Use emergency brake while going downhill?

I have a 97 Honda Accord, 147k miles. Is it a good idea to engage the emergency brake one or two clicks while having to brake while going downhill (while stopping at a stop sign or traffic light)? I feel that without using the e-brake, the front brakes are being overworked. Thanks.

If your brakes are working correctly, all 4 wheels should be having the brakes applied as you step on the brake pedal. You shouldn’t need to apply the parking brake (which you are calling the emergency brake). If you are descending a long, steep downhill grade where you need the brakes, you may want to shift to a lower gear for some engine braking help. However, if it is just a short downhill run, just use the brake pedal.

If the OP really wants to wear out the rear brakes (pads or shoes–we don’t know the details on this car)
VERY quickly, then doing what he is doing is the best way to accomplish that.

Why do people decide on unorthodox “solutions” that are not actually solutions, and will inevitably lead to bigger problems?

I disagree. The brakes work harder stopping the car than holding it still.

The emergency brake is to be used only when parking, or in an extreme emergency, like when your brake pedal goes to the floor ! It is considered more of a parking brake. Use it partially engaged when going down hill and eventually you will see smoke coming from your rear tires. thats why transmissions have lower gears and use engine braking.

When I lived NJ and traveled to PA, there was a 13 % grade going for about 2 miles up and down a mountian in Jim Thorpe ( RT 93 )…I just dropped my mustang GT manual tranny into 3rd gear and just had to tap the brake pedal a few times to keep the speed down to the 55 mph limit…2nd gear would be too much drag and hitting about 4000 rpm. When driving my automatic chevy, D2 would keep it under control. There are actually run-away roads about 3/4 of the way down especially for tractor trailers.

Not a good idea. It’s actually the ‘parking brake’, it’s not intended for stopping the car. And in a true emergency, you don’t want to find out you wore it out.

In addition to what others have said, if you end up locking up the rear wheels, you can easily put your car in a spin–which would be great doing down a hill. And manually engaging the parking brake would bypass any antilock brake system and stability control your car has.

It’s called an emergency brake, to be used parking and only in emergencies. Continue using them like regular brakes, and they won’t be there for you when really needed.

Honda and Toyota call it the ‘parking brake’ in their owners manuals…

That car’s rear emergency/park brake is a mechanically operated shoe brake of limited stopping ability and with poor modulation. It is for holding the car when parked or as a last desperate effort to stop in case of hydraulic brake failure.

Another vote for not using the parking brake.
If your hills are that severe, your brakes will just require a bit more frequent service than normal.

In addition to the correct information you’ve received so far, I’ll point out that engaging your parking brake won’t turn on the brake lights. Slowing down without brake lights is not a good idea.

It’s unanimous. Your parking brakes are not designed for and should definitely not be used for braking when going down a descent. The pads won’t last and since the drums aren’t designed to dissipate the heat, they’ll probably overheat and warp or even crack. There’s also a good chance that should the worst happen and you suddenly lose your real brakes, you’ll pull the parking brake handle and discover that your backup system has been decsimated…and you’ll be totally unable to stop the vehicle at all.

Very, very bad idea. Instead, try downshifting the tranny and use your engine compression to help your brakes. That works without destroying anything.

" I feel that without using the e-brake, the front brakes are being overworked. Thanks."

With FWD cars, the front brakes are designed to provide 80% of the braking effort. You will get into trouble trying to use the parking brake as a service brake as you can now shift the braking dynamics outside the parameters designed into the car resulting in loss of control…

as a cdl holder with a stick shift car you want to be at least 1 or 2 gears lower then the one you went up the grade and only use the brakes to control your speed but no more then 5-10 seconds then let them cool for 10 seconds then repeat , watch out for brake fade, with an automatic drop it down 1 range on the shifter d4 to d3 that should help and save your brakes in case all else fails.

The OP reminds me of a story my late mother told about her uncle and niece who came to visit my mother’s family in central Illinois from Pennsylvania. This occurred sometime in the 1920s and the car was probably a 1920s Dodge made before Chrysler took over the Dodge brothers factory. At any rate, coming through the mountains of Pennsylvania, her niece was driving and her uncle, who knew everything, pulled back on the emergency brake as they descended the mountains. I guess it was quite a wild trip. My mother’s parents owned a very similar Dodge Brothers car, and her niece couldn’t believe how much easier my mother’s parents’ car drove than her car. It turned out that her uncle claimed to have greased the car, but missed a few fittings. At any rate, my grandfather had his relatives’ Dodge serviced and new brakes installed. He then took the niece out and showed her how to downshift while descending grades. I guess the trip back to Pennsylvania was much easier. I hadn’t heard about anyone after that time using the emergency brake to descend grades until this post.

Some cars use a separate shoe for the parking brake. It is small and only for parking.

With FWD cars, the front brakes are designed to provide 80% of the braking effort.

Has nothing to do with being fwd or rwd. Has to do with the physics of weight distribution during deceleration.

We live near the Rocky Mountains and drive a lot there. The proper way to save your brakes and drive safely is to GEAR DOWN when going downhill and let the engine braking help save the brakes. Using the emergency brake is foolish and expensive; you’ll have it worn out in no time.

Mike, I think he meant that the front brakes are designed to not be overstressed by accomodating 80% of the braking force. I too wondered about th ecomment and had to read it twice.