When to Use Your Emergency Brake

Road Trip - Emergency Brake Parking

People love abbreviations and shortenings of language. It’s almost as if they can’t be troubled to speak an additional three syllables. Sometimes it can be fun and cool to bestow a catchy nickname on your favorite person or thing. But there are some abbreviations that simply shouldn’t be allowed. One perfect example is “e-brake.” When you call it that, you tend to lose a bit of respect for what its purpose truly is: an emergency braking tool. Of course, you don’t always use your emergency brake for strict emergencies. Many times, its use can come in quite handy.

  • Parking. Okay, this one is a given. Every time you park your car, the emergency brake should be engaged. Although few people would ever consider parking their car to fall under the category of “emergency,” its actual purpose in this case is to prevent one from happening. Such as would be the case if your car were to decide to suddenly roll downhill from its parked position. Whether you drive an automatic or a stick shift, always use your emergency brake to keep your car from rolling. Doing this will keep your car and others around you safe from the unlikely event your car will pop out of gear.
  • Stopping when your brakes fail. This is precisely the reason cars are designed with an emergency brake feature in the first place. Losing your braking ability is rare, but it does happen. Thankfully if and when it does, you’ve got a backup plan that will bring your car to a halt and keep you from plunging headlong into whatever dangers await ahead of your runaway car. If you do find yourself having to use your emergency brake to stop, do so as slowly and gradually as possible, given the circumstances. Suddenly jerking up your emergency brake stick can cause your car to fishtail or lose control. Also, never use your emergency brake while you’re driving to test out its reliability. Doing so is only advised in an absolute emergency and can cause serious damage to your car. But when the alternative is crashing and injuring yourself and others, it’s an acceptable damage.
  • Creeping up steep inclines with a stick shift. One of the times that almost everybody wishes they had an automatic are the occasions when traffic stops on a steep grade and the risk of rolling backwards is increased. If you drive a stick and you find yourself in this situation, it’s perfectly acceptable to use your emergency brake to keep yourself in position while you work your clutch and gearshift to get yourself moving. As long as you limit your use of your emergency brake to these occasional situations, you won’t run the risk of wearing it out prematurely.
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Just as there’s a time and a place to use your emergency brake wisely, there are some things that you should never do. One of these is to drive with your emergency brake on. Of course, nobody ever does this on purpose – it’s usually those who don’t use their emergency brakes often that forget to disengage them before driving away. Another thing you should never do is to engage your emergency brake while driving fast so that you can live out a scene from your favorite Fast & Furious movie. If concerns for your safety aren’t at the top of your priority list, consider this: pulling this stunt can cause serious damage to your car’s brakes and rotors, even if you don’t wreck it in the process.

Don’t ever take the situation lightly if your emergency brake stops working or gradually becomes less reliable. The moment this happens, do one of two things: take your vehicle in for repair and don’t drive it. No, not even to take your car to the shop. Spring for a tow truck instead. Taking to the road without the safety net that an emergency brake brings is like asking for trouble. And heaven knows, there’s plenty of it to be found out on the roads.

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