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Marriage Debate - Using the Parking Brake!

My husband and I have an ongoing debate about when it is necessary to use the parking brake and if there are any adverse effects on the car itself if one never uses the parking brake for normal parking situations on completely flat streets. Obviously, when parking at any angle (even the slight slant of a driveway), I’ll use my parking brake, but is it really necessary in any normal, flat parking lot?

Certainly, I doubt he is doing any DAMAGE to his car (2010 Ford Fusion) by using the parking brake obsessive-compulsively (I think he’s grieving the loss of his old manual car and just needs to fidget with something in the center console area.) But am I doing any damage to mine by just leaving it alone?

Let’s solve this great marriage debate! :slight_smile:

Using your parking brake on a level surface helps keep the rear brakes adjusted on some models (Does yours have rear drum brakes?), and it acts as a back-up in case the transmission’s parking pawl ever fails to hold the vehicle. Even on seemingly level surfaces, your car can roll away.

Once you get into the habit, you will know what to do without thinking about it. Using your parking brake every time you park will ensure you never forget to use it when you park on a hill.

I drive a stick shift, and I don’t NEED to leave it in gear when I use the parking brake, but it never hurts to have back-up.

You should always use the parking brake. If the parking pawl in the transmission ever fails, then the parking brake is the only backup that you have. Also, the parking brake prevents the car from moving slightly and putting pressure on the parking pawl that could cause damage or cause the transmission to be stuck in park.

If you live in an area prone to corrosion, or you plan to keep the car for a long time, using the parking brake occasionally even on flat terrain will prevent the system from corroding. Yes, it is a good idea to use it occasionally even if you never park on inclines.

You need not ALWAYS use it when parking on level ground.

No damage from not using it. I bet most folks don’t in that situation.

Well, so far, my husband will be pleased to read!

I drive a 2009 Jeep Patriot and he a 2010 Ford Fusion. We also live in Phoenix, which is terribly flat, dry, and exempt from most weather. I figure I’ll probably damage the car more in the long run by USING the parking brake and then forgetting to take it off!

If this is something you’re prone to do, you could always make an orange tag that you can hang on your steering wheel that says “remove parking brake” and use it when you use the brake.

As long as you remove it before driving away it’ll do no harm whatsoever to use it. In my car, which uses teeny drums cast into the center of the disc with teeny shoes, there is no way I could drive away and not realize the brake is on. It holds the wheels way too well to do that. It’d feel like I was dragging an anchor.

Even if you’re on flat ground, you can damage the pawl in the transmission if, say, the car is bumped while parked.

Occasionally the e-brake isn’t used in winter to prevent the brakes from freezing in the on position…but you’re in AZ.

So, use of the e-brake won’t hurt anything, may well save wear on internal transmission parts, and is a good habit to get in if ever venturing away from Phoenix (I’ve seen a rollaway vehicle in action–damn scary). So why not use it?

This is called HABIT, not OCD.
one less thing to run off the ‘check list’ in you mind…
do I need to do this or that?
do I not need to.

Having his action rooted in habit is just fine
as long as YOUR habit is to always release the park brake.

In any car with an automatic transmission, the parking brake should be engaged while the car is in drive or neutral, before the car is put into park, on any grade or even on level ground. It should be a habit that every driver has ingrained into his or her brain. Engaging the parking brake prevents damage to a small part inside your transmission (the pawl) that will be costly to replace if damaged, and which cannot be relied on in any case to prevent the car from rolling away. The pawl is up to the task of preventing roll-away in most cases but unfortunately, many drivers abuse the part by allowing the car to roll a little while putting the car into park.
I have seen people put their vehicles into park and exit the car with the engine running with small kids in the car. The car in this condition is a potential missile (in these extreme cases, powered, with small children to add to the potential tragedy) that may very well slip into reverse and go wherever gravity and/or the engine takes it.

Before you put the car in park, always engage the parking brake. Always shut the engine off.

can your vehicle even move while the parking brake is engaged? I remember trying to get my Civic moving one day, thinking I was stuck in some snow, but realized that the parking brake was engaged. Once I set it down, the car was able to move freely.

From a practical standpoint, I never use the parking brake unless I am on a reasonable hill. Its not a bad idea to use it once in a while to keep the rear brakes adjusted and to make sure the cable for it doesn’t rust in place, but I’ve never lost a car yet in 45 years. Its just not a big deal and not worth arguing about. I have pulled out wondering what the dinging was for and discovered I still had the brake on though.

Here’s the rule of thumb with parking brakes if they don’t adjust the rear disc brakes. Use them all the time or don’t. If you use it all the time it works. If you don’t use it all the time, and that one time when you need it, it usually locks up from rust and won’t release so it locks the rear brakes up.


Good advice from all–maybe those pro-parking brake among you will convince me, maybe not.

I must point out, however, that as many of you are among the top 20/250 contributors on this forum, you are probably in the upper echelon of those who TRULY take care of your cars and/or have the automotive know-how. Kudos to you all!

I still believe that the vast majority of people parking automatics on flat surfaces do NOT use their parking brakes. Therefore, since I have yet to hear from anyone–in the real or virtual world–of these pawl damages being commonplace, I am understanding that my “real danger” is quite slim.

Ok, so perhaps I can work on my parking habits. Being that annoying fact-checker/context-finder that I am, I just wanted to have some concept of why this was important. I’ll give the win to the hubby.

I’m with you, Bing! To respond to bscar about if the car can, in fact, still move with the brake still on…Yes, often times it can from my experience and it appears from others’ too. I don’t know enough to comment on why… :confused:

One more perspective: How sure are you that you always remember putting the shifter into park? I’m all about the “routine” that was mentioned above (just make it part of the habit to shift to P, engage the hand brake, turn the lights off which is another thing going better with routine, etc.). But a while back I got out of the car on a small incline and while I took my foot off the brake pedal and had the left leg on the pavement already, the car started rolling. I had forgotten BOTH the P and the parking brake. So I guess it’s good to have some redundancy in the system (if you forget one, the other is most likely in place). But you are of course right: In 99.999% of cases it does not make a difference. With that argument you also need neither ABS nor ESP or a crumple zone for that matter :slight_smile:

I figure I’ll probably damage the car more in the long run by USING the parking brake and then forgetting to take it off!

That could mean two things. If the car does not move when you try then no damage done (maybe a little clutch wear of a manual. It will however mean that you will quickly learn to release the brake before you drive off. On the other hand if are able to drive away and not immediately notice it, then you could do some damage to the brakes. However compared to the possible serious damage to your car and other possible damage, a set of brakes will cheap and you will soon lean to set the brakes properly.

Not many people will experience problems by not using their parking brake, but some of those that due could experience some serious damage. 

I suggest you make it a practice to use them every time you park.  In some areas it is legally required.

Living in a somewhat flat area I rarely park on an incline and see no need to use the parking brake except on those rare occasions that I am on a hill or wish to leave the engine idling on one of the manual transmissions. There does seem to be an OCD issue if the husband is so fixated on such a trivial non-issue. I have developed several ritualistic tendencies to keep my life in order but see no reason for anyone else to follow my lead.

One rule that I follow religiously is never to leave a running car without the parking brake being on. Cars do sometimes end up in gear for one reason or another.

The damage that occurs from not using it is they sometimes seize up due to corrosion combined with lack of use.

This crops up when at the worst times.