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Chronicle: Parking brake on car stopped working, and related

Chacham (981) writes | more than 8 years ago

User Journal 19

Being i drive a car with a manual transmission, there is no "park" on the gear shift. I've been told most people park in first gear, and while that may be true, it just feels "wrong" to me. There's a reason the parking brake is called the "parking" brake, and besides, what better pleasure is there than zooming after the final turn just to slam on the brakes a few feet later, shift to neutral, turn off the engine, and *yank* that parking brake up. It gives a bit of oomph to it all.

Being i drive a car with a manual transmission, there is no "park" on the gear shift. I've been told most people park in first gear, and while that may be true, it just feels "wrong" to me. There's a reason the parking brake is called the "parking" brake, and besides, what better pleasure is there than zooming after the final turn just to slam on the brakes a few feet later, shift to neutral, turn off the engine, and *yank* that parking brake up. It gives a bit of oomph to it all.

First gear is a bit of a standard though. I've let others drive the car, and when they do, they usually do that first-gear thing unless i warn them otherwise. Then when i go to drive, first it feels funny that the brake isn't up (to be released), and then i get a most unwelcome jerk-forward-and-stall. Arg! That idiot! Why can't he just use the parking brake?! Then again, once or twice i drove with the break on for a bit. Hey, it happens.

I did use first gear a couple times anyway, when on an incline that the parking brake couldn't handle. But that's rare, and i wonder if it was just because the parking brake had worn down a bit.

Well, just recently, the parking brake stopped working. Its goes up and down, and the light goes on, but no brake is noticeable. The break broke. Now, i'm using the first-gear trick and slipping between being okay with it and grumbling at the situation, even deabting at times if i need to use it at all in certain areas.

Yesterday, i got a long overdue oil-change and asked the mechanic to take a look. He charged forty-one dollars for the half-hour of work (besides the oil change charge) and as the bill says "may need rear calipers" (whatever those are). He added that should i get it fixed, what i paid today will be put towards the final cost.

When i got into the car, the parking brake is all the way up (the light is on too) and i can't seem to budge it. I'm thinking about getting it fixed on Monday, after i decide that i really need it.

I'm sure there's some irony here, if only i cared to find it.

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19 comments

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Well (1)

trmj (579410) | more than 8 years ago | (#13667904)

What's the model/year of the car? The calipers are what hold the brake pads, and they move the pads to the rotor, which spins with the tire. The brake pads (and calipers) are stationary with the car, and thus when they touch the rotors, the car slows.

Calipers can become frozen, and don't move at all on the pins they rest on. This causes the brakes to not come in contact with the rotors, and there is no stoppage.

This isn't a "may or may not" thing, if the mechanic looked at the calipers (easy enough to do, just take the tire off and it's right there) then he knows darn well whether the car needs new calipers, pins, brake pads, hydraulic lines to the master cyclinder, etc. It's not a hard thing to diagnose.

If your mechanic is pulling your leg like this, he's probably not worth going to. Find a small shop where you talk to the guy directly and he'll explain to you what's going on. Even if you don't have a clue or a care, feign interest. If a person seems like they are interested, they're much more likely to not only tell you the truth, but to do a more thorough job. Once you find a good mechanic, let him know that you'll be returning for any future car needs, and stick to him like glue even if all you need is advice on what new car to get.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13668934)

I don't think that your advice about the mechanic is sound....

Note that he probably noticed some sort of SYMPTOM of a problem such as uneven wear patterns on the pads and did not look into the problem further. He may have surmised that the likely cause is bad calipers and that's why he wrote what he did. However, other problems can cause uneven wear as well which means that without actually looking at the calipers, he can't just give a solid diagnosis.

In other words, yes, it's easy to tell whether or not calipers are bad, but he probably didn't look right at them, he probably noticed a symptom and just made a mental note of the most likely cause without actually investigating.

Re:Well (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13669296)

What's the model/year of the car?

96 Ford Escort.

The calipers are what hold the brake pads, and they move the pads to the rotor, which spins with the tire. ...and the red thing's connect to my.. wrist watch

The brake pads (and calipers) are stationary with the car, and thus when they touch the rotors, the car slows.

Hmm... interesting. So that's how...

And the brake pads give way first so the wheel doesn't deteriorate?

Calipers can become frozen, and don't move at all on the pins they rest on. This causes the brakes to not come in contact with the rotors, and there is no stoppage.

This isn't a "may or may not" thing, if the mechanic looked at the calipers (easy enough to do, just take the tire off and it's right there) then he knows darn well whether the car needs new calipers, pins, brake pads, hydraulic lines to the master cyclinder, etc. It's not a hard thing to diagnose.


Interesting...

If your mechanic is pulling your leg like this

Actually, i believe he tells the truth. Perhaps i'll ask him about this later.

, he's probably not worth going to. Find a small shop where you talk to the guy directly and he'll explain to you what's going on. Even if you don't have a clue or a care, feign interest. If a person seems like they are interested, they're much more likely to not only tell you the truth, but to do a more thorough job. Once you find a good mechanic, let him know that you'll be returning for any future car needs, and stick to him like glue even if all you need is advice on what new car to get.

