Parking brake didn't hold. Car rolled and hit house

Just as the title reads, this is what happened. My wife’s 2000 Altima/manual transmission had its parking brake slip. She was parked in neutral, and says she had it on. Our driveway is a slight hill…no more than 2% grade, though. It’s never happened in the two years we lived here, and as far as I know the brake has engaged properly tonight.

My question: Is it possible for a parking brake to pass state inspection 6 months ago and exhibit no outward signs of poor performance, only to fail such as described above, but then engage seemingly correctly again? Or am I not getting the entire story from her, as it were.

Thats kinda odd becuase our state inspection(NY) requires us to put the vehicle in drive(auto) or a gear(manual) pull up on the e brake and give it some gas. Maybe to 1000 rpms or so. It’s also quite possible that the tech might of missed the parking brake because it’s a manual and mostly automatic e brakes don’t hold because it’s an automatic. In any case i guess that’s what homeowners is for.

It’s virtually impossible for a parking brake to release itself…if the brake was not applied after the accident, then it never was applied…You should get into the habit of always parking a stick shift vehicle in first or reverse gear…

I believe she applied the parking brake. But did she apply it hard enough. If she isn’t very strong, she needs to give it a good hard yank with both hands. Her real mistake was failing to put the transmission in gear, too. It’s the belt and suspenders principle.

Unfortunately, I don’t drive the car, so I’m not sure if the brake cable needs adjusting or if it had building some slack in recent months.

The other thing is that the car was parked for about 30 minutes before the incident happened (it shook the whole house so we knew when it happened). Unless there was some external force that gave it a shove, I would think it would roll fairly soon after she had parked it. Speculation, though…

BTW, it took out a few glass blocks from a basement window, but I think the house is ok. Stucco on top of cinderblock walls…

Parking brakes almost always need adjusting as the cables do stretch and the shoes on the parking brake wear. In this case if the parking brake didn’t need adjusting after the mishap then it didn’t need adjusting before the mishap either.

In many cars the parking brake holds much better at keeping the car from rolling forward than backward. You didn’t mention which way the car was rolling at the time.

To make sure a car with a manual transmission doesn’t move when parked you need to leave it in either 1st gear or reverse AND apply the parking brake.

How come the car didn’t roll immediately, but did 30 min. later? I offer this as a possible, but admittedly far fetched explaination. When the car was parked the rear brakes were warm from driving. The parking brake is applied and seemingly holds the car. 30 min. later the rear brakes have cooled. Heat expands metal and cooling contracts it. So the parking brake drums and shoes contracted as they cooled and that reduced the friction between the drums and shoes. With less friction the car was able to slip a bit and then more, and built up enough momentum to hit the house.

Does it hold now, maybe it wasn’t applied enough. She is negligent, it should be in first or reverse when parked.
If indeed the parking brake was out of adjustment enough to slip, well alot can happen to a parking brake in 6 months.

When I was a kid and most cars were manual, more than one car backed down the driveway by itself and across the street. Just put it in gear. Don’t know why you’d put it in neutral. And additionally, let it go. Accidents happen, everyone makes mistakes, and no point being a storm trooper about it. Lucky no one was hurt. Just don’t put it in neutral.

Never leave a manual transmission in neutral when it is parked. If the car is facing uphill, it will go downhill. Sometimes the brake will hold and sometimes not. You just can’t count on it. A car with a manual transmission has to be in gear when parked, hill or no hill.

To answer your question, yes. That’s the whole story. Experience with disasters will help us avoid the next identical accident. A car with regular drum brakes will usually hold when facing downhill because the brakes have some servo action which they don’t get when the car can roll backward. Servo, in this case means that when pushed, the brakes get tighter. I wouldn’t trust any vehicle to stay put on rear disc brakes alone.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

An answer to one question posed: The car did roll backwards into the house.

This is her one pass. The next time she leaves it in neutral, it’s bye-bye manual tranny and off to the used car lot to pick up an '85 Pontiac with a slushbox for her as punishment.

This is her one pass. The next time she leaves it in neutral,
it’s bye-bye manual tranny and off to the used car lot to pick
up an '85 Pontiac with a slushbox for her as punishment.

Do you hear yourself?

I have had that happen to me once on a car with the parking brake working on discs. Learned that after parking with hot brakes and not pulling hard on the handle, the car would start rolling when the brakes cooled down. In my case, all that happened was a not so polite police-officer knocking on my door, asking me why the (beep) I parked my (oops) car in the middle of the busy (ouch) road.

I was being facetious…trying to make light of what could have been a pretty bad situation, considering the proximity of our neighbor’s house to ours and how the car could have rolled there instead.

It’s the way I deal with things like this. :slight_smile:

Never leave a manual transmission in neutral when it is parked.

Agreed…ALWAYS leave it in gear. If facing downhill then I put it in reverse…If facing up-hill then I put it in first…but ALWAYS in gear.

The parking brake is likely out of adjustment. You may simply pull it harder than she and get it to fully engage.

Stuff happens and who cares on fault, accident done and over with. Have it adjusted properly and be happy no one was hurt.