How to Use a Parking Brake

by Jody L. Campbell

The parking brake mechanism in your car is a simple device. When applied, it extends the rear shoes or contracts the rear pads (depending on what type of rear brakes you have) and holds the weight of the vehicle by the rear brakes. Since the rear brakes only apply about 25 percent of the car's braking response, it's important to use the parking brake every time the vehicle is parked, no matter if it has a manual or automatic transmission. This diligent effort will help keep all the mechanisms that comprise the parking brake system functioning properly and, in some cases, keep the rear brakes adjusted.

Step 1

Drive the vehicle into the desired parking space and stop the vehicle with the foot brake.

Step 2

Place the vehicle into neutral gear with your foot still on the foot brake pedal.

Step 3

Apply the parking brake mechanism with the vehicle still in neutral and your foot on the brake pedal. There are different parking brake handle or pedal mechanisms in different vehicle makes and models.

Step 4

Place the vehicle into the desired gear (for manual transmissions, a popular gear is first) or park (for automatic transmissions). Release the foot brake pedal and turn the vehicle ignition off. This applies the parking brake before the transmission pawl is engaged against the transmission spline (in automatic transmission applications).

Step 5

Reverse the procedure when you're ready to move the vehicle again. Start the vehicle with your foot on the brake pedal. Shift the vehicle into the desired gear position and then release the parking brake.

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