Your Parking Brake – It’s Not Just for Emergencies Anymore


One of your car’s most important safety features is your braking system. Most drivers utilize their primary brakes with ease but forget about the secondary system. This back-up braking system was initially designed to be used for emergencies only (when the primary braking system failed), which is why it was first called the emergency brake or e-brake. However, it is now referred to as the parking brake (or hand brake) because in modern-day cars, it is designed to be used every time you park your vehicle as an additional safety measure.


Types of Parking Brakes

Every car is manufactured with a secondary braking system which is your parking brake. There are four different types of parking brake systems, each operated by the driver’s hand or foot:

  • Push Button: Newer models will have a simple button on the console for you to push.
  • Center Lever: Some vehicles have a lever located between the two front seats near the console.
  • Foot Pedal: A wide range of vehicles have a pedal located to the far left of the other floor pedals.
  • Stick Lever: Older-model vehicles may have a brake lever installed on the steering column, center dash, or instrument panel.


How Does the Parking Brake Work?

The parking brake is a mechanical system which means your engine doesn’t have to be running for it to work. Additionally, if your primary braking system fails while you are driving, you have the parking brake to use as a fail-safe method to help you slow down, so you can eventually come to a stop. When manually engaged, the parking brake bypasses the vehicle’s primary hydraulic brake system through a series of cables and levers designed to hold your car in place, usually by the back wheels.


When to Use Your Parking Brake:

Your parking brake should be used every time your vehicle is parked, and not just when it’s on a hill. Here are a few reasons why:

  • When the vehicle is in park, a metal pin from the transmission called the parking pawl is used to prevent the wheels from turning. Without the parking brake engaged, it puts unnecessary stress on your transmission. Engaging your parking brake could help your transmission last longer.
  • Accidents do happen with parked cars. If your parked car gets hit, the parking brake can help ensure your car stays put. Otherwise, the impact could knock the car out of gear creating a whole other set of issues, including additional damage, if it should happen to roll out of place.
  • Parking brakes that are not regularly used are susceptible to rust and the cables could experience premature breakage. Regularly utilizing your parking brake can help ensure it is ready to engage should you need it for an actual emergency.


The Proper Way to Engage Your Parking Brake:

For the best safety measures, the proper way to engage your parking brake is as follows:

  1. Maneuver your car to its parking spot and allow it to come to a complete stop.
  2. Engage the parking brake and remember that it is not a strength contest. If you pull or push the lever too hard, you may not be able to release the brake easily.
  3. After the parking brake is engaged, it is time to shift your car into park. This is the key to preserving your transmission and the parking pawl for as long as possible.
  4. Remember to release the parking brake when you are ready to roll. If for some reason you are not able to release your parking break, there could be several reasons; the system may have rusted, or a cable could be broken. If it is wet and icy out, it might be frozen. If that is the case, simply turn the vehicle on and let the undercarriage warm up to melt the parking brake’s frozen mechanisms.

You can never be too safe when operating – or parking – your vehicle. Your primary brakes and parking brake are made to work together like a dynamic duo to ensure the best safety possible for you, your vehicle, and everyone else on the road. Plus, they need to function properly in order to pass an inspection. If you have concerns about any part of your braking system, don’t wait for an emergency or all-out brake failure. Come by Kwik Kar today so we can get you going – and stopping – as safely as possible.

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