The Useless in an Emergency Brake

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It won’t be long before nothing happens when you floor the accelerator. Well, nothing dramatic. The car will gradually build speed – Not too much! Not too fast! – no matter how hard you push down on the pedal.

For ssssssaaaaaaaaaaaafety!

The principle has already been applied to breaking traction – via traction control – which in a number of cars cannot be turned off – or only turned partially off – or which comes back on after you thought you had turned it off.

For ssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaafety!

The pull-up emergency brake is being emasculated for the same reason.

Or so they say.

If you can even find a new car that has a pull-up emergency brake.

The few car companies that still equip their new cars with a pull-up emergency brake (italicized to emphasize the difference vs. a parking brake) have been setting the tension to nearly nil – such that it is just barely sufficient to prevent the vehicle from rolling when fully applied.

When the vehicle isn’t moving.

For ssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety! But actually to prevent people like me – and maybe you – from using the emergency brake to steer the vehicle.

By using it to lock up the rear wheels while the vehicle is moving.

Why on earth would anyone want to do that? Why, to change directions quickly, of course! Pull up the handle, lock the rear wheels, crank the wheel and – shazam! – you’re facing the other way. This is called a handbrake 180.

A bit less wheel-crank and you can do a 90 degree turn – and much more quickly than you could by slowing down first.

And of course, we can’t have that.


So the tension on the cable that connects the ever to the rear brakes is set so limp-dickly that it barely holds the vehicle in place when parked. When it is moving, there’s not enough force available to even slow the car down appreciably in an emergency – such as failure of the primary braking system – which renders it useless as emergency brake.

Not very ssssssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaafe – is it?

But of course, it’s not really about ssssssssssssssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. Only children and adults with the mentality of children believe that.

Like so many other things pushed on us in the name of ssssssssssssssssssssaaaafety, the emasculation of the emergency brake is about control – marketed as ssssssaaaaaaaaaafety by our “parents” in government (and corporations; they’re basically the same people now).

If our sssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaafety (rather than their control) really were their “concern,” they would be consistent. They wouldn’t permit demonstrably unsafe systems and equipment to be installed in cars – and would demand their removal (or at least, their disabling) when shown to be unsafe.

Traction control that can’t be turned off – all the way off – makes loss of control more rather than less likely in certain situations. For example, when trying to make it up an ice-slicked road. The system cuts engine power when you need it most – to maintain momentum – and prevents wheelspin when you need it, in order to keep the wheels spinning at all.

Or at least, the car moving.

It’s a man, man!

Same issue with ABS. On ice, it’s not sssssssssssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe. You are more likely to slide into something – or someone – than in a car without ABS. Or in a car with an ABS off switch.

Which they will not allow us to have.

Just as they will not allow the hundreds of thousands of people forced to drive around in cars with known-to-be defective Takata air bags to install an off switch, even temporarily.

Just as they are blase about the just-revealed tendency of “emergency brake assist” in certain new cars so equipped to come on when there is no emergency, or need to brake.

What happened to their “concern” about our sssssssssaaaaaaaaafety?

The good news is, it’s easy to adjust a pull-up emergency brake so that it will actually be capable of applying braking force in an emergency. Just cinch up the tension. But of course, we can’t have that, either.

Which is why the pull-up emergency brake lever is being replaced by an electrically actuated parking brake that cannot be adjusted. Which allows no modulation by hand – and so takes away all driver control – beyond the pushing of a button.

Monkeys can push buttons. But in this case, the “monkey” (that’s us) doesn’t get any reward.

No kibble falls from a little trapdoor.

Just a faint whirrrring sound as the electric motor cinches the tension, as prescribed by our “parents.” One less thing for us to do – which is another way of saying more freedom-of-action taken away from us. They have decided we’re too incompetent – and too reckless – to be allowed even the slight liberty of being in control of our car’s braking system.

Even if it gets us killed.

PS and FYI: The handful of new cars still available with the old-style (and still adjustable) pull-up emergency brake lever are really old cars – models designed four or five years ago but not yet redesigned. They have vestigial design remnants of the way cars used to be four or five years ago, before this Race to Eloihood (i.e., the infantilization of the populace by a Morlockian elite) hit the open stretch, checkered flag in sight.

Adjust ’em – while you still can.

. . .

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  1. Parking brakes have often been useless as emergency brakes. The one in my ’73 Maverick for instance. Ford had two designs that persisted from the 60s and 70s in some vehicles well into the 1990s, maybe beyond. The foot operated parking brake and the T-handle found in my Maverick, early Mustangs, and more cars. These problematic designs are pretty useless ergonomically in an emergency. It wasn’t only Ford using them too. I’ve seen similar designs in other make vehicles into the 2000s.

    The center console lever which is useful, I first saw in a 1974 Vega. Of course it broke like all 1970s cable parking brakes did in road salt states. And while I lament the loss of the 80s and on versions that worked and didn’t fall apart, they are simply returning to previous era of uselessness. What I fear is that the over complication will cause them to fail in ways that can’t be easily disabled to get the car moving again.

  2. 2015 Ford F150 psuedo emergency break will release if you are in reverse or drive (1, 2, 3 as well) when the computer applies gas to the engine. This defeats another purpose of the break which was to prevent youngsters from accidently putting the car in drive and moving it (I would love to know how many times this has really happened since the drivers ed ppl seem to think it was important)

  3. Handbrake turns… a nearly lost art.

    Back in the days of the great English motoring cars, there were two handbrake mods that were fairly common amongst rallyists and other “sporting” drivers.

