Your emergency parking brake is something all vehicles come with. It consists of an emergency/parking brake cable which connects the parking brake shoes to the parking brake lever. This steel cable is very thin and it runs under your car. The way it works is that you pull up on the emergency parking brake lever, which causes the cable to then press the parking brake shoes against the drum or rotor. There is no brake fluid used in this process. It’s handy to use when parking on hills as it will ensure your car doesn’t roll.

What can happen over time is that the cable can start to rust, become weakened, and then break. This typically happens if you don't use the brake on a regular basis. That’s not to say it can’t break even if you do make use of the emergency parking brake regularly. A good idea is to have a rust penetrant chemical sprayed right on to the cable from time to time. This can help fight off the formation of rust. Should it break and stop working, you won't want to leave it in this condition. This is part of your vehicle's braking system.

Here are some signs that your emergency parking brake is no longer working. Keep in mind there is no set mileage for replacing it rather it has to do with wear and tear and how much you actually use it:

  • The Park Brake Warning Light may come on this is a sure-fire signal that something isn't working properly. A professional mechanic can check the codes to figure out exactly what is going on.

  • You may have a problem releasing the parking brake. This can happen if you don't use it often. It seizes up due to rust build-up. Rather than force it, it’s best to place a call to a certified mechanic to have it looked at so you don’t cause additional damage.

  • If you engage the emergency parking brake and your car still rolls, clearly it is no longer working properly. This could be due to a broken emergency parking brake cable.

The emergency parking brake cable is what engages this all-important braking feature. If you’re experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms and suspect your emergency/parking brake cable is in need of replacement, get a diagnostic or book an emergency/parking brake cable replacement service with a professional mechanic.

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


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