A stuck emergency brake is a fairly common issue.
But why is your ebrake stuck in the first place?
In this guide, we’ll help you understand why your ebrake is stuck and suggest an easy solution to those issues. We’ll also cover a few ebrake-related questions to give you a more comprehensive understanding of this brake component.
This Article Contains:
(Click on a link to jump to the specific section)
- Why Is My Parking Brake Stuck?
- What Do I Do About A Stuck Brake
- 7 FAQs About Ebrakes
- What Is An Emergency Brake?
- How Does My Parking Brake Work?
- What Is An Electronic Ebrake?
- When Should I Use My Ebrake?
- Will The Emergency Brake Stop A Moving Vehicle?
- Are There Different Types Of Ebrakes?
Let’s dive in.
Why Is My Ebrake Stuck?
Having your ebrake stuck is a reasonably common issue that can be caused by several different factors, including:
Corrosion is a common cause of a stuck parking brake.
Water and dirt work their way into your parking brake, which can cause the brake cable to snap and can result in your brake pads sticking to the rear wheel.
2. Frozen Parking Brake
Cold weather is another leading cause of a stuck brake.
If the weather is cold and wet, ice could be the reason for your stuck parking brake.
Water can get trapped in the ebrake and freeze, preventing the parking brake cable from smoothly sliding in its sheath.
3. You’re Applying The Ebrake Too Hard
If you were vigorous in applying your parking brake, there’s a chance you may have jammed it.
Pulling the ebrake too hard can cause the brake shoe to get stuck against the walls of the rear wheel drum. It may even stretch the parking brake cable that runs from the brake handle to the wheels.
Alternatively, the parking brake return spring may have broken, preventing the rear cable from releasing.
4. You Applied The Ebrake For Too Long
It’s always a good idea to only apply the parking brake for short periods.
You can run into any number of issues by leaving the parking brake engaged for too long, such as when your car or truck is in storage for the winter.
When left like this, the brake cable can stretch, rust, or break.
If your car has a hydraulic handbrake, the brake caliper can also seize. This can happen even with an electronic handbrake.
Additionally, your brake rotor or drum can warp when left like this for long periods and will need replacement.
A suitable alternative would be to get your hands on some wheel chocks. They effectively keep your vehicle in place and are much more affordable than replacing your brake rotor.
Now that we’ve looked at some common causes for a jammed ebrake let’s have a look at some potential fixes.
What Do I Do About A Stuck Brake?
In general, if you find your ebrake stuck, your best bet is to call a mechanic, as it’s often a labor-intensive operation.
You’ll need several tools like a tire iron to remove each lug nut on each rear tire. Only then can you start taking apart the various components of the brake system.
Although if you’re lucky, some of these easy fixes may be enough to get your tire moving again:
Situation #1. Corroded Brakes
Usually, you’ll need a professional mechanic to solve this problem for you.
However, depending on how far along the rust has progressed, you might be able to loosen the rust without needing a mechanic.
If there’s only a bit of rust, there’s a chance you can dislodge the parking brake by repeatedly applying and releasing the brake pedal.
If the rust has progressed, though, this may not be possible.
Situation #2. Frozen Parking Brake
If your parking brake is stuck because it’s frozen, you’re in luck. This is one of the more straightforward parking brake fixes.
Start by turning your car on and waiting about 30 minutes.
As the engine heats up, it might melt enough of the ice sticking to your parking brake to disengage it. Gently revving the engine can speed the process up, but this will still take some time, so be patient.
Once you’ve waited about 30 minutes, try releasing and applying the e brake lever and brake pedal to dislodge whatever ice is still left. If your parking brake still won’t disengage, there’s a decent chance you’re facing a larger problem, such as ice in your cable housing.
In this case, arranging for a mechanic to help solve the issue would be the best option for you.
Situation #3. You Overapplied The Ebrake
This can be a complicated problem to fix.
If you’re too vigorous in applying your ebrake, you can stretch the parking brake cable or cause the brake shoe or rear caliper to stick, preventing them from properly disengaging from the wheels.
You can try releasing the stuck parking brake and applying the brake pedal repeatedly, but it’s best to leave it to the professionals if this doesn’t work.
Situation #4. The Brakes Were Engaged For Too Long
Ideally, the longest time you should have your park brake applied is overnight. Any longer than that, and you could start running into issues.
If your park brake is left engaged for too long, there’s a chance it can get jammed. If you’re in this situation, you can try the same tactics we mentioned for fixing a frozen parking brake.
However, if you’re not planning on driving for a while, your best bet would be to use a pair of wheel chocks.
Now that you know how to fix some common ebrake issues let’s go over some FAQs to help get a better understanding of the parking brake.
7 FAQs About Ebrakes
Here are the answers to seven questions commonly asked about emergency brakes:
1. What Is An Emergency Brake?
The ebrake or emergency brake (also known as the parking brake or the hand brake) is a part of your car’s braking system that operates independently of the primary brake system.
