Parking/emergency brake


I was taught by my truck driver father to use this brake whenever I parked, automatic or standard shift. I recently test drove six new cars, five of them automatic. Each salesperson remarked when I set the brake after testing an automatic. Why? The cars come with a parking break. Also, it isn’t much of an emergency assist as I learned when I lost my master cylindar in Ishpeming, MI. It was in the early 70s, I drove a VW Rabbit diesel, and couldn’t get parts in Ishpeming. A mechanic filled my brake fluid and I was directed to drive to Marquette to a VW dealer. Let me tell you, that is some hilly country! We all used our seat belts and I down shifted a lot.


The parking brake isn’t very effective for slowing the car. They operate on the rear wheels. Even when using the foot applied brake, on a perfectly operating brake system, the rear brakes have only 1/2 the stopping power as the front brakes.


Three reasons:

  1. It takes stress off the parking gear in the transmission. On some cars, on a hill, the transmission would get stuck in park otherwise.
  2. It is redundant, if the parking gear in the transmission fails, you will still be okay.
  3. It keeps the emergency brake linkage from freezing up, so it will work if you ever need it in an emergency. They may not function nearly as well as the main brakes, but some brakes are still a whole lot better than none.


Your father taught you correctly. Few people today use his parking method; it seems so unnecessary when the car has automatic transmission with a P gear… and you are required to use it merely to remove the key! So you will always get a few raised eyebrows when you use the brake when parking. But to me, that is a sign of a well brought up driver.


You, your father, hellokit, tardis, and SteveF are all correct, and the car salesmen were all wrong. Considering how poorly informed car salesmen tend to be about the vehicles that they are selling, I am not very surprised to hear that they are also ignorant regarding the parking brake.

Continue to use the e-brake/parking brake and feel free to ignore those who say otherwise.


All good answers CD.

My father taught me to use the parking brake all the time too and it wasn’t long before it became second nature.

As was mentioned, it’s a PARKING brake and not an EMERGENCY brake for good reason.

If you are going down the road and come upon a real braking emergency and MUST stop quickly (without normal brakes), that parking brake isn’t going to be of any help.

It’s designed to help the parking PAWL from getting bent and jamming in the tranny when parking an automatic.

Next time you’re sitting in a mall parking area, watch the way people park. By this I mean, watch to see the vehicle rock back and forth when the parking brake is NOT applied.

Most times they don’t even wait until the vehicle is stopped first before jamming the selector in PARK.
It’s only a matter of time before those ones are on this forum (or another) crying the blues about not being able to get the tranny out of PARK.

As VDC said," I am not very surprised to hear that they (car salespersons) are ‘also’ ignorant regarding the parking brake.


Thanks folks. My father is smiling in his grave. Using the brake is a habit and I continue to do it. It would take a conscious effort to stop using it.


Everyones’ driving teacher should teach them not to depend on neither the parking brake, nor in-gear or park positions when parked on a hill… You should think about where your wheels should be pointed to cause the least damage if everything lets go.


I’ve had this habit for awhile now myself, and I drive an automatic(put car in N, pull brake handle, put in P). Even when I’ve test drove new cars I’ve done it, but none of the sales people commented on it. I’ve noticed some cars have gone back to the foot pedal for the parking brake. They must figure since people don’t pull the lever that’s touching their elbow, they’re not gonna use it anyways, so they’ll move it out of the way by the floor. They’re a bit weird because the one I seen in the Camry you had to push it to engage it and push it again to deactivate it.


I agree with everything that’s been said about this so far, but what about in the winter? I remember hearing somewhere that you shouldn’t use it in the winter because it might freeze in the “set” position? Any truth to that, or should we use it in the winter too?


Using the parking brake consistently ensures it will not seize when covered in ice. That means ALL year long.

Like I said in my post, I use it all the time and in all honesty, have NEVER had one stick or seize.

It’s the parking brake mechanism that stays in one place constantly is the one that will fail when used just once. Practically guaranteed.

Even one that is serviced will get sticky if not used consistently.


Use it in the winter as well. It will not freeze if it is in good condition, if it freezes then there was a problem other than the weather.

You would have a greater chance of the automatic transmission park failing than the parking brake failing, assuming you make a habit of using it.


The same style foot parking brake lever that you spoke of is identical in GMs three sisters. (Venture, Montana and Silhouette)


The big problem that my uncle (my automotive teacher) used to say happened with older parking brakes was that: if the car was left for a while the cable rusted bad and could stick so that even when you thought it was disengaged the brake would still be on. That is not a problem now as the parking brake cables are usually plastic coated these days.


I would also add #4: if a vehicle had drum brakes (which these days are found only in the rear, if at all) use of the parking brake keeps those brakes in adjustment.


The salesmen are wrong. They have training materials are on hand but most dont use it.

If you shear the parking pawl from playing “transmission basketball” and turn it into your insurance comp. they will give the ok to a shop for tear down, but when they learn it was sheared off from inproper use then they will refuse to pay. Therefore you will be left with a car that is torn apart and a shop that will not repair or release the car until you pay.

Also, if your car has rear disc brakes you must use the park brake to keep the rear pads adjusted since the park brake is part of the piston in the rear calipers.


Yea, back about 1970 I drove my car to the Army training camp for a couple of months of fun. The drive there, about four hundred miles, was in rain. I foolishly parked it with the brake on. After about six weeks pass in hand it was off to my car only to find the brakes locked on. With a little help and some rocking I got the brakes to break loose. The pads were rusted to the shoes, but the cables, even back then were still OK (1965 Sunbeam Imp). I got my leave and lucky for me, shortly after than and before I was sent to Vietnam, I got a discharge as they did not need my specialty.


Nice. What was/is your specialty?


Depends on the car, I think. Some drum brakes self-adjust when backing up, not with the parking brake.


Artillery At that time that translated to 6 months as FO.