    The first was a mod to the pawl that latches the button when released, locking the lever in the position where it was when the button was released. A bit on the unhandy side of things. The mod was to change it so the lever could be lifted, used for its intended purpose, ten released, when it would once again resume its “off” or lowered position. Thus one could very quickly apply a quick touch on the rear brakes, then let the hand fly back off the lever, and it would instantly drop back into OFF position. Then, when one WANTED to letch the lever in the applied position, one would depress the button, when it would latch the lever in the raised position you desired, for parking. This is known as the “fly-off handbrake lever” mod. Very nice,

    the second was most common on the REAL Minis, the BMC cars from late 1950’s through the 1960’s until Uncle Stupid declared them “too short’ for lawful entry into the US market. (the current alling of the Smart Cars is proof of gummit folly and fickleness. they are about four inches shorter than the BMC mini were. ). That car, the Mini, was front drive. Since rear suspension travel was very short, with a stiff anti-roll bar up front, the inside rear wheel would lift as the car dove deeper into a turn. No matter, it just hung out there in the air until the turn was ending, then it would find the macadam once again and resume its former function supporting that corner and also providing side traction to complete the turn. BUT, when one applied the handbrake, actuating the brakes on both rear wheels same time, the inside wheel would quickly lock up, no atter when only “grabbing” air. But in the transition stage of the turn, going in and coming out, if hard outside rear wheel breaking was applied whilst the inner was yet in contact with more than air, that tyre would lose all traction, rendering no assistance in keeping the desired line though the turn. Rhe solution was a change in the lever and cable attachment arrangement between the two front seats, on the otherwise useless tunnel. The assembly now had THREE levers… to the right of the cluster, one that would lift to actuate the RIGHT rear brake only its identical mate to the left of the trio would do the same on the left only. When one wanted BOTH, lift the lever in the centre, which would in turn lift the two outboard levers, providing “normal” brake application to both rears simultaneously. Now one could elect to apply braking pressure,vert selectively modulated if desired, to the outboard rear only, leaving the inboard one to turn freely, helping with just a touch more traction on the inboard to drive thigns toward the centre of the turn. With some focussed practice one could signficantly improve speed through the turns. Autocrossers in partucular favoured this arrangement, and it did make s a signficant difference on lap time. One more part of why even the sub-litre class of sedans tended to be swept by the Minis both on the autocross and road racing curcuits.

  4. Most electric motors can be effectively stilled by simply shorting their power leads.
    Any motion of a permanent magnet motor will produce enough counter electromotive force to stop the motion.
    Electric motors have gotten too sophisticated for their own good.

  5. Great article today. Not only should real hand brakes be put in all cars, but in order to get licensed you should also be taught how to use them in the various scenarios discussed above (maybe not necessarily on ice, as that might not work in many places w/o it.)

    Learning how to usefully use “car tools” which can save your life should be part of elementary training. Of course they are dumbing it all down so that most will be helpless and need AI (government) driven cars.

    When I took drivers ed lo many decades ago we were taught using primitive teaching models but they had clutches. That knowledge came in handy later, though it took some practice. My wife can’t drive a stick though. Never was taught and such vehicles are increasingly rare other than for larger trucks. “Drifting” isn’t just for stunt drivers in films. We should also know how to actually shift manual transmissions.

      • MOST drivers of the large commercial trucks only use the clutch for starting out from a dead stop. Once rolling, the shifts are “floated” without depressing the clutch. This same technique can be used when the clutch release mechanism (mechanical or hydraulic) is disabled/failed by simply switching off the engine, placing the shift lever in the lowest gear, switching the engine back on and engagning the starter, which will, as it turns the engine over, also moves the car through the gear train. Once the engine has gained some revs, releast the throttle treadle to slow down the engine, slip it out of gear, wait until the engine has slowed to the correct RPM for the next gear, move the gear lever into position with gentle force into the next position, which will easily slip into that position fully when the engine speed is right for that gear and road speed. As a mechanic I have saved a number of customers the towing costs by simply doing this, driving the car to my shop and they mine. They stand there as if I’d just walked a few miles across a lake that was not iced over. Fun….

        • Not necessarily true for all transmissions, 9 speeds being the exception. That Low before 1st can be low enough that even on the slightest grade you can’t let off and reach the point of getting out of Low without nearly stopping. It’s easy to make that shift if you clutch it in low so revs fall faster and you can get into 1st before the vehicle speed is nearly nothing. It’s especially difficult on dirt or other softer surfaces.

          I like the Low on 9 speeds but not all of them are the same. Generally, a ten speed is fairly much the same regardless of brand. It’s not uncommon to need to clutch on a heavily loaded and soft surface in a two gear box truck. A Spicer 4X4 is notorious for having the linkages get caught on each other.

          I understand fleet operators wanting a 9 speed due to large loads and bad roads but they can be hell on the driver in short little runs. 10 speeds are the norm for fleet trucks since not every driver is worth a damn changing gears on transmissions like 13 speeds. Most drivers I’ve ridden with were bad about just being pokers and stompers. Own a truck and you’ll master rolling into the throttle and not just stomping it, especially once you’ve had to replace a transmission or have it rebuilt. I detest driving a Super 10 since I’m so accustomed to a regular 10 speed. Using the button shift on every gear is a pain for me. I’m driving along and not thinking about having a Super 10 and the next thing I know I’m cussing it. I suppose it would be ok if you drove one all the time although I have my doubts.

