Hand Brakes

One of the most overlooked safety features on a vehicle can rear its head to trip you up!

This is my own personal Blog, not a news story and not the opinion of the station nor anyone else!

Just this week, it's popped up again!

That pesky hand-breaks. It's also known as the emergency brake, parking brake. And the mechanical stop.

But the basic idea is that you can manually engage the physical brakes by hand or foot to stop your car.

Some where along the way, the emergency break became identified as the parking brake. However, in today's automatic transmission vehicles, the parking gear is normally expected to lock the transmission and vehicle in place.

Some people have been trained to engage the hand brake or parking brake whenever they park a car, and leave it on while parked.  Others only use it when on a hill or in the winter.

This is not a consistent practice through the nation, however.  And this week, it bit me in the behind.

Someone decided to engage a brake that was not obvious. And other than a warning light, a strange red symbol,  there was no indication that it was on.  Try as I might, I couldn't get the car to roll, another good indication that the brake was engaged.

I looked for a hand release. I looked for a lever. No matter where I looked, I couldn't find an obvious hand brake nor release.  So I gave up. I jumped to another vehicle that was also parked and available. There was no brake applied in that car.

It turns out that I was correct in interpreting that mysterious "E" idiot light as an emergency brake that was applied.  However, the release was not as straight forward.

Hidden below the dash is an unmarked pedal with a molded tread that says "push on, push off". With no instruction, there was no way to know what the pedal was, nor that it had already been depressed.

In olden days, the parking brake was engaged by stepping on a pedal, but then released with a hand pull under the dash, labeled "brake" or "brake release."

For most of us, when we drive the same vehicle day in and day out, this is not a problem, as we fall into the habit of where our controls are.  But for those who only drive occasionally, a new vehicle or a redesign can be a road block.

Common sense and an owners manual can answer most every question, but when you're under the gun, it's not always clear.


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