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How to Use a Hand Brake

Updated February 21, 2017

Handbrakes--also called emergency brakes--are intended to keep cars from rolling while parked on an incline. Though some people only use the handbrake while parking on hills, many experts say it is best to set your handbrake whenever you are parked, in the event that the "parking pawl" inside your transmission becomes dislodged. Handbrakes are important for cars with manual and automatic transmissions.

Put your car in "park" by pulling the lever into the correct position. In most cars, the "park" setting is indicated by a "P." For people driving manual transmissions, it is best to put your car in first gear when parking facing uphill, and in reverse when facing downhill. Position the wheels of your car so that the car will roll toward the curb rather than into traffic if your brakes happen to fail.

Keep your foot on the regular brake as you set the brake by pulling up on the handbrake lever in the centre console of your car. Keeping your foot on the regular brake while setting the handbrake reduces the strain placed on your parking pawl.

Turn off your car's engine and remove the keys from the ignition.

Turn your car on and put your car into drive. Keep your foot on your regular brake.

Push the handbrake lever down.

Take your foot off the brake. Now you're ready to drive.

Tip

Some cars do not have handbrakes; instead, the emergency brake is located on the floor next to the driver's door, and is engaged by compressing the brake with your left foot. Using the handbrake when parked on a flat surface can help keep your car in place if your car happens to get hit by another car. The more you use your handbrake, the less likely the handbrake will be to lock up when you need it most.

Warning

If you forget to disengage your handbrake before driving, you can damage the handbrake and your car. Be careful not to pull up on the lever too hard when setting the handbrake; this can damage your transmission.

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About the Author

Ginger Yapp has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in travel and film topics. Her work has appeared in such publications as "USA Today" and online at Hotels.com. Yapp also has experience writing and editing for a small California newspaper. She earned her B.A. in film and media studies and has worked as an ESL teacher at an international school.