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Have you ever accidentally left the parking brake on when driving your car? Don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. And although it is a common occurrence, the downside is that it can easily lead to premature wear on your brakes as well as other brake component issues. So what exactly happens when you drive with the parking brake on?

How does a parking brake work?

The parking brake, also known as the “emergency brake,” is intended to supplement the main braking system to support the car when parked or in times of an emergency, says Autoblog. What that means is that the parking brake doesn’t use the same hydraulic system as the normal brakes, like when you push the brake pedal. Instead, the parking brake is activated via a cable system that locks the rear brakes when you pull the lever or button on the center console.

Electronic parking brake on a 2020 Honda Civic Sedan
Electronic parking brake on a 2020 Honda Civic Sedan | Honda

What happens if you drive with the parking brake activated?

If you have tried pressing on the gas and brake pedals at the same time on a car (we don’t recommend doing that), then you’ll notice that the car won’t go anywhere. And if it does move, it will be very sluggish. The same thing happens when you drive with the parking brake on; the engaged brake will create friction while the wheels try to move.

According to Your Mechanic, driving for a short distance or at slow speeds with the parking brake on isn’t that big of a deal. But if you happen to drive at normal, or faster, speeds with the parking brake on, then heat and friction will build up and cause more issues. Most of the time, the heat will cause the brake pads to glaze and make them less effective, but with some normal braking, the glaze will eventually wear off, and your car will brake like normal. Also, the parking brake cables themselves could be damaged and need replacement.

woman driving car
A driver drives their car. | Xinhua/Chen Binjie via Getty Images

What should you do after driving with the parking brake on?

If you do happen to drive with the parking brake on, then the resulting effects will depend on how much of the brake you applied. If you only pulled the parking brake up a few clicks, then chances are that the brake system will be fine. But if you pulled it all the way up, then there could have been more damage done.

Either way, you may want to get the system checked out by a qualified mechanic to ensure that it will work properly. The last thing you would want is for your car to roll down a hill because you have a broken parking brake system.

car brakes being worked on
A car mechanic changes the brake disc of a Range Rover Evoque in a garage. | Marijan Murat/picture alliance via Getty Images

Also, if your car is newer and has an electronic-activated parking brake via a small switch on the center console, then you’re in luck because the system will likely beep at you and flash the parking brake icon on the instrument panel to warn you that it’s on. But if you do happen to still drive with it on, then you should get it checked out by a mechanic as well.


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