The emergency brake or E-brake, as it is commonly called in the automotive business has lost its popularity in today’s manufacturing of automobiles. This is because today’s vehicles use braking systems that are highly technical and seldom stop working, if properly maintained. If for some reason the braking system in your vehicle stops working, there is usually a fail-safe mechanism built into your automobile that provides the driver with minimum braking power helping you to drive the vehicle to a safe haven. E-brakes had an important responsibility when vehicles were built with mechanical braking systems or single chambered master cylinders, which in the event of brake failure could help slow the automobile or truck down to a manageable speed by utilizing the emergency brake.
Although still referred to as E-brakes in some circles, most vehicles today are manufactured with what is called the Parking Brake and its major function is to aid the vehicle in a parked position. What amazes me is the contemporary drivers lack of parking brake use. Crawford’s Auto Center’s front office was built on a gentle incline and the parking area in front of our business has witnessed its fair share of vehicles rolling away from drivers shortly after they walk away from their vehicles. I remember several years ago when a customer closed the door on his VW Jetta and walked into our front office door, I hollered, “Your car is rolling out of the parking lot!” We both stood in amazement as the vehicle rolled backwards across the highway, in and out of traffic, stopping as it rolled into the fence across the street without a scratch. Another customer’s car a few years later traveled the same direction but did a 360 before it crossed the highway and ran backwards up a telephone pole’s guide wire. Narrow misses that could have caused personal injury and property damage, but for the sake of good luck resulted in minor mishaps. Since those and similar events I spend a lot of time explaining to our customers as to why it is important to set their parking brakes before they get out of their vehicles.
Placing your car’s transmission in its parking position without using the parking brake places unnecessary pressure on your transmission’s parking pawl. This is an internal device that locks your automatic transmission in an unmovable position. Although it is designed to hold the weight of your vehicle, it is also a mechanical apparatus that is prone to wear and tear. A hardened steel part, the locking pawl is only the size of the end of an average finger. It is extremely strong but over time or constant abuse by shoving the arm of your shifter over and over again into its parking slot, it weakens. Every once in awhile you hear of a transmission shifter that becomes lodged between park and neutral and does not fall entirely into park. The result is a vehicle that can drift by force of gravity and can roll on its own. Placing the parking brake in its parked position can save a life or the cost of accident damage. Think about this …. Would you rather replace the transmission or replace the brakes, which by the way are a routinely replaceable part. Do us all a favor and place the parking brake in P A R K.