Thanx for the advice.

--

Thanx for commenting. I appreciate it.

Re:Well (1)

trmj (579410) | more than 8 years ago | (#13670328)

And the brake pads give way first so the wheel doesn't deteriorate?
Yes, the brake pads are made of a soft metal that wears down, and the rotors get nice and shiny but don't wear away. This is why you have to replace the brakes every so often but not the rims or rotors and such.

96 Ford Escort
Ew. I have no good reason to not like Fords, I just don't. Personal preference.

Anyway, it takes about 10 minutes to pull off a tire and look at these things. If he charged you for 30 minutes of labor on top of the oil change, then he had plenty of time to check this stuff out. The calipers move freely when the car is turned off (no pressure in the hydraulic lines) so it's not hard to know if the problem lies there or not. He may just like speaking in indefinites though.

Re:Well (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13672012)

Thanx for all the info.

I have no good reason to not like Fords, I just don't.

:)

Wasn;t the Escort just built by them by designed by Nissan or something?

He may just like speaking in indefinites though.

Probably. Perhpas i can ask.

Fix it (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#13667906)

It is a good idea to use your parking brake for a number of reasons. But in all likelihood the actuall brakes that your lever actuates are the brakes on the back. If they are bad, then they are not working properly when you push on the brake pedal as you drive, not just when you park. I guess that sometimes this isn't the case, but I'd want to make sure.
 
Using your transmission as a brake is not nice to your transmission. It is also not as safe. Finally, I have been taught that if your parking brake uses the regular calipers on the back (not a dedicated set of its own) that using the parking brake helps to keep them equalized and improves brake pad life. So it saves you money on maintenance. In fact doing that and driving well can make brakes last a really, really long time.
 
It's the kind of thing that isn't really all that hard to do. Especially with disc brakes.

Re:Fix it (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13669258)

Hey, thanx for the info.

Using your transmission as a brake is not nice to your transmission. It is also not as safe.

When stationary?

using the parking brake helps to keep them equalized and improves brake pad life.

Ah, the good side to everything. :)

and driving well

::shudders::

Re:Fix it (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#13669719)

Well - from what I understand - when you drive an automatic, and you park on any kind of slope, they say to set the parking brake before you let your foot off the brake, so the transmission doesn't get the impact of holding the car in place. I would imagine that this could be the same with a standard, but I don't know. It seems, either way - some metal parts are going to be holding your car in place. Parts designed to stop it or the tranny.
 
You can google around and dig up all kinds of info. on how your brake system and transmission work.

Re:Fix it (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13672059)

set the parking brake before you let your foot off the brake, so the transmission doesn't get the impact of holding the car in place.

Ah, i see. But when not in a slope, when the care just wants to be protected from accidental moving, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Thanx for all the info.

First gear. (1)

rholliday (754515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13668399)

When I had my manual (oh how I miss it), I always parked with the parking brake and in the opposite gear. If I was pointing uphill I'd use first, downhill I'd use reverse.

Most people these days tend to call it the "emergency brake," which I suppose it could be for automatics, but I've always used it to park, even on non-manuals.

Re:First gear. (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13669228)

Most people these days tend to call it the "emergency brake," which I suppose it could be for automatics

Yeah, probably.

I always parked with the parking brake

So i'm not alone after all. :)

and in the opposite gear

Neat idea. Hmm...

Re:First gear. (1)

David Rolfe (38) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679758)

Yeah, I want to agree with the GP. I drive a manual. And the 'right' way is to park in the gear opposite the direction of travel and use the parking break to reduce strain of gravity on the transmission. E.g, if you are pointing downhill when you park, you park with the drive in neutral and the parking break on. Park uphill, put it in second gear with the parking break on. If the ground is relatively flat, I don't see any reason to use the parking break other than reducing any torque on the transmission, after all, repairing strain on the break is cheaper than the gearbox or transmission.

Anyway, if you live where it's flat that's probably why you've never cared before. However, in some areas (like if you travel) you can't trust having your car on the top of a hill pointing down and leaving it in neutral (really bad, your car will accelerate freely down the hill until it crashes) or first gear (your car will accelerate until it it's speed is somewhat constrained by the gearing, this is probably bad for your car, putting it in second would have mitigated this at the expense of it being moving faster when it hits whatever it's going to hit so you weigh body/crash damage against drive-train damage). This is why you are advised to put it in reverse when you are parked heading downhill -- the gearing won't let you roll forward, and if the parking break goes out you aren't buying a new car when it rolls into oncoming traffic on its way downhill.

To make a long story short: please park in gear against the direction of gravity. You'll save someone from a parking lot accident (or if you live on a busy street, a driveway accident) when some random force overcomes the coefficient(s) of static friction and your car rolls in front of them.

Correction - (1)

David Rolfe (38) | more than 8 years ago | (#13679806)

Guess that's what preview is for...