          I was lucky to start in the old days of 4 or 5 speed transmissions with 2 speed axles.

          • Drove a 13 speed Road Raner once…. company truck needed deadheaded from the shoip that had fixed it back to terminal Tacoma to Portland. Had a friend who was learning how to drive he could drive my tractor bobtail, legally, and so I drove the company bucket ov rusty bolts. Took a few runs through those gears to get them figured out, not bad. The horrible thing about that tractor was the Detroit 8V 72. Noisiest thing, it screamed iits head off all the way, it was an IHC daycab, walking beam rears, leaf front, rode like it was made out of concrete, but sounded like the inside of a 200 gallon oil tank in a hailstorm, except about two octaves higher pitch.

            My own rigs were a Mack B 62, 250 Thermodyne, five and four. Next was my Kenworth conventional, 250 NH Cummins, four and four, then the crazy Mac COE with the 425 V 8 and a straight five speed. It was amazing how that engine would pull from down in the basement to shouting from the rooftops… I had guessed the straight five would not be anough, but it never ran out, never lugged, never hit the governor by surprise. Those tractors I hardly ever used the clutch. Easier and faster that way. And less work.

            these days I have an IHC hoopie, DT 466, five and split. That thing almost drives itself. Full synchro on the mainbox, but I still float the shifts.

            • The first of the Maxidyne’s were underpowered to a horrible degree. Going up a grade and getting to the point of hopefully getting into 5th was always a Willy Makit, Betty Don’t. Betty was right on most grades. I detested the things. The later ones were much better, the one you had.

              MY view on Binders is they made fine balers and combines, not so much for the trucks though. They might last ok but driving one was torture.

              • Inertanional made great hoopies from about the arly eighties on. Their DT 466 is one amazing piece of machinery for the day and sixe category. Don’t know what makes you say they were torture to drive. That DT 466 has plenty of power (in the higher stages of tune, the C or D versionis) and they ran forever. The trucks were fine to drive.. mine has the wide five speed and split xle. Once you “get it” with those, they almost drive themselved.

                Those DT’s have been fitted to millions of schoolbusses, wiht an Allison auto behind them, but those were terrible for anything but stop and go in town on mostl level roads. I’ve drivein them long distance through mountain passes, NO BRAKING, not enough to be safe, anyway. Downshift, unless the rig was going slow enough for the next gear, it wold sit there and laugh at you. check speed with the tin brakes, downshift, as the thing gains speed again it shifts up,,,, nothing you can do. Engine braking was all but useless. The tiny little drum brakes got hot enough to not work very quickly. Underbraked.. and those were built special to keep our kids safe? DOT passed them? No compression brake, no trans hydraulic brake, unless one was already a skilled driver one could get in trouble very easily. I think I know WHY some of those awful school lbus crashes in the mountains happened….. the engine in the one I drove had a millioin ten on it, untouched. Ran right with the this-years version with under 100K on it.

        • I jumped in a big old GMC with a 5×3 and had no trouble getting along with it. In fact it was quite a blast unless you were in a hurry – OR buying the gas which I was so I only made a few trips in it. I was working on shares driving the truck which belonged to another guy on a per load (or maybe it was per tree?) basis. Anyway the truck gas and my Cat fuel meant I was working all day for practically nothing.

  6. Back in 1971 I had a 1964 VW Beetle which I drove an entire winter using the pull up brake only!
    Well, in combination with some accomplished downshifting, lol. I didn’t drive the interstates rather the lesser traveled roads in rural NW Pa. as necessity required. Hey, I have to eat! The VW was great in winter.
    I wouldn’t recommend this for the less attentive or anyone for that matter. Nonetheless, it was done and done without incident.
    Always remembering, of course … “a Volkswagen will definitely float but it won’t float indefinitely”

    • They will also plane across the water if you get a good enough running start. Not indefinitely of course, but far enough to get across a big creek 🙂

    • I drove my 1956 Beetle from the Berkeley Hills, across the Bay then the Golden Gate Bridges, then all the way to Eureka without a stitch of brakes of any kind. Even got stopped by CHP because of old tags (just bought it, and it was Sunday, so no DMV open) and he had me run a full brake check as well as other stuff. I was barefoot, so made certain I “flexed” my ankle appropriately when he told me to press as hard as I could on the brake pedal……. then pump multiple times hard. With the door open so he could observe. THEN we had to ask him to help us push start it cause the starter was dead…… that was long before there was any freeway on 101 north of Leggett. Plenty of twisties and small towns. I just drove the dumb thing. That tiny 36 horsepower engine does not have much compression for braking…..

      • Mine had a whopping 40 hp! Then I bought a 1973 van with the 1700cc dual carb engine which would chirp the tires in second, oh my!

  7. My GMC lease was up last week, I had the choice of Tundra or Titan to keep a manual emergency brake which I use often. If they lose the feature over the next few years, I will be going used. Tired of buying into all this corporate madness. Hoping for some start up American auto makers to shake up the industry (Not like Tesla!).

  8. I’ve used the emergency brake to get myself out of a bad situation. I was going down an icy hill when the back end broke away and tried to pass me. I could have lost all control and ended up spinning across multiple lanes as I slid down the hill. Using the emergency brake locked the rear wheels and forced the front end of the car to point downhill again, allowing me to regain control. God only knows what I might have hit or who I might have injured if I hadn’t been able to do that.
    This has actually happened to me twice with different cars and different hills.

