The Damage That Grads of Mechanic Programs See from Driving With the Parking Brake On

It’s a common error that many drivers have committed—turning on the ignition, putting the car in gear, and then driving off without releasing the parking brake. Sometimes called the hand brake or emergency brake, the parking brake offers an essential safety net when used properly. However, when it’s accidentally kept on when driving normally, the situation becomes less than ideal.

While most drivers will quickly notice their mistake and release the brake, incidents when it is left on for longer periods can cause considerable damage to the vehicle in a number of ways. Here’s how this driving error can produce a range of issues for vehicles.

Pros With an Automotive Career Know it Can Be Easy to Forget the Parking Brake

A parking brake may apply braking force to the vehicle’s rear wheels, front wheels, or sometimes both. It is most commonly used once a parking manoeuvre has been completed, in order to secure the car in position. Using a parking brake as a safety measure is especially common while parking on a slope, as a parked vehicle’s transmission will be under increased strain to hold the car in position.

Modern cars offer a range of different user-interface devices for applying and releasing the parking brake. This ranges from the traditional lever between the driver and passenger seat, to more unobtrusive ‘button’ style levers, to foot-operated switches located underneath the steering column. All of these can be missed by a driver, and many cars will permit a driver to move off while the brake is still applied. This is when the damage can begin to occur.

Grads of Mechanic Programs Know Keeping the Parking Brake on Can Cause Several Issues

Grads of a mechanic program who have observed damage sustained from driving with the parking brake on will know that the severity of damage caused can differ depending on the car’s layout. Owners of front-wheel drive vehicles may quickly note that the wheels are dragging and resisting if driven with this brake on. More considerable damage can occur with a rear-wheel drive vehicle. This is because the braking force is applied further from the driver’s position, making it easier for a driver to miss the protesting noises and resistance the tires may be exhibiting.

Complicating this is the fact that many parking brakes, particularly those operated by the classic lever design, have different levels of application. The further the brake is applied, the greater the friction generated between the brake pads and rotors. Partially applied parking brakes may only cause some additional wear to brake pads. However, the intense friction of a fully applied parking brake can cause extreme wear to brake pads. In addition, it can also dangerously heat brake fluid and damage adjacent components. One of most dangerous outcomes of driving with the parking brake on is total brake failure, either through worn or slickened brake pads, or through compromised brake fluid.

This Problem Is Less of a Hazard for Newer Vehicles, But Drivers Must Still Beware

Any professional with an automotive career will know that these days it’s harder for drivers to miss the warning signs of having the parking brake on. This is due to the prevalence of parking brake warning lights that are now installed in many dashboards. These will illuminate when the parking brake is on, and stay on to alert a driver if they start driving with the brake still applied. Additionally, many vehicles now incorporate an audio warning noise if the vehicle starts to move with the brake still applied.

Brake alert features are increasingly common on newer vehicles

As automotive technology has advanced, many newer vehicles (such as the 2018 Honda Accord’s automatic model) will disable a parking brake in a ‘live drive’ scenario where the gas pedal is pressed down, helping to ensure that damage-causing scenarios related to this brake do not arise. However, drivers of older models might not always be so lucky. It’s always important for drivers to watch out for this potentially costly mistake.

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