Your car’s parking brake is engaged and disengaged separately from your primary braking system. A steel cable runs from the lever or parking brake cable to the back to activate the brake, and a release cable triggers the mechanism when you want to disengage the parking brake.

The parking brake release cable is attached to the same pedal or lever as the cable that engages the system (often part of the same cable in a Y configuration, but this varies from one make and model to another). Over time, the cable can stretch. It’s also possible for the attachment points to corrode and rust, freezing the cable, or even breaking. If the cable or connectors/attachments breaks while the parking brake is engaged, you will not be able to disengage the system.

There is no set lifespan for your parking brake release cable. The cable’s lifespan will be determined by a number of different factors, including the area in which you live (for instance, road salt in northern areas can greatly reduce the life of a release cable, but those in warmer climates may have little wear and tear).

To maximize the lifespan of your parking brake and associated components, it’s important to have the parking brake inspected and adjusted regularly. This should be a part of normal service.

If the parking brake release cable fails with the parking brake engaged, you will not be able to drive the car. Trying to do so will definitely damage the braking system, and could damage other components.

Watch for the following symptoms that indicate your parking brake cable is nearing the end of its life:

  • Parking brake is difficult to disengage
  • Parking brake won’t disengage or requires several tries to disengage

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Parking Brake Release Cable Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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