    Government is the problem, not the solution.

    • Hi Anon,

      Yup; thanks for mentioning this. I’ve used the manual brake for the same reason. Once again, another ssssssssaaaaaaaaaafety feature that makes cars so equipped less safe – in certain situations, at least. And shouldn’t it be up to us to decide for ourselves?

  9. I think that there is room for a new manufacturer. A manufacturers manufacturer. A consumers manufacturer. A manufacturer that has no obligation to central authorities. The time is ripe.

    • Hi Zeke,

      What’s needed is a company with some standing to just grow a pair, stand up – and say no. As in: No – we are not going to “comply” with government rigmarole anymore but instead, build and sell cars desired by our customers, who will be free to buy them or not.

      And then stand their ground – and let the chips fall.

      • There is a little company (Roxor) owned by a big company (Mihandra) that is already doing it. The Roxor is made in Michigan somewhere. ‘Made’ is probably not completely accurate, as it’s most likely just assembled from parts made mostly in India?
        However, what it is, is a no-frills vehicle with a ‘normal’ diesel (not tier 4 crap). It has good capabilities.
        It can not pass our DOT regulations and is being marketed and sold as a side-by-side off-road only vehicle at places that sell side-by-sides (like Polaris, etc…). Even the Polaris type side-by-sides have become almost car like. I think John Deere now has a model with heat, AC, windshield wipers, doors, etc..???
        In many rural parts of our country these are allowed to drive on roads but restricted in different ways by each state. The one I’m familiar with is that they are limited to roads posted less than 45mph.
        My guess is, someone, maybe farmers, etc…. will start using these to drive on roads they aren’t ‘allowed’ to and the local police will look the other way. I’m guessing this is happening already. Think $20K vehicle vs a $50K+ truck to go to town.
        Will this use spread? Will local governments crack down on this? Will the Fed crack down on these manufacturers if it grows to be a problem? (just going to tier 4 regs adds $5-7K+ and dramatically hurts reliability/cost-to-own) Will the local chevy dealer get mad when he loses a few sales of big trucks from the once good customer farmer?
        Maybe new small business’s can be created by selling refurbished non-nonsense (70’s to 90’s) vehicles? I think it’s happening already. I don’t see it working in the rust belt though.

        • The election of a far left Democrat might cause several red States to relax their regulations on these vehicles. One can always hope. I want to see these types of vehicles operating on our 70-80 mph highways like the rest. Maybe to make up for the anvil of federal blackmail, they can charge extra to drive them on the road.

          • I’d prefer the election of a libertarian because s/he would use his/her constitutional authority to abolish the unconstitutional federal agencies that are causing all of these problems.
            Back in 1987, I had a short conversation with Dr. Ron Paul where I asked him for a favor, should he get elected. He asked what the favor would be, and I told him that I’d like to appointed as the chairman of the FCC. When he asked why the FCC, I corrected myself by saying that I’d meant that I wanted to be the last chairman of the FCC. He promised that he’d make the appointment if I promised to remind him after he’d won the election. I so promised and we both had a nice laugh about it. I’ve no doubt he would have kept his promise because I darn sure would have kept mine.

  10. Hi Eric,

    I see that you are getting lots of comments on your recent articles. That should make advertisers flock to your site. I think that your comments kind of put the emergency brake on, comments. The comments could be on a skid that they won’t recover from. But at least your minions will be happy. They will be able to go on bootlicking without any disruptions. Clover
    And whose fault was that? I think that the most that agreed with me on your negative myopic view just needed to take a break. You never said thank you to them for just having an opinion, for the back up. You petted your pals and ignored their view. Oh well, now I guess that you will see their view more clearly. The silent majority strikes again. It’s those closet Libertarians striking back again. Well you might not think that they are Libertarians because the rules change according to you Her General.

    • Clover,

      Why are you calling me Herr General? Am I the one with five stars on my lapel, pretending to be MacArthur? Am I threatening to “get” people for affronting my authority?

  11. Hey, Thanks Eric, the point of having an emergency brake is very important!!!!! Especially if you do “Bat Turns” every day! Especially for Libertarians!
    These “emergency brakes” could be useful in an emergency, maybe. What I was told, and later experienced, was that if you didn’t use them all the time then don’t use them. The cables and adjusters for the emergency brakes, if you didn’t use them all the time, rusted up so bad that if you applied them only once in a while that they wouldn’t release if you actually could apply them. And doing brake jobs on even rear disc brake cars you would always find this to be true. Maybe they should go by the wayside, since how many emergencies do people have were they would really be needed? Oh yeah, for Bat Turns.
    My F-150 FX4 has an emergency brake system. But I forget to use it. I should see if it still works properly. Yeah the truck has rear disc brakes, but with a drum brake system inside of the rotor. I guess that’s for when you’re rock climbing. Or to use in an emergency where you lose total braking capacity in your dual master cylinder.
    Have you ever seen a vehicle without any front braking capacity trying to stop? Sure you have. The rear wheels tend to lock up because it’s the front brakes that do most of the work in stopping. Unless only one wheel decides to lock up because it hasn’t been used in an emergency braking mode enough ans only one cable worked.
    I had an Mustang stick shift where I just had the “emergency” brake cables replaced. They were frozen before since I just parked the car in gear all the time. When I went to see how well they did the job I ended up doing a 180. I had the work done at a Midas muffler shop. What? They were brake experts too. My point is that emergency braking systems that only apply the rear brakes can be overrated. I know, I’m stupid. The Eight-guy told me so.
    My point is, this may be seen as another encroachment on freedom, but is this really where the fight is. You know, kill them all, let God sort them out. It just sounds like it just might be time for the old system to go away, or get much better, at more cost for almost nothing in return.
    Yeah, I’m sure that E-Troop will be here for the rescue.

