My feeling is to just pull it up as far as it goes, but I've heard this is bad for the brakes and the car and so it would be better to pull it up with the button pressed till you feel slight resistance, then let go of the button and leave it as pulled up as it is..

Also - for any respondents in the UK - is there anything in the highway code concerning handbrakes? How about over there in the US?

Any rules for your handbrakes?

5 Answers 5


The MOT requirements state that when fully applied, the lever should not be at the end of its travel, i.e. there should be a few 'clicks' left before it hits the stops. You should apply it fully, otherwise it won't be properly on and won't hold the car!

When applying it, be sure to press the button in rather than letting it click over the ratchet, as the latter will increase the wear on the ratchet which could eventually lead to failure.


I can say that if I only pull my handbrake up until there's light to moderate resistance that it's not enough if I'm parked on a hill. I had my car pop out of gear and start slowly creeping down a hill with the handbrake on like that before...

Of course, the opposite of pulling on it both hands to gorilla it on is also a bad idea. I was parking on a steep hill one time and wanted to make sure to get it extra tight. I snapped the cable...

Something in between would be good. :-)


No, pulling it too hard will not damage your car. Ultimately the mechanism is much stronger than you. But it may make the releasing part more difficult because you have to pull a little up to release the locking mechanism. If your handbrake is working properly, you shouldn't need to pull so much that you struggle when you are releasing it.

Also pressing the button is unnecessary, it is designed to click and it won't wear the mechanism. I never heard or seen a hand brake to wear because of not pressing the button while pulling.

But you can get a feel about how your handbrake works if you drive to a steep hill , come to full stop. Then pull the handbrake and release brakes and then, slowly release handbrake to see in which position you start moving. In either case, if you park steep uphill or downhill, you should leave the car in first gear and slightly turn the wheels in a direction that if everything fails, your car won't be going down from the street. If the hill is really steep, you may put one more click just to be sure.

I normally just pull it with moderate force and leave it where it stops. In time, you develop muscle memory to do it good so you don't pull too hard that it will be difficult to release it.


Indeed, pulling the handbrake up too far puts additional stress and wears the mechanism quicker, especially cables and their attachments. But on steeper hills that is necessary. On flat surfaces few clicks should be enough.

Also don't forget to turn front wheels towards road borderstone if you're facing downhill, or away from the curb if you're facing uphill, so that even if handbrake snaps your car safely bumps into road border rather than in next parked car or even goes on it's own across the lines. You can also leave the car in first or reverse gear (if the hill is not very steep).


When doing some DIY Maintenance on my car awhile back, I picked up a Chilton book from my library and in the section on parking brakes they actually had a chart saying the number of clicks my Toyota should make when pushing the petal down.

For example they say five to nine clicks is safe (going from unset to full max) but any more or less means you need to have it adjusted.

The book also provided a good outline on how to adjust the tension of the brake (which in my car was as simple as tightening a bolt) but I'm sure going to a mechanic wouldn't be too expensive if it's something you'd rather have a pro handle (which is probably a good idea when dealing with breaks)

But overall, my point is that emergency brakes should be able to be pulled up without destroying them, but the key is making sure that the number of clicks matches what your car maker says is the ideal range.

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