Every car comes equipped with an emergency brake, which can also be called a parking brake, e-brake, or handbrake. This brake also has several variations. It can be a stick lever, a center lever, a foot pedal, or a push button. Regardless of what you call the emergency brake and where it is located in a vehicle, this brake serves two purposes.
Because of its name, many people think the emergency brake only needs to be used in the rare instance the brake system fails. However, modern cars will usually warn you about potential brake problems before they get to the point that emergency brake use is required. If for some reason your car doesn’t warn you and your brakes fail, don’t yank the handbrake or stomp on the brake pedal. While that is an understandable reaction, it could lock the brakes, making matters worse. What you’re supposed to do is slowly engage the brake to bring your car to a safe stop. While the emergency brake applies less than half the pressure a car’s regular brakes do, it should help you regain some control over the car.
The second use of emergency brakes is why it’s also called the parking brake. The name parking brake is self-explanatory; you use it when your car is in park. You may feel it’s unnecessary to use the parking brake on a regular basis, but that is not the case. Infrequent use of them could cause unused cables to oxidize and seize in place or break, which means the brake will be useless in an emergency. The easiest way to prevent the emergency brake cables from seizing is to use it every time you park, not just when you’re parking on a steep incline. Engaging the parking brake also provides backup. While it’s not common for the parking pawl, which locks your transmission in park, to loosen, it is possible. By engaging your parking break every time you park, you can extend the lifespan of your emergency brake.