    • Winston,

      I’m sure you know this, but: The emergency brake is designed to do two things. The first and primary thing is to hold the car in place when parked – without placing the load on the transmission. The proper procedure is to stop, engage the brake and then put the transmission in Park (or in reverse, if a manual). The second function is to slow/stop the car in an emergency – if the primary braking system fails.

      A pull-up lever system enables the driver to modulate cable tension and so brake force applied – to avoid locking up the rear wheels. You lose this ability to modulate with an “ebrake.”

      Finally: I write about these seemingly little things because they add up to big things. Collectively, they amount to an enormous intrusion upon our freedom to control our vehicles.

      • One other good use for a manual handbrake (the PROPER English term, whic has real meaning.. it is simply a type of brake actuated by one’s hand. DRIVER sees fit.

        That other use is for starting off on a hill with a manual gearbox. Set the brake whilst your foot remains on the service brake pedal, which is what is holding the car from rolling backwards down the hill. Now you can release the handbrake and GENTLY slip out the clutch to GRADUALLY apply power to the drive wheels. You don’t kill the eneing, nor burn out the clutch, no spin the drivewheels by suddenly applying too much torque to them. VERY useful tool, that handbrake. From what you describe, I rather doubt the electrical joke would actually hold the car on the hill as one performs the above maneouvres. But then I’ll wager that once the gear change lever is put into PARK or neutral, the electric joke will be commanded to release in spite of the wishes of the human theoreticlly “in command”.

        • One other note: You mention placing the gear change lever in reverse when parking. NOT a good idea. For one thing, the car MIGHT roll a bit and thus turn the engine over backwards, a bad news scenario for a very few cam chain tensioning systems. But the main reason is that, should the car be hit whilst parked, the teeth on the reverse idelr or on the layshaft gear could easily be stripped or broken. Then you are out for a gearbox overhaul.

          Same reason one oughtn’t leave the car standing in first , or low, gear. this is especially important in cases (older units) where the gearbox does not have a syncnromesh first gear, where the gear itself slides on the mainshaft and has straight cut gears. At any given rotation point, ALL the force is placed on one pair of teeth. A sudden sharp blow could (and has….) smapped off one of those two teeth, again leading to a rather dear overhaul of the gearbox. Since the smller gar is on the layshaft, THAT is the one to break, and the laygear is rather a costly piece of metalwork, as it will have all the gears cut on the one piece.

          Far safer to switch the gearchange lever into second when leaving the car to stand.

    • My 2016 F150 had that crappy electronic thing – The one that turns itself of when you touch the throttle. I proved more than once the utter futility of trying to modulate that thing to “trick” the open diffed rear into getting some degree of traction. (Couldn’t get the L/S rear without adding on options that I didn’t want).

      I was waiting for the day that I got a citation from MSHA for driving on mine property with it, as their prescribed test for a park brake involves putting the vehicle in gear and trying to drive through the brake.

      Thankfully my Gladiator has an actual cable controlled, manual brake. At least FCA still stands for automotive freedom, while everyone else has morphed into “mobility solutions” and other inane terminology.

    • Well, if you have an automatic transmission and park on a really steep hill, you may or may not be able to actually get it back out of Park after all the load sets down on the pawl – unless you set the parking brake. In fact on a steep hill I always set the parking brake First and then put the transmission in Park.

      OTOH, the cable brake on my old pickup doesn’t even work because something came apart in one wheel and destroyed everything including the parking brake lever, which is not available except maybe through a junkyard. So I had them just put it all back together so I could drive it. But it’s a five speed and 4wd so I just make sure I leave it in a low enough gear to hold it on any sort of hill. I’ve gotten really good at sidehill parking, too 🙂

      • What make model year, size, etc, and diameter/width of rear brake drums… I’ve had to locate and procure parts for older trucks, its a bit tedious but so far I’ve found everything, with patience and enough bux to buy them. Worst case is I won’t be able to find it, best is I might have it right here. Let me know….. oh, and which side?

        • Tionico, do you own or work at a junkyard? If so, that’s great. I’d rather support someone here when I need a part. The yards in my area either don’t have what I want or don’t care/don’t answer the phone.

        • 1989 K1500. I have no idea of the drum diameter/width but probably whatever was standard. I have the intact right side lever in the glove box, but I just really haven’t yet tried to chase down the lever for the left side because I’ve had bigger problems to fix. I have learned to live without a parking brake with a stick shift. Also, I’ve twice seen the foot pedal types just up and fail so I wouldn’t want to leave it sitting on a hill out of gear under any circumstances.

        • Oh yeah … and in the winter I’ve learned to NOT use a parking brake on anything anyway. The place where I park the old Suburban outside I have about a 6″x6″ chunk of wood placed as a semi-permanent wheel chock. I just drive in slow until I feel the front wheel touch the chock, then put the transmission in neutral and let off the brake to let everything relax there before putting in Park and shutting off.

          • Parking beside a curb is a help not that i have one myself. If you’re on the slope facing forward, turn the front wheels to the left and with or without a brake, it’s nearly impossible for it to roll backward.

            I always put the emergency brake to the floor, let off the foot brake and then use Park. No drama and it won’t move that way.

