Parking brake failed



Hi -

I had a strange problem with my parking brake yesterday. I drive a manual '99 Toyota Camry (80K miles). Yesterday I pulled into a parking spot that was an uphill incline. I left the car in neutral, turned the car off, put on the parking brake, removed my foot from the brake, and removed the keys. As I was going to open the door I realized that the car was moving backwards and there was a strange squealing noise. I was so surprised that my reaction time was a little slow but I thankfully managed to stop the car without hitting anything or anybody.

At my next destination I parked on a street with a slight downward slope. I turned the car off and put the car in neutral and found that the parking brake was acting normally. Needless to say I left the car in gear and the parking brake on - I’m not taking any chances.

Any ideas on what could have caused my parking brake to freak out like that? I am 99.5% certain that I had not been driving around with the parking brake partially engaged.

As I’m writing this I’m realizing that I should do another test with the car in an uphill position.

Any input would be appreciated - thank you.


Just as someone with an automatic transmission should use the “Park” setting on his/her transmission in addition to the parking brake, someone with a manual transmission should leave his/transmission in gear in addition to using the parking brake.

I am guessing that your parking brake/emergency brake simply needs to be adjusted, but it is also possible that the pads/shoes on the rear brakes need to be replaced. At your next service (or sooner!), have this checked out. In the meantime, keep the car in reverse or in second gear, in addition to using the parking brake, even on a level surface, when parking the vehicle.


Thanks for the input!


Drum brakes, which your Corolla has on the rear, are assisted in thier application by the rotation of the drum around the brake. The brake shoes expand IN PART because they sort “hop up” as the hyrdaulic pressure is applied to the wheel cylinder. Of course this only works when the car is moving forward. When it’s moving backwards, the opposite happens. The brakes do not get in help in their expansion from the rotating drum. I fact they may actually do the opposite to some extent. If the parking brake is properly adjusted, and the shoes are good, you will not notice the situation. If it is out of adjustment or the shoes are worn out, then it will cause exactly what you described.


Even though you are using the parking brake, which you should, always, the transmission should also be in gear.

Perhaps the parking brake cable needs adjustment. After a while the cable stretches, and the brake pads wear, and all of a sudden . . . no parking brake!

Tighten the cable.