The humble parking brake serves multiple purposes – it keeps your car from slipping down hills when parked, it can help save you from harm if your regular brakes malfunction, and it activates the braking system at the rear of your car in order to keep it well-adjusted and in good working order.
The emergency brake’s role in your car’s safety systems makes it that much more important that you keep it in good repair and perform regular maintenance on it. You probably don’t think about the fact that your parking brake has a shoe, just as your regular brakes have shoes (or pads). This shoe wears down over time and use, and its life can be shortened even further if brake fluid is leaking onto it from the wheel cylinders or another compromised area of the braking system.
If your car refuses to hold on a slight incline as well as it used to, your parking brake shoe likely needs replacing. On vehicles with disc brakes in the rear, there is a special set of narrower brake shoes on the inside of the rotor that function as the parking brake shoes – these should be inspected from time to time to check for wear.
When it's time to replace your parking brake shoe, keep a few things in mind to make sure you’re getting a good quality parking brake shoe:
Web material: Look for a web (the crescent-shaped portion of the shoe) made of brass, lead, zinc, or graphite. Aluminum is lightweight but it’s less durable and heat-resistant.
Friction material: The friction material should meet the same standards as your regular brake pads and shoes. This means ceramic for the most durable (and expensive), semi-metallic – good heat dissipation and affordability, and the least desirable, organic, which is quiet but doesn’t offer long-lasting life.
Warranty: Shop around for the best warranty. Certain auto parts stores offer exceptional brake pad warranties even though they’re consumable parts. Your parking brake shoe is an essential component of your vehicle’s safety mechanisms, and as such should be maintained and replaced just like the rest of your brake pads.
YourMechanic supplies top-quality emergency/parking brake shoes to our certified mobile technicians. We can also install a emergency/parking brake shoe that you've purchased. Click here to get a quote and more information on emergency/parking brake shoe replacement.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Buy a Good Quality Emergency/Parking Brake Shoe and was authored by Valerie Johnston.