Why Is My Parking Brake Stuck?

The parking brake is a crucial safety feature in vehicles, as it keeps them in place on slopes while protecting the transmission. While it is mostly forgotten about most times, not much is more frustrating than a parking brake that won’t disengage when it’s time to get behind the wheel.

How Does a Parking Brake Work

The parking brake, also known as the emergency brake (e-brake) or handbrake, is responsible for keeping your vehicle in one place while parked, especially while on an incline. 

Many often think this only needs to be engaged when parking on hills, but the truth is that it’s important to engage it any time you park, as it allows for another level of security and reduced stress on transmission components. 

The parking brake isn’t connected hydraulically to the regular braking system, instead, it’s all controlled by the cable connecting the lever (or parking brake pedal) to the brakes. In vehicles with rear drum brakes, the cable will compress the brake shoes to create friction. In those with rear disc brakes, this is instead accomplished with a corkscrew mechanism that pushes a piston into the brake pads.

Why Won’t My Parking Brake Release?

In a system as simple as the emergency brake, there are only really a few common failure points to address.

Rusted/Corroded Cable

If your vehicle has been sitting outside for an extended period of time, the parking brake cable may have rusted in place. 

This can vary in severity from light surface rust to deep corrosion, so there’s unfortunately no fix-all solution for unsticking your e-brake. However, in less severe cases, you may be able to break off the rust by wiggling the lever repeatedly. Repeatedly shifting between forward and reverse gears to rock your vehicle back and forth can also pull the cables loose.

Frozen Cable

Similar to the rusted cable, your parking brake cable can freeze in place when left in inclement cold weather. This is most easily fixed by turning on the vehicle, slightly revving the engine, and allowing the heat to build and melt your cable free. 

Parking Brake is Jammed

While it might be fun to rip your parking brake up like you’re ejecting from a cockpit, it’s possible to over-engage your brake by pulling too hard as the brake shoe becomes lodged against the wheel drum.

If you’ve tried to engage and disengage it repeatedly with no luck, it’s best to have your vehicle inspected by a professional to find a solution. 

Brake System Service at Carlsbad Auto Service

If you’re experiencing an issue with your parking brake or the braking system itself, trust the ASE Certified technicians at Carlsbad Auto Service for top-notch diagnostics and repair! Give us a call or schedule online with us today.

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