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Car Handbrake: Types, Features and Working Expalined
We use brakes to bring our cars to rest from continuous motion. Although superficially applying brakes might seem simple, a lot of physics run within a car.
Generally, we can find two types of brakes in a car. These are foot brakes (brake pedals) and handbrakes. This article elaborates on everything a car owner should know about car handbrakes.
What Is a Car Handbrake?
In simple terms, these are brakes that we operate with our hands. You can find them between the front two seats of your car. In addition, you might locate car handbrakes between the driver's seat and car door in many cars.
A car's handbrake is a stick with a button on its head. Drivers use them to bring their vehicles to a halt in an emergency. You need to press that button first and pull up the stick to activate the handbrake in a car. These are also called parking brakes, as they stop a vehicle from rolling away when parked. Emergency brakes and e-brakes are some other names for car handbrakes.
Modern high-end cars come with automatic handbrakes. These activate when you stop your car and disengage as you step on the throttle.
How Does a Car Handbrake Work?
A car handbrake is a mechanical lever that stops your vehicle when hydraulic brakes fail. These brakes also prevent your car rolling backwards or downhill towards gravity when you are not driving. It does so by applying disc pads or brake shoes on the rear tyres of your vehicle.
The following points will help explain how handbrakes work.
- A metallic cable connects the intermediate lever to rear brakes.
- When you pull the handbrake, this cable squeezes brake pads on brake pads onto drums to activate rear brakes.
- In many vehicles, there is a connection between car handbrakes and mechanical levers. For disc brakes, the calliper piston connects with the existing lever. Pulling these brakes makes the corkscrew force against pistons.
- When the brake sign indicates a cluster, it implies successful activation of handbrakes. At this point, you may release this lever.
- Unnecessary pulling of brakes at this juncture can lead to damage to these cables.
What Are the Different Types of Car Handbrakes?
1. Pedal or Pull Handle Brake
Despite its name, you can activate handbrakes by pressing a third pedal in some vehicles. In addition, you can engage and disengage the handbrakes by pressing these pedals repetitively.
Some vehicles may also come with a handle as a parking brake which you can pull to activate brakes. Similarly, pushing this handle can deactivate the handbrake system in your car.
2. Stick or Centre Lever Brakes
This is the most commonly found type of car handbrake. It gets its name owing to its placement. This is a lever usually between your car's driver seat and front passenger seat. Stick or centre lever handbrake is easy to operate as it requires little arm strength to raise this lever.
You will find this button on the lever's head, which you must press before pulling to stop your car.
3. Electric Handbrake
This is the most advanced format of handbrakes, first seen in 2001. In these electronically manipulated brakes, you only need to push a button on the dashboard/central console to engage or disengage brakes.
What Are the Features and Functions of Car Handbrakes?
The purpose of a handbrake is to stop your car when standard brakes fail to function efficiently. Here are a few features and functions of handbrake systems in cars.
Stops Your Car From Rolling: Handbrakes apply pressure on your car's rear wheels and prevent it from rolling backwards. This feature is a saviour while your car moves against gravity on an inclined surface, driving uphill. Car handbrakes prevent your car from rolling down towards gravity, whether your car is at rest or in motion.
Keeps the Car in Position When Foot Brakes Malfunction: Handbrakes are also known as emergency brakes for a reason. It allows you to park your car when foot brakes fail or do not function properly. However, one must be cautious while applying car handbrakes as they tend to stop your rear wheels from running. Consequently, a sudden application might spin your car.
For Waiting at Traffic Signals: Instead of applying foot brakes, you may opt for handbrakes for short and sudden halts in traffic. Secondly, car handbrakes prevent your car from moving forward if it is suddenly hit from behind as the rear wheels are locked.
For Steep Rises and Sharp Turns: Handbrakes prevent vehicles from rolling down while they are ascending a steep slope. Drivers tend to climb uphill using an active handbrake to avoid rolling down. Another use of handbrakes in cars is for making sharp turns. This is also the reason why race car drivers pull handbrakes while making sharp and fast turns.
How to Use Car Handbrakes?
The following steps will help you park a car with automatic transmission using handbrakes.
Step 1: Bring your vehicle to a complete stop.
Step 2: Press the brake pedal first and then shift the gear lever to park mode.
Step 3: Press the button on this lever's head and pull it up until you feel tension.
Step 4: Release the button and lever after it feels tense.
Step 5: Check for the parking brake light on your car’s dashboard to ensure the handbrake is engaged.
Step 6: Finally, release the brake pedal.
Safety Measures to Follow While Using Car Handbrakes
Although using a car handbrake is pretty simple, a driver must remember certain points while applying them for a safe ride.
Avoid Raising the Lever Without Pressing the Button: Most drivers tend to raise the parking brake lever without pressing the button. This practice helps stop your vehicle; however, it is an ill practice. Frequently pulling up the handbrake lever without pressing a button can wear out its teeth over time. This can decrease car handbrakes’ functioning efficiency.
Use Emergency Brakes Only During Emergency: Using handbrakes frequently can wear these cables out. As a result, you will not be able to apply them when you need to park your vehicle.
Shelter Your Car in Warm Places During Winter: You may find it difficult to apply parking brakes during winter. This is solely because brake cables tend to freeze in winter. Consequently, your vehicle tends to slow down, and you cannot fully engage these brakes during emergencies. To avoid such a scenario, try keeping your vehicle in a sheltered space during winter. Also, you can opt for warming up your car before disengaging the parking brakes.
They Do Not Bring Your Car to a Sudden Stop: As you browse through the necessity of parking brakes, remember these brakes slow your car down. You cannot apply them to bring your car to a sudden halt. Car handbrakes bring your car to a gradual halt, unlike foot brakes. As car handbrakes function on rear wheels, you can ride up a steep slope with engaged brakes. This will prevent your vehicle from rolling downhill.
Note the Brake Sign: If the Brake sign reflects an instrument cluster, handbrakes are active. Therefore, you must refrain from pulling the brake lever higher. If you continue to pull up the lever, it may exert too much pressure and damage its cables.
Make Sure to Disengage Handbrakes Before Driving: A car can move with slightly active handbrakes. You must avoid practising this in usual cases, as engaged handbrakes can harm your car's engine performance and mileage. However, in certain scenarios, like driving up a hill or taking sharp turns, you can drive with parking brakes engaged.