Have you ever gotten a little too excited using your parking brake? At some point, most of us pull up just a little too hard and get our brake lever jammed. There are several situations that require a little extra braking power. Knowing when and how to use your brake will help you avoid sticky situations.
When should I use my parking brake?
If you drive a manual transmission you might use your emergency brake every time you park your vehicle. You might even be using it when you are driving! Those of us with automatics might only use our e-brakes when we are parked on a hill. In reality, you should use your parking brake all the time!
When we park our vehicles it engages a device known as a parking pawl. This metal pin goes into a ring attached to the transmission. When in park, this pawl prevents the shaft in your transmission from turning. Parking pawls can break causing your vehicle to roll away. A parking brake is an added safeguard which can prevent your vehicle from moving even if the pawl breaks. You should use your parking brake as much as possible. It won’t hurt your vehicle and adds a little peace of mind that your vehicle won’t roll away.
How does my parking brake work?
Your emergency braking system is connected to your rear brakes. A series of cables connect to the hand lever in your vehicle. When you pull up on this lever, the brakes are engaged. Most e-brake systems are equipped with a button that releases the brakes and allows you to lower the lever.
What causes my parking brake to get stuck and what do I do?
One big issue with parking brakes is corrosion. Water and dirt can cause cables to erode. This can cause your parking brake to fail, cables to snap, and brake pads to stick to the wheels. If you want to avoid stuck brakes, use your emergency brake on a regular basis to ensure corrosion hasn’t occurred.
The e-brake can also freeze in place. If the weather is cold and wet, it is very likely that your e-brake has simply frozen in place. This can be resolved by turning on your vehicle and letting it warm up.
Another reason your emergency brake gets stuck is pulling it too hard. Don’t treat your e-brake lever like a strength test from a carnival game. It works just as well without all the effort. When you pull your lever too hard, it can cause your brakes to become stuck against the wall of your wheel drums.
To release a stuck brake you can do several things. If it is safe to do so, you can try rocking the vehicle back and forth or manually getting under the vehicle to pull the cables. You can also try setting and releasing the brake multiple times in the hopes of knocking the brakes free. If all of these methods fail, a tow truck might be in your future.
The best way to deal with a stuck parking brake is to avoid having one. Maintain the system with regular service and make sure you use your parking brake often. This will help prevent corrosion and let you know if something in the system needs attention. Also, remember to take it easy when you engage and disengage the lever. It a safety feature, not a contest!