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Driving with handbrake on

Hi, I accidentally drove my car with handbrake on for 0.7 mile, at a speed of 25-30 mph. Do I need to check anything right now?

Test your brakes out, but I doubt you did any serious damage. Probably lost a little life, but nothing too serious.

How firmly was the brake applied?

As long as your brakes and handbrake continue to work as before, unlikely any damage was done other than a little more wear than they otherwise would have. I’ve done that same thing before on a couple of occasions, never noticed any problem. If you were to drive at freeway speeds for 30 or 40 miles, then you may have more to be concerned about. But 30 mph for less than a mile, beyond double checking the brakes are working correctly, I expect you are good to go.


I’d personally like to know what kind of parking brake you have (single drum or application of both rear brakes), but my interest is mostly academic as it wouldn’t change my answer that much.

If the brakes are working like normal, have them inspected during your next maintenance visit for some added peace of mind.

If you were able to do this without noticing, you must not be applying the parking brake firmly enough.

My wife did the same thing with her Mazda. A short distance does no real harm.

Were the brakes on fire? No? Probably OK.

I once pulled up alongside a car with the rear brakes on fire. Likely from driving with the handbrake on. A coworkers daughter drove so far she blew out the tire!

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I was driving on the Interstate somewhere in New England about 40 years ago. A huge mobile home in front of me’s axle was glowing brightly. I stopped to help when they pulled over. They were driving with their emergency on.

The worst parking brakes to forget to release before driving the car were the parking brakes that clamped around the driveshaft. Chrysler products had this type of parking brake at least through the 1950s. These brakes get very hot in a hurry. My 1948 Dodge had this system.

Could you explain the brakes a bit more? I don’t pretty much know about the classification of the brakes. Would you mind if I ask which subject are you studying? The reason of asking is that I’m a great fan of automobile engineering.

there are lots of How Things Work type articles that will explain the operating principles of different kinds of brakes. I don’t see what kind of car you drive so I don’t know what kind of parking brake you have. If you have rear disk brakes (can you see a shiny disk (rotor) when you look through the wheel?) then you likely have a shoe-type parking brake in a drum in the center of that rotor. If you have drum brakes on the back, then the parking brake uses a cable to activate the brake shoes that are normally activated by a hydraulic cylinder.

Not to worry if everything seems to still be working OK, but driving with the parking brake on will fairly quickly overheat the friction surfaces. This can make them less effective and may cause them to crumble and fail completely soon after the event. Listen for odd squeaks from the rear brake area indicating bits of crumbling brake lining loose in the mechanism.

Excessive brake heat can also cook the grease seals on your rear wheel bearings, which will shorten bearing life.