Is it necessary/prudent to use parking brake?

I have an '06 car, curious if when parking on my flat driveway at home, or anywhere else for that matter, if I should be using my parking brake when leaving the car overnight?

I recommend it , especially if your car has a manual transmission.

no its an automatic…but what is the likelihood of my primary brake failing on me?

Yeah, I think you should use it, but not for the reason you think (keeping your car where you left it!). The problem with not using your parking brake regularly is that over time the cables tend to freeze up; then, when you really do need it, it works poorly or not at all. And don’t get me started on the “push on/push off” parking brake that doesn’t really allow true pedal modulation. They are dangerous if used to try to stop a moving car and should be banned. Does NHTSA know about this?

I think it’s beneficial to get in the habit of using the parking brake. I would use it routinely, not just in overnight situations.

The parking brake is redundant on a car with an automatic transmission that is in park. It’s somewhat redundant on a manual transmission car that is left in gear. However, redundancy is not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s a significant aspect of many safety systems. The day may come when the key comes out of the ignition even though the car is not in park, or when the parking pawl doesn’t engage properly, or when the (manual) trans is left in neutral.

Using the parking brake tends to prevent its cables from seizing, and on some designs, adjusts the rear brake calipers. Failure to use it regularly can respectively result in a parking brake that won’t apply or won’t release, or rear disc brakes that don’t apply. Essentially, using it when parking keeps it in good shape, which is nice should you ever need to use it as an emergency brake.

Greater than zero.

In Russian Roulette, your chance of getting the bullet is about 15%. But if you’re in that unlucky 15%, you’re 100% dead.

I don’t know what the statistics are for service brake failure (i.e., push on the pedal and get no braking effect). I would guess maybe 1%. But if you’re in that unlucky 1%, you’ve got 100% of a (potentially fatal) problem.

Happened to Kevbabe as a teenager. Using the parking brake never occured to her, went off the road, totaled her moms car. Fortunatly neither she nor her younger sisters injured.

I advocate applying the parking brake as you come to rest. It is also handy if you want to slow down when a cop turns in behind you without activating your brake lights.

Without delving into any other aspect of this issue, I don’t know that most people have any idea how their car would react to applying the emergency brake while the vehicle is in motion. I certainly don’t, and the idea of possibly losing control in that situation scares me a bit.

How did you figure out how far to pull up on the brake handle to slow down without, you know, screeching tires and what-not?

  1. I’ve read several times that parking on a really steep hill using just the Park w/auto transmission, may break or weaken the pawl, and then off ya’ go. Perhaps transmission pawls are stronger now.

  2. IIRC, in San Francisco it is required that a car have the parking break on as well as be in Park with auto and in gear in manual. It may have changed now, but why take a chance?

Years ago my wife never would use the brake on her car in the Northeast where there’s loads of salt, mush, snow and ice. It eventually siezed and would not work, and had to get entire new cable. I do it when I park just as automatically as I hook up the seat belt. Seems like a pious idea. As dey say, can’t hoit.

I have done this many times with a car that has rear drum brakes, You couldn’t lock it if you tried, but it did slow the car. Note if you have daytime running lights sometimes applying the e-brake will cause yoru DRL’s to go off, which might call attention if there is a cop ahead of you.

Do not do this on front wheel drive GM vehicles, the parking brake is not part of the rear brake. They have a toothed flange on one of the front axles and a lever that engages the flange when the parking brake is applied. I found out the hard way while driving about 15 mph in a parking lot when I slammed on the parking brake in a 94 Chevy Corsica. Instead of the car coming to a nice even stop, the left front tire suddenly stopped turning and the car spun sideways. I have seen this set up on a variety of GM cars since this happened.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I don’t know what you’re describing, unless you’re talking about shifting an automatic transmission into park - which has nothing whatsoever to do with a parking brake.

On all GM passenger cars and light trucks, the parking brake is incorporated into the rear brakes. There is no relation at all between the parking brake and the front axles.

Gary That’s what I thought. If this question is still around in a few weeks, I’ll ask the GM instructor next time I’m in Seattle

For the record,
in Washington state anyway you are legaly Required to use your parking brake, and should your parked car be struck by another vehicle any and all damages caused by your cars movement from the point of impact on are your fault if you are found to have imporperly parked your car.

this includes turning your wheels to the right (unless up hill with a curb then its left)

the reason we are supposed to park properly is not just to avoid a possible failure but to avoid extra problems in the event of a collision.

also the Park setting isnt all that great at stopping your car, cars can roll while in park until speeds drop enough for the transmission to hold. and thats assuming nothing breaks.

Actually i will ask at work tommorow, since we make both the park and hand brake for several vehicles, they seem to be orientated to the rear wheels, and i believe that my sunfire is wired to the rears.


In support of the “use it or lose it” argument, on my previous car, a Camry, I’d go months at a time between uses of the parking brake, typically on steep hills. Then one day the thing snapped. I thought it’d be a simple replacement of the cable or coupling, but then found out it had rust-seized along its length.

My primary brakes did fail, eventually, but fortunately I was moving slowly on level city streets at the time. I had the car towed to my home to think about my options; repair or replace. I ended up replacing the car and now make a point of using the parking brake on my Echo.

Whenever I get a new car, one of the first things I do is mess around with it in an empty parking lot.

Haven’t heard these, but I have gotten a ticket for not curbing my wheels, in one of the few instances I didn’t. And it was a pretty wimpy hill, too, by SF standards.

Same here. I think I picked it up from my father who did it; of course he drove a manual and I drive an automatic, but it’s been instilled.

As an aside, how would you do this on a car where the parking brake doesn’t have a handle? I drive a 93 Cutlass Ciera and the parking brake is engaged by a pedal on the far left side of the driver’s floor. The release is a hand-operated cord-pull. How would that setup every be convenient for slowing down while moving?