In Which Parking Situation Should You Use Your Parking Brake

Parking brakes, also known as hand brakes or emergency brakes, are designed to prevent your vehicle from rolling when parked. While many drivers use their parking brakes regularly, there are still some who are unsure about when to use them. In this article, we will discuss the various parking situations in which you should use your parking brake to ensure safety and proper vehicle maintenance.

When to Use Your Parking Brake

Using your parking brake in the right situations can help prevent accidents and extend the life of your vehicle’s transmission. Here are the scenarios in which you should always engage your parking brake:

  • On an Incline: Whenever you park on a hill or slope, it is crucial to use your parking brake to prevent your vehicle from rolling. Even if your vehicle has an automatic transmission and is parked in “Park” mode, the additional security of the parking brake can provide peace of mind and ensure the safety of your vehicle.
  • Manual Transmission: When parking a vehicle with a manual transmission, using the parking brake is essential. This not only prevents the vehicle from rolling but also reduces stress on the transmission, clutch, and drivetrain components.
  • Long-term Parking: If you plan to leave your vehicle parked for an extended period, such as when going on vacation or storing it for the winter, using the parking brake can protect the transmission and ensure the vehicle remains stationary.
  • Downhill Parking: When parking your vehicle on a downhill slope, engaging the parking brake can prevent unnecessary strain on the transmission and minimize the risk of rolling, particularly if the parking pawl in the transmission were to fail.
  • Flat Surfaces: While it may be less crucial on level ground, using your parking brake on flat surfaces can still be beneficial. Doing so can help to reduce the load on the transmission, which is especially important in hot weather when components are more prone to wear and tear.

When Not to Use Your Parking Brake

While there are several situations where using your parking brake is beneficial, there are also times when it is best to avoid engaging it. Here are the scenarios where you should refrain from using your parking brake:

  • Freezing Conditions: If you are parking in extremely cold weather, avoid using the parking brake, as the brake cables can become frozen and cause the parking brake to become stuck.
  • Driving Off Immediately: If you plan to move your vehicle shortly after parking, such as quickly running into a store, using the parking brake may not be necessary. However, it is still a good habit to engage the parking brake for safety reasons.

Proper Use of the Parking Brake

When engaging your parking brake, it is important to do so correctly to ensure it functions as intended. Here are the steps to properly use your parking brake:

  1. Bring Your Vehicle to a Stop: Before engaging the parking brake, make sure your vehicle is fully stopped.
  2. Put Your Vehicle in “Park” or First Gear: If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, place it in “Park.” For manual transmissions, put the vehicle in first gear.
  3. Engage the Parking Brake: Pull the parking brake lever or push the parking brake pedal to engage the brake. You should feel resistance when doing so, indicating the brake is engaged.
  4. Release the Foot Brake: Once the parking brake is engaged, release the foot brake slowly to ensure the vehicle does not roll.


Using your parking brake is an important part of responsible vehicle ownership and safe driving practices. By understanding the appropriate parking scenarios in which to use your parking brake, you can protect your vehicle from potential damage, prevent accidents, and ensure the safety of your passengers and others around you.

Remember to always use your parking brake when parking on inclines, using a manual transmission, leaving your vehicle for an extended period, parking on downhill slopes, and even on flat surfaces for added security. By following these guidelines, you can maintain the safety and longevity of your vehicle’s transmission and drivetrain components.

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