How to Release the Parking Brake Before Putting the Car into Drive

by Meg HooperUpdated August 15, 2023
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Using the Parking Brake: A Comprehensive Tutorial

The parking brake, frequently referred to as the handbrake, emergency brake, or e-brake, serves as a critical safeguard in automotive. It’s designed to secure your car, especially when parked on an incline, ensuring it doesn't inadvertently roll, potentially into the pathway of others. This handbrake can manifest as a lever next to the driver's seat, a handle near the steering wheel, or even a foot brake resembling where a clutch would typically be in a manual transmission car.

When parking, especially on a slope or in a busy parking lot, it's a good habit to engage the parking brake, even if your car has an automatic transmission. This reduces the stress on the parking pawl – a component of the gearbox – and augments the car's stability, primarily supported by the rear wheels.

Steps to Disengage the Parking Brake

  1. Preparation: Settle into the driver’s seat and secure yourself with the seatbelt.
  2. Identification: Familiarize yourself with your car's braking system. Search for the emergency brake system – this could be a handbrake near the driver’s seat, a pull lever underneath the steering wheel, or a foot brake typically found in cars with manual transmission.
  3. Starting the Car: With the car in neutral or park (for automatic cars), press down on the main brake pedal (the service brake you'd use while driving).
  4. Disengaging the Handbrake: Depending on your vehicle's design:
    • If using a lever system, it likely comes with a button. Push this button while lowering the lever.
    • For a pull handle type, tug towards yourself until the brake releases with an audible click.
    • For foot-operated models, simply depress and release the foot brake.
  5. Drive Away: Shift the gear lever into first gear (for manual) or out of park (for automatic). Relinquish the brake pedal. If you've correctly released the parking brake, your car should glide smoothly with minimal acceleration.

It's worth noting that electronic parking brakes, which are becoming more common in modern vehicles, operate a tad differently. It's always beneficial to refer to the owner's manual for specifics on your car's handbrake operation.

Lastly, always be cautious about releasing the parking brake while on a flat surface to reduce wear on the brake pads. Ensuring your parking brake is off before driving not only ensures the longevity of your automotive's braking system but also contributes to safer car talk and positive upvotes from fellow drivers!

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