What I meant to write is: E.g, if you are pointing downhill when you park, you park with the drive in reverse and the parking break on. Park uphill, put it in second gear with the parking break on.

(c'mon Slashdot, when are we going to get comment editing at-least before there are follow-ups!)

Re:Correction - (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13750937)

Thanks for the neat comment. I'll have to bear that in mind. Right now, i'm still working on getting the time to take it in. :)

First gear (1)

turg (19864) | more than 8 years ago | (#13670431)

I've been told most people park in first gear, and while that may be true, it just feels "wrong" to me. There's a reason the parking brake is called the "parking" brake

These are not mutually exclusive options. I always park both in gear and with the handbrake set.

Every manual car I've had (four now) has had the parking brake wear out -- more than once for the first three (maybe we just haven't had the current one long enough). I'd probably use just the handbrake if I trusted it would always work.

Re:First gear (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#13671984)

Hmm... ok.

I'd probably use just the handbrake if I trusted it would always work.

The plot thickens. :P

Re:First gear (1)

Crusader7 (916280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13672573)

The appropriate parking procedure is actually derived from relatively simple logic. The problem: You're worried the car may fall down the hill. The solution: To stop your car from moving, you have to either make it so the wheels can't turn if the engine lets them, or so the wheels can't turn at all. The third, and correct, option is to combine the other two. 1. Come to a complete stop and leave your foot firmly on the brake. 2. Depress the release for the handbrake and set it (don't "ratchet" it because this wears the teeth). 3a. Manual: Put the car in first gear * 3b. Auto: Put the car in park 4. Take your foot off the brake. If the car makes anything more than the slightest move downhill, something is worn or broken, probably your rear brakes. 5. Turn the wheels so they face into the curb (so that if everything fails the curb gets one last ditch shot at stopping the car), turn off the car, go about your day. * You shouldn't park a manual in the "opposite gear" because first gear is mechanically stronger and more capable of holding the car's weight. If something happens that can move the car with it in gear and declutched, you're in serious trouble, but first gear still has a better chance of stopping it no matter which way you're facing. The logic is simple - your rear brakes become the first thing that prevent the car from moving. If they give out, the car will "lurch" downhill and hit either the pin in the gearbox in an automatic, or the disengaged clutch in a manual (effectively "stalling" the already stopped vehicle). Alas, for the automatic, the odds of the pin in the gearbox snapping in many models are reasonably good, so that may not be enough. And, yes, the lurch is very likely to distort, chip, or crack expensive parts on a steep incline, but it's better than having the car go flying down the hill and killing someone. Also, what the AC said above about the calipers is correct. Your mechanic may have just noticed something wrong by looking through the little inspection "windows" at the brakes and surmised it was probably a caliper issue, but didn't verify his guess since you didn't have him working on that problem.

Re:First gear (1)

Crusader7 (916280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13672584)

And here's me posting it without messing up the formatting:

The appropriate parking procedure is actually derived from relatively simple logic.

The problem: You're worried the car may fall down the hill.

The solution: To stop your car from moving, you have to either make it so the wheels can't turn if the engine lets them, or so the wheels can't turn at all. The third, and correct, option is to combine the other two.

1. Come to a complete stop and leave your foot firmly on the brake.
2. Depress the release for the handbrake and set it (don't "ratchet" it because this wears the teeth).
3a. Manual: Put the car in first gear *
3b. Auto: Put the car in park
4. Take your foot off the brake. If the car makes anything more than the slightest move downhill, something is worn or broken, probably your rear brakes.
5. Turn the wheels so they face into the curb (so that if everything fails the curb gets one last ditch shot at stopping the car), turn off the car, go about your day.

* You shouldn't park a manual in the "opposite gear" because first gear is mechanically stronger and more capable of holding the car's weight. If something happens that can move the car with it in gear and declutched, you're in serious trouble, but first gear still has a better chance of stopping it no matter which way you're facing.

The logic is simple - your rear brakes become the first thing that prevent the car from moving. If they give out, the car will "lurch" downhill and hit either the pin in the gearbox in an automatic, or the disengaged clutch in a manual (effectively "stalling" the already stopped vehicle). Alas, for the automatic, the odds of the pin in the gearbox snapping in many models are reasonably good, so that may not be enough. And, yes, the lurch is very likely to distort, chip, or crack expensive parts on a steep incline, but it's better than having the car go flying down the hill and killing someone.

Also, what the AC said above about the calipers is correct. Your mechanic may have just noticed something wrong by looking through the little inspection "windows" at the brakes and surmised it was probably a caliper issue, but didn't verify his guess since you didn't have him working on that problem.

B-E-A-UTIFUL (1)

CuntKNOB (841537) | more than 8 years ago | (#13746462)

You drive a car and don't know or care how it works. What's a caliper? What's the master cylinder? What's a leafspring?

You don't understand why first gear is preferred for parking.

You don't perform basic maintenance.

You, my boy, are friggin average. Congratulations!

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