            • Yeah, no curbs around here either – unless I put an old railroad tie out somewhere. When possible, I just try to park on a sidehill and turn the front wheels uphill. It ain’t gonna roll either way then because both directions are uphill.

          • Why would you need a parking brake if you have an automatic transmission with a Park position?
            Automatic transmissions on big trucks don’t have park positions, since the trucks still have normal parking brakes.

            • The parking pawls in many automatic transmissions are not very strong. Relying on them exclusively to keep a car parked on a steep hill is probably not the best idea in the world.

            • I wouldn’t say that the spring actuated brakes on trucks are exactly “normal” parking brakes. I doubt five people in a hundred even have a general idea of how they work.

              • Hve you ever worked on those spring brakes, or taken one of the pots apart? The spring inside there is as big as the coil springs in some small car suspensions. It applies as much mechanical pressure to the actuator rod as full air pressure does throuth the service brake diaphragm pots.
                Ever been driving a rig with 34,300 lbs on the trailer wheels, and have the service line develop a leak and dump pressure while at speed? About the time your low trailer air warning goes off you will be dragging eight locked up and skidding tyres over to the shoulder, NOW. Keep your eyes peeled out on the interstates.. when you see eight black stripes suddenly start, and a wide gentle arc heading over to the shoulder, that’s what happened. He is STUCK there until he either cages that brake or repairs the airline/valve.

                That spring pushes the actuator rod, same one the service brakes push. IF the slacks are adjusted within range, and IF there are still brake blocks on the shoes, those brakes WILL provide as much braking force as the normal service brakes. They are a massive iprovelment over the earlier system, whee trailer tank pressure gets dumped into the service brake lines when supply air drops, or is disconnected. If trailer tank pressure is low because of a leak, the park brake won’t work, If the trailer sits long enough to lose pressure in the supply tank, no brakes.

                • Are you asking me ??? Yes, I know how those truck brakes work and they are way more powerful than “normal” parking brakes. One time I was riding in a rig when the air assist steering blew out, and we stopped in a hurry with 16 tires locked up. (fortunately this was an older truck before they required front brakes) Mr. Cool Old Trucker got out and shut off a valve to the power steering (I think we had to get out and tip the cab), let the system re-pressurize, and off we went on our mission of the day.

                  • Anyone who had been doing this for a while has experienced a lock-up of the trailer or both.

                    Lots of things can cause this lack of pressure and it can be one or both tractor and trailer.
                    It’s a bitch of a happening.

                    When you break down a brake, you ‘d better be knowing what you’re doing.

                  • Well, it was sure exciting there for a few seconds! One instant I was sitting on the sleeper bed going down the highway at 60mph and we were all three yakking about something, and the next instant SCREEEEEEECH! Old Jack just nonchalantly says: “Oh, the power steering just went out again.”

  12. I have some new legislation for the Commonwealth of Virginia and all other states.
    The solons should draft and pass a law that restricts carjackers to only EVs. That way if they speed off the range gets severely diminished and would be especially effective if the vehicle had 35% charge left. Car chases could be done if the authorities chose to do at much diminished speeds and distances.
    This simple ordinance would reduce crime more than any rifle ban could hope for.

  13. When auto manufacturers do away with legitimate safety features, you know it’s bad. What’s worse is that most folks either can’t or are unwilling to connect the dots. The truth is, most people don’t even care about personal safety, and the ones that claim they do use it as a front to get everyone else to bend knee to their lunacy.

    Well, at least the manufacturers wouldn’t be dumb enough to even entertain removing the steering wheel and pedals altogether. Oh, wait…

  14. My 2016 Subaru Outback has an electronic parking brake, and when you pull the little switch while driving, it yanks that cable hard, and FAST, maybe half a second to full rear brake power, and sometimes it locks the wheels. So, it does the right thing, but there’s no ability to modulate it to avoid wheel lockup.

    My other car, a Ford Focus RS does the right thing – powerful hand brake which actually closes the rear main caliper and drifts great.

  15. What I’d like to know is how the hell did the Fed and/or DOT allow these stupid e-brakes.
    They had to have been paid off by the auto’s cause it’s cheaper to make.

    Even some of the cable operated foot emerg brakes now have a ratchet system on them, so if you push them, they stay on. So there is no way to modulate them. You must be able to modulate them in order for them to be an effective emerg. brake. The older ones that had a separate release lever were ok, cause you could hold the release lever open and still modulate the emerg brake with your foot.
    Off course, the hand operated emerg brake is the best.

    • Most cars from the late 60’s back earlier had “umbrella-handle” parking brake controls vice the pull-up handle with pushbutton ratchet release. It used to be a marker of US cars versus imports, the US cars had something other than a pull-up handle. But almost every one could be “modulated” by disabling the locking ratchet feature somehow with the same hand that was pulling on the brake handle (early MoPar A-Bodies, just keep the T-handle turned 45 degrees and the ratchet did not engage, as an example). When the footbrake applied parking brakes came along, yeah, it was a marker of the slippery slope to sheepy cattledom. But, even the foot-applied parking brake can have its ratchet disabled, just keep the release held out…yeah, done that personally.

      What’s next, prohibiting driver selection of reverse while in motion? I used that one long ago to prevent a slide into an intersection whilst “driving down the bottom of a piece of channel iron” (midwinter lake effect snerts piled up so high you can’t see left or right!). It worked, threw up a big rooster-tail of salt and slush in front of me, showered the poor guy coming from the left with it!

