Why Your Car’s Emergency Brake Should Always Be Engaged When Parked

Why Your Car’s Emergency Brake Should Always Be Engaged When Parked

OK – I’m doing my typical Monday-morning routine, when I check my email and have a new message from my mom – with a picture attached. [This normally wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, but usually my mom calls to let me know she’s sending a picture (i.e. get a refresher on how to email a photo) and then calls back to make sure I got it. She didn’t do either this morning.] I open up the email to find this picture and her message below:

MOM: “OOPS!!! Okay, so I’m leaving home to get new tires on my car and I’m driving past my backyard -when- what do I see in my yard?? The Jeep [me: “It’s actually a Toyota 4Runner, Mom, but I’ll forgive you.”] for the cleaning crew next door rolled down the hill and hit my trees. The poor ladies didn’t even know it had happened when I rang the door bell. It’s Monday.”

I know exactly how the car rolled down the hill and into my parents’ yard – not just because of the obvious (clearly the car wasn’t in gear and the emergency brake wasn’t engaged) – but also because my mom built (yes, my mom) both the house from which she took this photo and the one next door.

And come to think of it, this isn’t the first incident of a car rolling off of that driveway. Probably 8 or 10 years ago, the babysitter to the family who bought that house forgot to leave her car in gear with EB on and it rolled the OPPOSITE direction and down the street! Neither house is on a terribly steep hill, but the lessons these folks have learned is definitely an important one.

They should consider renaming the “Emergency” brake.

The mere fact that the brake is attached to this adjective makes people think they only need it when in an emergency. And honestly, when do people ever think fast enough to use the EB when about to collide with another car or immobile structure? They probably don’t. Why not call it the “safety” brake instead? That way, drivers would think, “Hey, I should use this ‘just to be safe.'”

That’s how I think of it. My dad always stressed the importance of using my emergency brake from age 15+ up, and over the years, I’ve forced many of my friends to start using theirs, too. I even converted my husband – and now sometimes I think he pulls up that lever with just a little too much force (me: “How is he going to un-do that later?”) – kind of like twisting the cap on the 2-liter soda bottle too tight.

Always engage your emergency brake – even on flat ground.

So my advice to you is always use your “safety” brake. I know that it might seem superfluous at times, but it’s an excellent habit to get into. Here’s why the emergency brake should be UP when your car is in Park:

  • It alleviates some of the weight of the car off of your transmission.
  • It prevents your car from rolling out of gear (especially important for manual trans). This is true not only for being parked on a hill, but say for instance when you’re parallel parked and someone bumps into your car, etc.
  • It is a good habit to get into because no matter what kind of surface you’re parked on you’re ensuring the safety of your vehicle and that of other peoples’ cars around you.


What do you think about renaming the “emergency” brake? Will you consider using your EB more now that you’ve seen what can happen if you don’t?

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Megan at 4:47 PM

    Good blog! I will def. start using my Safety Brake more often. Thanks, Megan Cregger