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Parking Brake - How hard to engage?

I had been told years ago that when you engage the parking brake, it should be firmly engaged, but not pulled on with maximum force. The reason given was that applying the parking brake as hard as you can pull it up can stretch and/or break the cable/linkage.

Is this true or a myth?

All things being equal, you shouldn’t have the strength to stretch the metal cable, and put that much undue stress on the parts. However, you have a lever, so all things aren’t quite equal.

If you put enough pressure on a cable, for long enough, it will stretch - until it snaps.

Those are my feelings on the subject, anyway. I’ve had to replace cables due to stretch, so I can say it’s possible.


True–any mechanical component can fail. Are you having a problem with your brake or a philosophical discussion?

Drive to the steepest hill you can find. Put the car in neutral and see how far you need to engage the brake to hold the car. Apply it a bit further than that from now on.

It’s mostly a philosophical question. We have a shared vehicle for the company car and one of the employees engages it at full force. So much so that it sometimes quite difficult to even release the brake. The car is always parked in a flat car park as well, so before I said something about the risk of stretching/breaking the cable, I wanted to know if there was any truth to what I had heard about stretching/breaking of the parking brake cable

In that case, yes, it is entirely possible (and likely) to break eventually if this person continues to do this.

The biggest problem I see with your current situation, is that it’s a company car. People just don’t care about things they don’t have to pay for. If you can get his/her supervisor interested, enough to put it in writing, you may be able to make them care…or at least pay attention to what they’re doing. Sometimes the threat of taking the repair cost directly from their paycheck can have a significant impact on behavior. This is a behavior situation you’re dealing with, so all the problems that come with that alone are bound to arise.

Good luck!

One fool proof way of determining the amount of force you should apply, is to set the PB before you place the car in Park. Release the foot brake and gradually increase PB braking force until it prevents car from rolling while in neutral and no more. Then place transmission into Park. Setting wheels blocked by either a curb or your own device is a reasonable adjunct as well. This procedure takes some of the holding pressure off the Park mechanism as well. Always set parking brake before you attempt to use transmission park or manual gearing to help hold a car.

I used to be of the “more is better” camp when it came to the parking brake.

What changed me wasn’t snapping a cable (only happened to me once, due to severe cable rust), but being woken up by an irate sister 10 miles away.

See, I had lent her my car…applying the brake with my usual style…only for her to be unable to drive to work due to inability to release the brake.

(Driving across town, unexpectedly, at 7AM cured me of this habit.)