accelerating until the protagonist rips the key out of the ignition.
* Crops up in one of the books that were adapted into ''Series/AllCreaturesGreatAndSmall'' of all places. Subverted in that Jim had been complaining to Siegfried about the car (which belonged to the practice) being in increasingly urgent need of having the brakes serviced for some weeks beforehand[[note]][[ValuesDissonance The story predates proper vehicle roadworthiness tests by some decades]][[/note]], but the part where they finally give up the ghost right at the top of a very steel hill is played straight. [[JustifiedTrope Of course,]] being in Yorkshire it would have been ''more'' of an improbable coincidence if they'd quit on him anywhere but on a hill.

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* ''KnightRider'': "Let It Be Me"
* ''Series/MacGyver'':
** "Hellfire" does a good job of setting up the sequence -- there's a steep gradient, a reason for the brakes to fail just at that moment, and an actual danger from the load of unstable explosives on the back of the truck -- but still falls inside the trope because the people in the truck, one of whom is the famously ingenious [=MacGyver=], can't think of anything that might slow the truck down.
** "The Enemy Within" has a car with a punctured brake fluid cable accelerate out of control down a gentle slope for several miles while [=MacGyver=] climbs out onto the front of the car and does emergency repairs. (The driver does actually think to try the handbrake, but it's not working either.)
* Too many SoapOpera examples to list, on both sides of the Equator. ''UglyBetty'' brought from Venezuela all the brake-cutting goodness of the original.
* Subverted in ''LoisAndClark'', when Jimmy Olsen finds himself unable to brake he resorts to screaming for help. {{Superman}} just sits down next to him and says "Did you try this?" before turning off the ignition and handing Jimmy the key as the car comes to a complete stop.
* Justified in ''{{Smallville}}''. When an actress's car goes out of control, it's revealed that not only did someone cut her brake line, they ''also'' tampered with her accelerator, explaining why she kept speeding up.
* A brake fluid line was accidentally cut in a ''Series/MissionImpossible'' episode, in a remote-controlled vehicle to boot. However, they ''did'' manage to get the vehicle back in control through downshifting.
* In one episode of ''Series/TheBionicWoman'', Jaime finds herself in a car with the brakes cut, rolling downhill, and the gearshift rigged so she couldn't put it in park. She has to open the car door and stomp down hard with her bionic legs to stop the car.

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[[folder: Newspaper Comics ]]

* ComicStrip/DickTracy faced this situation at least once in the 1930s.

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[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* Parodied in ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', where Marge's car's dashboard actually has a "Brakes Cut" light.
** Even stranger, the brakes weren't actually cut: Homer just ended up draining all the brake fluid when he was trying to change the oil, and was too embarassed to mention it.
* Subverted/Parodied in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'', where a girl Steve is taking revenge on has her brakes go out at the top of a steep hill, only to realize that she was just [[DrivingStick stepping on the clutch]].
** Played straight in another episode when Roger cuts the brakes; the car goes in full throttle as soon as Stan mentions the brakes.

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[[folder: Real Life ]]

* A woman was running errands when her car's throttle became stuck open, causing her car to accelerate out of control. Attempts at braking or downshifting were only a temporary, partial solution, and in the end she had to send her car upside down into a ditch in order to stop. The tale is recounted in the ''Reader's Digest'' article, "My Car Won't Stop!"
** This happened to me once. Shifting into neutral and hitting the brakes stopped the car. By downshifting and using the brakes, I was able to drive to the service station, even with throttle stuck open.
** On any modern production car--even super-powered exotics, the brakes are always more powerful than the engine to the point that they can stop a car at wide-open throttle (albeit much more slowly than with the engine at idle). In any stuck throttle situation, you must:
*** '''1.''' Maintain control of the car, immediately shift to neutral and leave it there.
*** '''2.''' Ignore the revving to max, hit your emergency flashers and ease the car to the roadside. (a blown engine vs. a lost life...ignore the motor this time)
*** '''3.''' Once on the side, THEN shut down the engine and call for help.
*** '''NEVER''' shut off your ignition while your car is moving. You'll lose your power steering and power brakes, making the car surprisingly hard to control.
* [[DeconstructedTrope Deconstruction]]: modern ABS braking systems have the braking circuits for front and rear wheels ''completely'' separated into the ABS unit. (While on a classic twin-master-cylinder braking system, despite having two circuits and two pistons in the master cylinder, if you cut one brake line, the fluid will still seep out and the car looses braking ability.) So if anyone [[VehicularSabotage attempts to cut a brake line]], let's say from the front, the rear brakes will still stop the car fine, just the pedal has to be pushed further down and quicker.
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