A common fixture among automobiles is the handbrake, also known as the parking brake or emergency brake. This particular feature helps prevent the car from moving unintentionally during extended stops or when leaving it parked somewhere.
No, it doesn't mean your car is happy to see you
Prior to the introduction of electronic parking brakes, motorists were used to the gratifiying sound of the lever ratcheting as it was pulled up to engage the handbrake. That hand-actuated motion has also been the staple of stunt drivers who would use it to deliberately lock the rear wheels, facilitating a quick turn for the car at speed.
The handbrake was designed to bypass the standard hydraulic service brakes, so that it can be readily deployed by the driver in case the usual brakes fail while the vehicle is in motion. A primary cable runs from the handbrake lever to a U-shaped guide called the equalizer yoke. Another cable loops around this yoke and is connected to levers on the rear drum shoes or brake pads. Pulling on the lever tenses up the primary cable, which in turn pulls the secondary cable and engages the brake levers, preventing the rear wheels from moving.
Hearing a loud snapping sound as you engage the parking lever is never a good sign
The cables are made of steel, but as with all moving parts, constant use will eventually result in wear or damage over the long term. One of the most ominous sounds you’ll hear in a car is the sound of the handbrake cable snapping just as you pulled on the lever when parking the vehicle.
Does this mean you won’t be able to park the car safely? Not necessarily. Parking the car is still possible, but you will need a heavy object like a rock or wooden chocks against the rear wheels to prevent the car from rolling away.
Be sure to use chocks to keep the car in place if the handbrake is broken
If you’re parked uphill at a curb, turn the front wheels away from the curb and let the car roll gently until one of the front wheels rests on the road shoulder. If your car is a manual, you’ll need to leave the transmission in first gear with the engine off for good measure. When parking downhill, the front wheels should be pointed toward the curb or shoulder, and reverse gear should be engaged.
Of course, even with these remedies in mind, you should still have the snapped handbrake cable replaced as soon as possible.
Find more tips for beginner car owners at Philkotse.com.
Joseph Paolo Estabillo