Parking Brake

Has anybody ever noticed that if you have the parking break on you can still drive in reverse almost compleatly normally? Many times that I’ve set my parking break (usually just for no real reason, just screwing around) when I get back in the car and forget about it I can still back out of my driveway and then I get confused as to why I can’t drive away until I go “oh, parking break.” But I’ve still notciced that cars never seem to roll down hills with the braek set.

Also one more thing about parking breaks. When ever my dad gets a car one of the things he does is goes under the car and cut the cable that goes from the pedel to the break. He does this so that NO one can ever use it. He claims (well more then claims, he’s proven) that if the break isn’t used for a long time that if some one does decide to use it, it will get stuck on. So why does that happen? Does it just bind, like a window getting painted shut?

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Your dad is incorrect. A parking brake will not “bind” simply because it’s been unused for a time.

Note the spelling of the word brake.

The parking brake doesn’t have the stopping force of the regular brake; it was originally designed as a backup system. It’s enough to stop the car from rolling back, but the engine can overcome it. (You usually stop the car from rolling by putting it in Park (or keeping it in gear with a manual transmission), which does a better job of keeping the wheels from turning.)

As far as cutting the cable – I don’t know how often a modern parking brake could seize, but I doubt it’s a major problem. Even if it does stick, you can still get the car moving. Further, in New York State, at least, a car without a working parking brake won’t pass inspection and cannot be legally driven.

Are you saying that it won’t “bind” but something will happen, or that it will work just find after a period of not being used. If you are going with the second part then I need to clarify. The “period of not being used” generally refers to 4 to 9 years and yes I promise you something does happen that it will get stuck, it’s happend to us many times.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Ok I wrote that reply before I saw Realitychucks’s post. All the vehicles that this has happend on have been late 80’s.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

AFAIK, there’s no reason for a parking brake to stop functioning just because it’s unused. But if it has happened to you more than once, maybe I’m wrong. I’ve sent a question about this to Car Talk, the auto-repair equivalent of Cecil’s column.

Anyway, if you’re convinced that it is lack of use that causes the brake to stop working, why not use it once in a while? Every time you get your oil changed, apply and release the parking brake twice. This way it’d never go more than a few months without being moved.

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.

What’s the ambient temperature when you used your parking brake and it stuck? I’ve occasionally had one freeze to the brake surface on very cold nights, since moisture will tend to condense on the brake surfaces. Cutting the brake cable is – 'scuse the expression – terminally stupid. On all the cars I’ve worked with, each cable has (somewhere along its length) a turnbuckle for adjusting the tension of the cable. If this is too weak, it may be that it’s tense enough when pulled to put the brake shoe in contact with the drum (or disc), but not taut enough when the release is operated to pull the shoe back.

Also, consider the possibility that this may be just a design/manufacturing defect of the cars your father owns. He may want to check with the dealer for aftermarket consumer bulletins.

I have heard from many different sources that the cost and weight savings are the reasons for drum brakes.
As for why they seem to work better for forward motion, there are 2 different sized shoes, the primary shoe has less lining than the rear secondry shoe. The entire assembly will slightly shift/rotate with the drum, and the parking cable typically attaches to just 1 shoe. So if the brakes are out of adjustment, the parking brake will not utilize the entire brake surface.
Drum brakes typically have greater holding power and are more powerful than disc brakes, but since disc brakes shed heat much better than drums, disc brakes will stop a car better.
It is not uncommon for a pb cable to sieze if it has not been used for a long time and has not been lubricated. A steel cable incased in a spiral wound steel case, add years= seized cable. That aint no reason to cut the cable. (1) Properly maintain your car. (2) Using the pb will help keep the rear drums in adjustment

May I add some more bits about why cutting the parking brake’s cable is a bad idea.

For Automatic transmissions:
When parking on a steep incline, one should stop the car, apply the brake, then set the car in Park. If not, the car can roll forward, or back and press against the parking pawl. This is known as torque lock.
You cannot get the car out of park. Another car has to push your car uphill a little before the mechanism frees.

