My friend keeps saying that you should not use handbrake during the cold weather and use the gear 1 to keep car in place: if you set the handbrake on, it may freeze and get poor. Then again the friend says that you can use the handbrake during driving in short stops. Handbrake here has only some basic metallic ropes connected to rear wheels, apparently also to the front wheels. Now I cannot understand why handbrake could not be used during winter -- I think that the key is that the handbrake cable is well lubricated before installation so it will last longer. But I cannot understand why the handbrake cannot be used while stopped for a longer time.

Should handbrake be used during very cold winter or not?

2 Answers 2


This is a case of needing to know your car. On my Eclipse and my wife's Celica, the parking brake gets used year round and works fine. However, on my MR2 I know better than to use it while below freezing. That car has had several set of cables on it and the same problem comes back right away each time. Appears to be a design flaw.

Leaving the car in gear is not sufficient as a substitute though. The MR2 above, I would leave in gear. Our driveway was on a slight hill. One day I went outside to shovel after parking the car an hour earlier. While I was nearby I heard a soft "pop" and watched my car start to roll away. Luckily I was nearby and could catch it before it went in the street, but I learned my lesson that leaving it in gear is not reliable. I now carry wheel chocks with me in the Winter...


If the car is likely to be left for any length of time (i.e. several days), or the brakes are in poor condition, then yes, it could stick on, but under normal circumstances it shouldn't do so.

You should ensure that your brakes are well serviced, and that the handbrake linkages on the rear drums/calipers are well lubricated and move freely - be sure to use a grease that will withstand the low temperatures, but make sure you don't get any on/near the friction surfaces...

Leaving the car in gear when parked (1st normally, reverse if you're facing down a steep hill) is generally good practice, and even more so in cold weather - the brakes are warm when you stop, and as they cool, the various moving parts will contract, which can lead to the handbrake failing to hold the car.

Using the handbrake while stationary in traffic is also good practice - it stops your brake lights dazzling the car behind...

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    I would agree with all but your last statement ... there is a reason the brake lights should dazzle the person who is behind you ... so they know you are stopped and remain stopped. If you put your parking brake in traffic, they may not realize you remain stopped and move forward causing an accident. Yes, it would be their fault, but who actually caused the accident? And all the time it takes to clean it all up (paperwork, insurance, possible physical damage, etc). As well as all of this, you are causing unnecessary wear to the parking brake as well. This is really a bad idea. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 11:38
  • "Leaving the car in gear when parked (1st normally, reverse if you're facing down a steep hill) is generally good practice," can you illustrate this? When I park with the front tires pointing to the downhill, what should I use gear 1 or handbrake? What about the rear towards the downhill? I cannot understand the basic logic yet.
    – hhh
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 14:50
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    If your nose is pointing up hill you want to use 1st gear, if your rear is pointing uphill than you want to use reverse gear, and always use parking brake. That is if you are driving a manual transmission, if you are driving automatic, just leave it in park, depending on angle of hill you should also apply parking break. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 16:11
  • @hhh - as SaUce says, if the front of the car is pointing uphill, use 1st, if it is pointing downhill, use reverse - the idea is that in order for the car to roll downhill, it would have to turn the engine backwards, which is much more difficult
    – Nick C
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 10:11
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    But if I'm waiting at a light on a level road, I can take my foot off the brake and not move even without the hand brake activated. Would this be considered illegal in some areas? I shouldn't be required to have my brake lights activated if I don't actually need to brake my car, right? I find it outrageous that anyone could consider it my fault if they rear-end me. Consider a scenario where I am accelerating after a light (thus no brake lights) but the person behind expects me to be moving faster and thus hits me. Don't get me wrong--people need to maintain their brake lights, but once a car i
    – user13574
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:28

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