      • “What’s next, prohibiting driver selection of reverse while in motion?”

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s already impossible in late-model cars, especially ones with those stupid electronic rotary gear selectors. Yeah, everything is electronic now. No more analog/mechanical control over anything. Apparently, the computer always knows what’s best, even when it doesn’t.

        • The vehicle in question was a 4-speed manual…yeah, autos have had various good reasons for not allowing reverse selection while the driven wheels still in motion over the years. Early Torqueflites had a mechanical lockout IIRC, based on governor pressure (along with a front oil pump AND a rear oil pump…allowed push-starting amongst other things).

          In the noted case, I had to stop the front wheels from turning with the service brakes before selecting reverse, then popping the clutch and digging into the slush to stop the car. If I’d been driving an auto at that point, and it’d been an old-fashioned hydraulically operated Torqueflite, it might have let me. I do think I’d have been worried about tearing the transaxle apart though, if it was an auto, with that maneuver 🙂

  16. I honestly don’t believe that the mechanical parking brake in my 2018 Camry does anything, but three dealer service departments have all blown off my concerns, stating that the tension is set to spec and consistent with the other Camrys on the lot.

    The parking brake is one of many issues I have with the car. I don’t see owning it beyond the second anniversary of the purchase (September), but the newer cars seem worse.

  17. None of those issues will matter much soon, at least if Governor CoonFace abolishes the State Inspection Program, as he has proposed. Of course, it will be replace will higher taxes, and an expansion of emissions testing. Climate Change is an invisible hoax and can be used by politicians to do endless damage to everyone. But who gives a shit if you have brakes, or working wipers and signal lights, right?? The State spends very little on the Safety Inspection Program, even as it exists. Shop owners bear all the actual costs of equipment, insurance, license fees, etc.
    The State is pissed because there isn’t much revenue in it for Richmond, period! And these pricks are going to do everything they can to divert the flow of “revenue” to themselves.

  18. Growing up with low HP vehicles, the ebrake spin was one of the fun things we could do. Just last month I was in a huge vacant dirt parking lot and just couldn’t help myself. I’ll miss it anyway.

  19. A real emergency brake once saved my life. Back in the late 70’s, being poor at the time, I was driving a ’64 Dodge in the northern Arkansas Ozarks. ’64 Dodges had a single master brake system. I blew a brake hose, which means I had no hydraulic brakes at all, fairly inconvenient going down an Ozark mountain. Fortunately, I had a real emergency brake with which I was able to control the car until I got to a place to park it. While modern cars all have dual master brake systems, I presume, losing your rear brakes can put you in danger of being unable to stop safely, which a real emergency brake would rectify. If Man made it, it will break down.

  20. Offtopic but: I need sources, again. I’ve kicked over a hornet’s nest of clueless utopians on another forum, so I need some decently sourced evidence of:

    -Airbags being “not ready for prime time” as of the late 1980s or early 1990s
    -Injuries and fatalities caused directly by airbags
    -EVs being exempt from safety standards

    (Of course, all this will be wasted against people who think it is morally defensible to force people to be arbitrarily safe.)

    • Hi Chuck,

      The initial airbags were designed to deploy with sufficient force to “cushion” an unbuckled adult and were thus dangerous to children as well as frail adults and generally. The evidence for this is the subsequent mandate in re rear-facing child seats. I can tell you – as someone who was there – that this is how it went down. I was a car columnist in the mid-’90s, working in DC and my regular beat was the regulatory apparat. The car companies sent engineers to DOT/NHTSA to explain the problem but they didn’t care. See the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard of the era for all the literally gory details:

    • Hi Chuck,

      I think you’ll appreciate this article,

      note this passage:

      “I’ll boil it down for you. First, government forced this man to buy airbags, because bureaucrats in Washington know better than he what’s needed for his well-being. Then, when he failed to deactivate the safety feature he was compelled to buy, it sent him to jail. Airbags have turned America’s sense of justice on its head”.

      It’s a tragic story, the man put his son in a rear facing child seat, on the passenger side of his 2 seat pick up. He had a low speed (10MPH) fender bender and the airbag killed his son. Then, he was charged with a crime and punished.

      “Judge Kenneth Spanagel piled on the punishment: 180 days in jail, suspended except for two cruel and unusual days; Childs must check in to jail on Jacob’s first birthday and on the first anniversary of the crash. Childs was ordered to make radio and TV ads about airbag safety for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. He was also placed on probation for three years, his license was suspended, and he had to pay $500 in fines and court costs”.

      The cruelty of this is staggering, and made worse by the fact that many will side with the government and not understand how gratuitously vicious is his punishment. Inculcated deference to authority really does pervert people’s moral compass and common sense. How can anyone believe that forcing someone to carry around an unnecessary “safety” feature that, when working properly, can easily kill children, is “safe”.

      Also, I read years ago that GovCo not only knew that airbags would kill people but prevented the car companies from informing their customers about it. I’ll try to find the source for you.


  21. I have a ’15 Ford Focus. The last generation of the Focus was redesigned for the ’12 model year, and it was refreshed for ’15. It doesn’t have all those “assists”, thank goodness! BTW, my car still has a hand brake… 🙂

    • I have a ’14 base model SE, new enough to have the desirable features but old enough to not have the gubmint-mandated saaaaafety bullshit.

      I think I’ll never buy a new car again. I rented a new Fusion last fall and it drove me crazy.

