Emergency Brake Service & Repair

August 26, 2011  

The emergency brake is a secondary braking system installed in all vehicles. Separate from the primary brake system, it is also called: e-brake; parking brake; or hand brake. State and federal law require emergency brakes on all vehicles.

Types of Emergency Brakes

Although today’s cars have safety measures to indicate potential brake problems or imminent failure, the emergency brake is most often used as a parking brake (or to help the new manual transmission driver when stalled on a hill.) There are four types of e-brakes:

  1. Stick-lever – located under the dash in older model cars
  2. Center console lever – located between front seats
  3. Pedal – located on the floor to the left of the brake pedal
  4. Electric (push button) – on the dash with other controls
The Parts of the Emergency Brake

Designed for use when the primary brake system fails, the emergency brake is purely mechanical. With cables and levers, the emergency brake can bring your car to a complete stop if necessary. When you engage the emergency brake the following happens:

  • the force applied to the cable  is increased by 
  • an intermediate lever 
  • the cable then passes through an
  • equalizer that divides the cable in two and
  • sends equal force to
  • rear wheels that
  • stops the car
For cars with rear drum brakes, the cables are attached directly to the brake shoes. The action of the cable bypasses the hydraulics and acts directly on the brake. If you car has rear disc brakes, however, the  action of the emergency brake requires a separate system to operate. Usually a drum brake is mounted inside the rotor. These are referred to as either exclusive parking brakes or  auxiliary drum brakes.

Using the Emergency Brake

The emergency brake is used most often as a parking brake, especially on hills to prevent rolling. Setting the e-brake while your foot is still on the primary brake pedal (for automatic transmission) will keep the car’s weight off the transmission; this will make shifting out of park much easier. Generally, driver’s of manual transmission vehicles set the parking brake every time they leave the car. 

Using the e-brake to assist when starting up a hill, to prevent rolling back. This is a fantastic method for new drivers. By engaging the e-brake and releasing it slowly as the clutch is released, stalling and roll back can be prevented. It is advised that you practice this method before putting it in practice with a car behind you.

Never use the emergency brake to stop suddenly (you know, the circle spinning adventures?) This can damage not only the e-brake, but the primary brake system as well. Always be certain that the  e-brake is fully disengaged when driving. Driving with the e-brake even partially engaged can cause damage to the primary brake system. If you accidentally drive any distance with the e-brake engaged, call Everett Emergency Brake Service & Repair immediately to assure your vehicle is safe to drive.