Originally designed as a backup if your car’s primary braking system failed, many of today’s vehicles are too powerful to be stopped by the parking brake alone.
As a result, its primary purpose now is to keep your vehicle in place while it’s parked.
2. How Does My Parking Brake Work?
The parking brake uses a cable or series of cables connected to the rear brakes of your car’s wheel. When engaged, the parking brake bypasses your vehicle’s standard hydraulic braking system to lock the rear wheel in place securely.
In cars with a drum brake, the brake cable pulls another lever that puts pressure on the brake shoe, holding the vehicle in place.
In cars with disc rear brakes, engaging the parking brake lever activates a corkscrew mechanism. This pushes a caliper piston into the brake pad located within the rear caliper — clamping it against the rotor face.
3. What Is An Electronic Ebrake?
Electronic handbrakes are most often found in newer cars and forgo the traditional lever and e brake cable system.
Instead, these electronic parking brakes rely on electric motors to lock your wheel in place. Instead of using hydraulics, the motor applies the brake pad from the caliper onto the brake discs.
4. When Should I Use My Ebrake?
There’s a common misconception that drivers only need the hand brake when parking on a hill or when using a manual transmission car. A big reason for this misconception comes down to the parking pawl.
In cars with automatic transmission, a parking pawl is a device that locks up the gearbox. The pawl is engaged when you put your car or truck in park.
However, the truth is you should always apply your parking brake lever unless you’re planning on not driving for a while.
Irrespective of whether your car has a manual or automatic transmission, or if you’re parking on a hill or flat piece of ground, applying the e brake provides you some peace of mind that your vehicle won’t roll away while you’re gone.
It’s also worth noting that the parking pawl doesn’t last forever.
The little metal pin inside the pawl that engages when you put your car in park can break with time.
Applying your parking brake lever is an added safety measure that can prevent your car from rolling away even if your pawl isn’t working.
Additionally, getting into the habit of regularly applying your hand brake will keep it working correctly by minimizing corrosion. Routinely engaging the parking brake will also reduce wear and tear on your car’s transmission.
5. Will The Emergency Brake Stop A Moving Vehicle?
Yes, the emergency brake will stop a moving car.
However, in the unlikely event that your car’s primary brakes fail, you can’t just pull the e brake lever up and expect the car to come to a halt. Doing so will cause the rear wheels to lock, and your vehicle will skid.
To safely bring your car to a stop, you should first slow the car with engine braking. Do this by removing your foot from the accelerator pedal and shifting down through the gears. Once your car is well below 60mph, you can start gradually applying the e brake lever.
6. Are There Different Types of Ebrakes?
Parking brakes can be divided into four main types:
- Pedal – A pedal emergency brake is a small pedal located on the floor to the left of the acceleration, brake, and clutch pedals. Depress the pedal until you hear a click to engage it. To disengage, pull the brake lever above the foot pedal.
- Center lever – Found in older cars, the center lever parking brake is often located between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat.
To engage, simply pull the brake lever up. Ensure you don’t pull up too hard; otherwise, you risk jamming the parking brake.
To disengage, press the button on the end of the lever and push the stick down. You may need to pull the lever up slightly before being able to push the button in.
- Push-button – Often located on the center console with the other controls, a push-button handbrake is one of the more recent additions. Having a button instead of a lever or pedal generally implies it’s an electronic brake system. Engaging and disengaging this system is as simple as pushing the button.
- Stick lever – These are most commonly found in older vehicles and tend to be located under the instrument panel.
7. What Is A Reliable Solution To Ebrake Issues?
Solving e brake issues can be complex without the necessary tools and training.
Often, the mechanic needs to remove each tire to access the brake shoe.
Each brake shoe will also need to be removed so that the mechanic can apply lube oil.
If your parking brake doesn’t disengage, it’s important that you don’t drive your vehicle. Doing so can wear out the brake shoe, warp the disc or drum brake, or damage your rear caliper and brake pad.
Rather than calling a tow truck or trying to tackle the problem on your own, let RepairSmith handle it for you.
RepairSmith is a convenient mobile vehicle repair and maintenance solution that offers numerous advantages, including:
- Performing replacements and fixes right in your driveway
- Professional, ASE-certified technicians perform all vehicle inspections and servicing
- Convenient and easy online bookings
- Competitive and upfront pricing
- The technicians only use high-quality equipment, repair parts, and tools
- RepairSmith offers a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty on all repairs
Wondering how much a jammed parking brake will cost to repair?
It can cost upwards of $187 depending on the issue and labor costs. For an accurate estimate of how much it’ll cost to repair your ebrake, fill out this form.
There are various reasons why your ebrake might have gotten stuck.
Unfortunately, there are limited situations where you can solve the issue yourself, and your best bet would be to let the professionals handle it.
This way, the mechanics can solve the problem without causing further damage to your car or truck.
But, where can you find a reliable mechanic to handle it for you?