For manual transmissions:
If your car stalls at a light on some sort of incline, you are going to have one hell of a time starting the car, and getting it into gear (unless you have 3 working legs). If your car is stalling at a light, you probably need to keep one foot on the gas at all times. I knew someone who could operate both the brake and accelerator at the same time, but that’s foolish.
For both sorts of transmission,

If one wheel is stuck in mud, ice, etc, gentle application of the parking brake will allow power to be applied to both wheels, not just the one in the mud. This doesn’t apply to all differentials, just most of them.

Why disable a safety feature of you auto.

Ah, the folly of youth. Gone are the days when I could just “screw around” in Dad’s car.

      • Sometimes the calipers or drums themselves can get temporarily stuck, if the hoses are worn enough to collapse after you let off the brake pedal. You just start smelling the brakes smokin’ and you pull over and wait 15-30 minutes or so (they do release on their own after a while). - This seems to happen a lot with four-wheel drives with big-mutha tires. It is particularly a problem if you get max-size tires and change out the regular master cylinder for a larger one and don’t get stronger brake hoses, but the one I used to have had 38-inch tires with the original master cylinder and hoses and it did it too every now and then.
  • Redneck four-wheel-drives are fun, but economically it’s like digging a hole and tossing money in every couple days. - MC

I had a parking brake problem in an 85 Dodge van. The brake cable extends to the rear of the car completely exposed after it exits the metal cable hose underneath the front of the van. Moisture, or even water splashed into the opening at the end of the hose will usually rust out the cable/hose after about three years so that the cable cannot move anymore. That is why a lot of cables have an expandable rubber boot where it exists the hose. But not on this van. Aside from having to keep grease on the cable, you must also make sure this rubber boot is not cracked if it exists. This same cable problem also exists with the accelerator cable on an 86 VW Vanagon where it exits above the engine. If the rubber boot cracks, the cable will have to be replaced rather quickly. It will cause the accelerator to be stuck. Quite dangerous.

By the way, it is a really BAD idea to cut the parking brake cable. I had one occasion where I lost brake fluid and had the pull the parking brake to stop!

My dad is a self procliamed car expert though and really knows what he’s doing. In the 10 years and 200,000+ miles he’s put on the Econline never once has the parking break been used nor has is needed to be used. Also he’s one of those people that “ya just don’t argue with” if you know what I mean.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

BTW, a properly adjusted parking brake should kill the engine, in a manual anyway. I mean, if you try to drive with it (all the way) on, you shouldn’t be going anywhere, and if you are, the PB needs to be tightened.
An aside:
My circle of friends and I have always referred to parking brakes as “emergency brakes”, or “e-brakes”. I guess it depends on your driving (or parking) theory.

My parking brake, only used on hills, is a cement block in the trunk of my Tercel.

Nah, it’s not foolish - in fact, in many situations it is the best driving technique. It is called “heel-toeing”, and it is used to rev-match the engine to the next higher gear when downshifting before a turn while simultanously braking. It’s a common technique - I do this all the time.

The technique is used like this:

  1. Coming up to a turn, say you’re in 4rd and want to be in 2nd just before beginning the turn.
  2. You use your left foot to depress the clutch. This ties up one (1) foot.
  3. You have one (1) foot remaining, and you need to simultaneously brake to slow the car down for the coming turn, and apply some gas to increase engine RPM to match to the required RPM in 2nd gear shortly before beginning the turn. So you use part of your foot to depress the brake, and part to depress the accelerator. You can control the extent of each by rocking your foot laterally. Only a small amount of gas is needed because there is no load on the engine.

Of course, you don’t have to do this, but proper rev-matching will save wear and tear on your clutch plates and make your driving much smoother (and less likely to break traction in low traction conditions). There are other ways to accomplish this rev-match such as slowing down further in advance of the turn than you need to and then transferring one foot off of the brake to the gas, but this is sub-optimal for obvious reasons.

peas on earth

Joey P said:

I think he’s one of those people “ya just don’t drive with” if you know what I mean!

Actually he’s one of the best drivers I know.

Also as far as everyone saying that the brake isn’t adjusted right. I’ve seen this happen (being able to reverse, with the brake on but not go foward) on many cars.

And just so everybody knows the question was “Why does the brake bind” not “What is your personal opinion on cutting the cable?”

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

And just so everybody knows the question was “Why does the brake bind” not “What is your personal opinion on cutting the cable?”
—Joey P

Methinks ole Joey already knows all the answers.

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)