I have a friend who believes that if you pull up the handbrake (aka the parking brake) without pressing down the little button on the end, it "weakens" the handbrake, or otherwise shortens its life. He didn't give any more details about exactly what is "weakened".

I have a tendency to do this (pull it up without pushing the button in), and our handbrake needs replacing (the cable, I suppose). The car is about 12 years old and for all I know it might be the first time it's been replaced - we've only had it 2 years. There might be service history but I have no idea where it is.

So, there's no logical reason to think I've shortened its life, I just wondered if my friend's opinion has any basis in reality, and if maybe I need to always push the button in, in future. It's a Ford Focus Estate Mk2 in case that's relevant. cheers!

  • IMO the brake is designed to be set without pushing the button. Push button to release. If the button mechanism was to wear out the symptom would be that it would not stay locked in place when you set it (It would not affect the actual brake functionality) Why does yours need replacing?
    – agentp
    Sep 14, 2017 at 20:03
  • Actually for most parking brake mechanisms a worn ratchet pawl would mean that the brake might not hold and the mechanism would release tension and the handle might partially return.
    – mongo
    Sep 15, 2017 at 6:23
  • The reason I say it needs replacing/servicing is that yesterday it was pulled almost (but not quite all the way) up and still managed to roll back into our neighbours car at some point! No damage, fortunately. We do live on quite a steep hill. Sep 15, 2017 at 12:50

3 Answers 3


Pulling the hand brake without pushing the button has no effect on the service life of the parking brake. The only thing that will wear is the ratcheting lock mechanism, and I doubt you could wear it out.

The purpose of the button is to release the locking mechanism. These are typically simple tooth and claw ratchets.

  • Thanks - I take it that the symptom of the worn ratchet would be that you pull it up, and it slips back down the teeth again after you let go? I've never seen that happen. The problem we have is that the handbrake is most of the way up (1 or 2 teeth from the absolute maximum), and stays up, but the car can still roll backwards. I'm guessing that's the cable that needs replacing, or perhaps just tightening? Sep 15, 2017 at 12:54
  • 1
    You are correct about the wear of the teeth. What you are describing is worn brakes and/or stretched cable(s).
    – CharlieRB
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:38

Does it wear at all? Yes.
Is it significant? No.

The brakes will not weaken. Only the locking mechanism is affected.
Like CharlieRB said:
Only the ratcheting mechanism will wear in that situation, and I doubt you could really wear it out to a point of malfunctioning under "normal" use.


Many people pull the hand brake and let the ratchet assist them. It helps get a more consistent tension on the cable by minimizing the amount (time) of the pull.

A greater concern in my mind is to actually put some mild pressure on the brake pedal while setting the hand brake. Many parking brake systems are designed for this and wear might be greater without doing this procedure. This helps clamp the pads or shoes and reduces stress on the cables when setting the parking brake.

  • I don't see how the ratchet provides "assistance"... As for pushing on the brake pedal this only works for systems which have the parking brake using the main pads or shoes - systems that have separate handbrake pads or shoes will not see any effect.
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 15, 2017 at 10:11
  • If one pulls to a point, and then releases a button, it is necessary to maintain a greater force on the handle, for longer, while releasing the button. If one can simply pull on a handle it is possible to simply "jerk" it up and the impulse of movement, helps achieve a greater tension for the same human "effort" than a pull and hold. If I see our physiologist, I will ask her for the correct term.
    – mongo
    Sep 15, 2017 at 12:29
  • the tension will be the same whether you release the button or not - ignoring the friction of the ratchet teeth which will be very small compared to the tension in the cable. As for the speed you mention this "jerk" you mention can be with or without ratchet as well...
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 15, 2017 at 12:48
  • @mongo I always keep my foot on the brake till after the handbrake is set, as it happens. Sep 15, 2017 at 12:51
  • The jerk or yank will result in a greater tension to be held for an equivalent effort. In part this is because the perceived equivalent effort is greater for a "sustained" application of force, over a temporary application of force. @SolarMike the jerk can be without the ratchet, but to sustain the torque while the button locks the handle, will require a greater perceived application of force.
    – mongo
    Sep 15, 2017 at 15:52

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