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How to Test a Parking Brake

by Rachel Oakley

Parking brakes, sometimes known as emergency brakes, can save lives by preventing a parked car from rolling down a hill or bringing the vehicle to a halt if the foot brakes stop functioning in traffic. There is no rule of thumb about how often you should test your parking brakes; but because it only takes a few minutes, conducting the test on a monthly basis will give you peace of mind, knowing that you are operating a road-worthy vehicle.

Drive your vehicle to the top of a small hill. The hill needs to be sloped enough for your car to roll freely once you take your foot off the brake. If there is no hill in your area, use a slope where the angle is great enough to test the parking brake.

Roll the car down the hill. The vehicle should be in neutral; if the car does not immediately roll, put it into gear to give it the push it needs to go down the hill.

Pull the parking brake. Once the vehicle is rolling freely, engage the parking brake. Your vehicle will stop rather abruptly so be prepared for this. If the parking brake does not bring the car to an immediate halt, step on the foot brake.

Repeat the same steps in the opposite direction. To test the parking brake thoroughly, spend a few minutes going through the same steps but with your car parked upwards on the hill's slope. The parking brake should work the same way. If the parking brake does not stop the car completely, a more in depth look at the car's brake system is in order.

Visit your local mechanic. After testing the parking brake yourself, consider getting a professional car mechanic to conduct a more thorough safety inspection of your vehicle, whether or not you observe any malfunctions while testing the brakes.


  • When testing the parking brake, also make sure the signal light appears when the brake is in use.
  • The parking brake is rarely used in automatic cars so regularly test the brake to avoid the risk of corrosion.


  • Testing parking brakes using this method should only be done when no traffic or people are around.

About the Author

Rachel Oakley has written professionally since 2003. She has worked as an editorial intern at "The Onion" newspaper and freelanced for the educational website Gigglepotz. She also worked as an editorial assistant in Australia, while completing college. Oakley holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Adelaide, Australia.

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