Emergency Brakes

When parking on an incline, say my driveway which is pretty steep, I engage my emergency brake. When I release the brake I get a creaking noise as I put it in reverse to back out of the driveway.
Two questions is using the emergency brake really going to keep my car from rolling back down the driveway and does the creaking noise mean the emergency or rear brakes are being stressed by holding the car in an incline for several hours each day?

I really worry some days I am going to walk outside and my car will be in the neighbors yard. Thanks for your reply.

Angela Brown

The first thing to do is to have your mechanic check the adjustment of the parking brake/e-brake, and to determine the condition of the brake shoes that actually do the work.

If your vehicle has disc brakes in the rear, it is likely that there is also a tiny brake drum containing a very small set of brake shoes that are used only for the parking brake/e-brake. These little brake shoes may not have much holding power if their adjustment is “off”, and if you have ever driven for any distance with the e-brake applied, these little brake shoes may have experienced too much wear for their shallow depth.

Once you have determined that your e-brake is in good condition, just be sure to use it in conjunction with either the “Park” position of the transmission (automatic trans), or a forward gear (manual trans).

I think you are ok. When you park, set the parking brake first, put the transmission in park, then release your brakes. When you get ready to leave, do the reverse, foot on brake, car in gear then release the parking brake.

the creaking sound, if I interpret it right is because you are not putting enough pressure on your brakes and are releasing the parking brake before putting the vehicle in gear. The creaking is telling me your parking brake is working good.

It’s good to check your e brake now and then to become accustomed to it’s function and noises which may be particular to your car. On inclines of varying degree, use the brake alone while in neutral and see how much pressure you need to apply to the lever to keep the car stationary. Use sufficient pressure alone when needed as over braking can stretch cables. I’m sure someone will think this is crazy, but I see nothing wrong with occasionally doing two things.

First, practice stopping with the e brake to see it’s limits and secondly driving at short distances at very low speeds with very light application to burnish the braking surface areas occassionally. Practicing stopping once or twicewill also make you more inclined to use it as a back up when needed. Don’t make this a habit, as VDC says, there isn’t much there. Keith is right…use e brake first before putting into park.

It’s easy enough to see if the parking brake will keep your car from rolling. Just put it in Neutral and see. If it doesn’t hold, then get it fixed.

I wouldn’t say it “stresses” the parking brake to use it on a steep hill, although you might need it to be adjusted a little more often than someone who doesn’t do that. However, that’s what it’s designed for, so keep using it.

As others have said, make sure the parking brake is on firmly before shifting into Park.

If you’re still nervous about the car ending up in the neighbor’s yard, you might be able to aim the front wheels so that the car will go in a safer direction if it does roll. However, it might be a little hard on your tires and your driveway (if paved) to turn the wheels while sitting still day after day.

If a parking brake has actually been doing some work then it will likely creak when you release it. There are parts moving around & shoes pulling off of the drum - and its going to make noise - as the stress is released. But taking stress is what its designed for. If you want to end up in your neighbor’s yard, then by all means stop using it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask someone to check it out. Having brakes checked is always a good idea.

As another redundancy you might also think about how you point your front wheels. In street parking on hills it is best to turn the wheels to the curb so that if the car did decide to move it will roll to the curb which will help keep in in place. Maybe you don’t have a curb, but maybe you have something else that you could sort of point your wheels at - just to put your mind at ease about it.

Cig makes good sense…If you are a worry wart like I am, strategically place something to use as a wheel chock in the drive. I use a couple of 4 by 4 s I place under the car port to keep our wheeled stuff from rolling into the closed garage door. This dimension allows you to drive over if desired while doing a good job chocking wheels. Just about anything works if wedged properly. I have a real fetish as we live on the side of a mountain and anything that starts rolling can make for a real bad day for someone. Car’s are too heavy to mess with; can’t be too careful. I trust no parking brake or transmission to hold the car alone…even together, I plan on failure and always aim anything with wheels at something safe…like a tree, the lake or a Yugo.

I can’t believe you would dis a Yugo like that.

Not at all cig. I completely respect a Yugo’s ability to take on the roll of a stationary object. That’s what they did best.

I sugget the term “emergency brake” should be outlawed. I once had a brake line rust out and had to use the parking brake to stop the car. Lucky the other drivers around me reacted well and they helped me avoid an accident. The use of the parking brake did stop the car, but clearly it was a very poor tool to stop a car. It is a good tool to keep your car from moving when parked and should be used every time you park.

The use of the parking brake did stop the car, but clearly it was a very poor tool to stop a car.

Sounds like it the parking brake did a good job in stopping the car in an Emergency. What would have happened if you didn’t have the parking brake???

I was really lucky as the intersection was on the busiest in Columbus Ohio and I (with the aid of a number of other drivers) managed to avoid an accident, but not by much. Yes it did serve in an emergency, but only because the conditions were just right. If just one driver did not see what was happening and take appropriate action, it would not have turned out so well.

Point I’m trying to make…is that…there is no other “Emergency” braking device on any car that I know of…other then the parking brake. They call it a parking brake…but if the hydraulics fail…it’s all you go to stop the car…short of a brick wall.

Or you can slam the transmission into park.

Or you can slam the transmission into park.

On many modern computerized transmissions that will NOT work.

Too bad. In an emergency, any port in a storm.

Even on many non-computerized automatic transmissions, it will not work.

I had the misfortune to be riding in a friend’s Corolla (vintage 1984), when the engine died and he decided to throw the trans into Park while we were moving at about 50 mph. Luckily for him, the Park Pawl had a ratchet mechanism that prevented it from engaging and causing damage to the transmission.

When he threw the shift lever into Park, I expected the worst, but then the reassuring sound of something ratcheting and a total lack of any braking action showed that this old Toyota had an idiot-proof mechanism built into its transmission.