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The Risks of Driving with the Emergency Brake On: What You Need to Know

Worn Brake Rotor

Have you driven a couple miles from the house and sensed the car was running a little differently, looked down and noticed that you were driving with the emergency brake on? It's something we have all done.

But what happens when you drive with the emergency brake on? Wear on the brake pads is the most likely thing that happened depending on how long you drove with the emergency brake engaged. If you notice vibration you may have excessively worn down the pads and drum/rotor. You may need to to tighten the adjustment cable if you notice that the emergency brake doesn't hold the car as well as it used to.

What Is The Emergency Brake?

Your emergency brake, also known as a parking brake, e-brake or hand brake, is a part of your vehicle's braking system. It operates separately from the vehicle's main system.

Activating the emergency brake
Activating the emergency brake

Why Use The Emergency Brake?

The emergency brake was originally put in place to use if your main brakes failed. Now it is mostly activated when you park to keep your vehicle from rolling away.

The emergency brake can be used in an emergency. Try engage the emergency brake as smoothly as possible and be aware that the emergency brake does not break a vehicle as effectively as the main braking system of your vehicle.

Where Is The Emergency Brake Located?

There are a few different locations where the emergency brake could be located on your vehicle:

  1. Center Lever - The parking brake handle is usually easily accessible down in between the drivers and passenger bucket seats. It is activated by pulling up on the lever and released by pressing the button on the very end of it.
  2. Pedal - A small pedal down by the driver's feet to the far left of the other pedals. It is activated by pressing down on it until it clicks. It is released by pulling on the release that is located above the pedal just underneath the dash.
  3. Push Button - Located on the console. To activate simply push the ā€œPā€ button and push it again to release. It is an electronic system.

How Does The Emergency Brake Work?

The emergency brakes are activated from inside the car cable that runs underneath the car to the rear brakes. Tension is applied to a lever inside the parking brake drum which then applies pressure and in turn friction by the parking brake pads up against the brake drum.

When To Use The Emergency Brake?

It is commonly thought that you only need to use the emergency brake when you are parking on a hill or a slope or if you have a manual transmission when in fact you should use your parking brake whenever you park.

There are a couple reason why you should use your parking brake regularly:

  1. By using the parking brake regularly you prevent it from corroding in place.
  2. Using your parking brake reduces stress on the transmission. The components of the emergency brake are cheaper and easier to fix than the components of your transmission. By using your emergency brakes wear occurs on your emergency brake system rather than the transmission.
  3. Peace of mind is another good reason to use your emergency brake. When you use your parking brake you can be assured that your vehicle is not going to roll away.

In Conclusion

If you drive with the emergency brake engaged you most likely did not do any severe damage although you may have excessively worn down the emergency brake shoes or warped the rotor or drum.

Emergency brake cable can be tightened if you notice it doesn't hold as well as it used to. if the emergency brake still doesn't hold or your car vibrates, shimmies or pulls to the side while you're braking you should get it checked out by a licensed mechanic.