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Mason Shields, August 17 2018

Parking Brakes, when to use them and when not too.  

  What does the parking brake do?

In road vehicles, the parking brake is used to keep the vehicle stationary and, in many cases, also perform an emergency stop. Parking brakes on older cars often consisted of a cable connected to the rear brakes and the other end to a pulling mechanism which is operated with the driver's hand or foot. The mechanism may be a hand-operated lever, at floor level beside the driver, or a straight pull handle located near the steering column or a (foot-operated) pedal located beside the driver's leg.  Some automobiles have the parking brake operate on the front wheels, for example, most Citroens manufactured since the end of World War II, and the early models of the Saab 900.

The most common use for a parking brake is to keep a vehicle motionless when it is parked. The parking brake has a ratchet or other locking mechanism that will keep it engaged until manually released. On cars with automatic transmissions, this is usually used in concert with a parking pawl in the transmission.

When Should you use the parking brake?

On both manual transmissions and automatic transmissions, it is a good idea to use the parking brake whenever you are parking on uneven ground. 

Manual transmissions have some play in the gearing that allows some play.  It is possible with enough force to move a vehicle even if it is in gear. 

Automatic transmissions have what’s called a parking pawl that prevents the transmission from moving when in park.  The parking pawl can break if enough force is applied to it. 

Another reason to use the parking brake when parking on hilly terrain is the gears inside the transmission can get jammed by the car rolling a slight amount after releasing the brake.  That can make it hard to get out of gear.  By using the parking brake, you are preventing the car from rolling.

When should you not use the parking brake?

There is no need to use the parking brake when parking on level ground.  You should also not use the parking brake in winter.  During winter if any moisture gets on the cable such as snow, slush or water then it can freeze causing the parking brake to stick.   If the parking brake sticks on, then the back tires will not spin while trying to move. 

Written by

Mason Shields

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