  22. Hi Eric,

    Assuming the presence of such a handbrake, could you please enlighten us whether handbrake 180s….or 90s….work the same for both manual and automatic transmissions; and for both fwd and rwd cars….and all combinations thereof?

    Although you don’t mention any differences, I suspect there might be a few. 🙂


    • Hi Mike,

      It works just the same! The only difference being there’s more to do if the car has a clutch. I demonstrated the procedure recently to my young apprentice… in a new Mazda Miata RF!

    • It is a lot of fun with a little front wheel drive manual Honda civic. Had one a long time ago and used to do it all the time. The FWD ‘pulls’ you out of it quickly after the skid…lots of control! It handled great in the winter with some studded Hakka’s….I remember fondly the dodging of at least a couple of AGW’s with that car.

  23. I have incurred a primary braking system failure and was easily able to return home using the ‘pull-up emergency brake’ as it was originally intended. The 08′ Outback XT has such a brake, add that to the reasons to keep it.

    This entire system of tyranny can go ‘f’ itself.

    Withdraw consent gentlemen.

    • Hi Pyrate,

      Yes – exactly. Withdraw consent – which uses their own stated pieties (“of the people, by the people, for the people”) against them. It is critical to not permit them to get away with their legerdemain – especially “implied” consent. That one should have sent people into the streets. My hope is that it will, someday.

      • Hear hear, good sir!

        Keep up the well informed work to enlighten these issues…although we both know that the cycles must fully play out regardless…however, we are also aware that such activity as ours is itself a meaningful and perhaps essential player in the cycle.

        Barring duress (a myriad of which these days)…I shall whenever possible dissent, deny, disallow, and decline their encroachments at every pass until one day, with my back to the end of the pier and no remaining ground to defend, I’ll turn and step confidently upon my pirate ship holding the knowledge that I gave it all it was worth. It is surely getting easier to disavow this society with each day that passes, and aside from a few minor structural/procedural issues to deal with….leaving will one day very likely be a fair option to say the least.

        • Excellent, Pyrate!

          We have a pretty decent-sized “crew” of fellow “pyrates” here, as it is! And not just here, either. We are gaining traction. Not enough, perhaps, to change the country but perhaps enough to change a part of it – if you catch my drift. We are at the point, in marriage terms, of irreconcilable difference – us vs. them. They despise us – just as we despise them. But the difference is we’re perfectly happy to let them pursue their happiness, as they define it, provided they leave us out of it. They, of course, are not willing to extend the same decency toward us.

          Which gives us the moral right to act in self defense.

          • I used to use this emergency brake to perform what I called a Bat Turn as did the actor and car on tv called it. Damned effective. I’m sure LW has a problem with this. BTW, I bought my own tires. For what it’s worth, it was a great way to get away from the no-driving idiots with badges.

  24. Most car companies sell this as modern state of the art and most lemmings buy into it,,, hook,,, line,,, and sinker. Everything “manual” is being eliminated whether it’s your Car, TV, or Phone. Reason is so they can control it when they want to.

    Eric,,, you may know this but thought I’d pass on that your fine Virginia legislature is fixing to eliminate/reduce single family home zoning saying it is racist. This way eventually they will steadily change the legislation (as they do all giveaways) to put a couple of 500 apartment Section 8 High Rises next to your “used to be” high value home. This also means the State is now slowly taking over the local governments. Of course at this “precise time” it will affect the larger cities. Happy New Year!

    • This is why I refuse to own property where zoning is in effect. HOA’s are in some ways worse, and to be avoided, too, however one must pick ones poison in most metro areas of the US. With zoning, the non-producing segment can elect their free handout representatives to city council, and then appoint zoning board members who promulgate lunacies such as the above. HOAs are nominally limited by their founding charters, though many have powers the city council loonies would dearly love to have. If you have a choice, choose neither!

    • Which is why running sooner rather than later is a good plan. What you have and have built will be taken. Leave before the rush or you will be among the many trying to liquidate for severely reduced compensation.

      “You have many nice things! These people don’t, so you must share! We will decide how you will share.” Cry of the SJW.

      This is your future in the socialist utopia the ‘kind but naive, thoughtless and sanctimonious’ will let you live in, if, and only if, you give up all ‘your’ possessions to the less fortunate.

      After all Eric, your multiple vehicle ownership is unfair to those without a single vehicle. Just because you worked for and earned them means nothing in the social utopia. Private ownership is selfish and wrong, right? At least to the useful idiot activists trained to preform like circus animals.

      Nobody wants to upend their lives. But it is clear that unless you are going to be six feet under in less than a decade, what is yours will become ‘theirs’ without your consent. Ending private ownership of anything (for us mundanes) is clearly the goal of TPTB.

  25. In my mind this is about eliminating another valuable- perhaps priceless thing: “The dignity of risk”.

    Our betters have decided that freedom of choice in governing our daily lives is somehow a threat to their power and control. By removing our dignities- one of which is the dignity of risk we are slowly drained of our self determination and thereby our very lives.

    • That is a good one Auric, “the dignity of risk”. Good way of concisely stating the positive good to society occasioned by free individuals taking risks to advance the common good. It is hard to convince folks that risk is not a bad thing, when measured and evaluated, and mitigated, overcome, accepted, or eliminated by rational people in the living of their daily lives.

    • “The Dignity of Risk”…that would make an excellent book title. How can it be that on one hand the control freaks are out to eliminate “risk” to keep us safer and on the other there are control freaks who would have entire populations eliminated?


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