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Description of problem:

This has happened twice now. Today I got in my car (after just having drove it for 30 mins with no problem), started it fine, but as soon as I moved forward it felt as though the emergency brake was on. It was not. I could move forward, but I had to pull over right away as there was clearly some major resistance.

What I tried:

I turned the car off, put it in neutral, and tried to push it with 3 other friends. It wouldn't move an inch (4 big guys unable to push it). I then engaged and disengaged the e-brake many times. Nothing. I started the car again, revved it in neutral no problem, could change gears, but any forward movement was heavily resisted still.

What worked (temporarily): Eventually I tried pumping the brake pedal 3 times while the car was off and in neutral and all of a sudden the vehicle could freely roll in neutral. I turned it on and drove off without any problem.

I've since checked the e-brake and normal brakes and everything seems to be working just fine. This happened once more - again when I first started the car. When I bought the car last year I was told that the left rear wheel bearing would need replacing "somewhat soon", but I've never done that. Aside from the wheel bearing I'm not aware of any previous issues.

Make: Subaru

Model: Forester

Year: 2007

Transmission: Manual

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  • Did the foot brake pedal feel any different when the brakes were locked on?
    – HandyHowie
    Aug 5 '21 at 7:02
  • Not that I recall. I remember pumping the brakes, not noticing anything out of the ordinary, then it just started rolling easily.
    – Otherness
    Aug 5 '21 at 18:40
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It's possible you have a sticky calliper that isn't releasing it's hold on the brake pads/disc. After you've driven the car, do any of the wheels seem hot (be careful not to burn yourself checking, the back of your hand near the wheel first will let you detect heat without burning yourself).

If you do find that one wheel is warmer than the rest, that will point to your problem calliper. It's also possible to detect by jacking each corner in turn and turning the wheel by hand. Each wheel ought to turn freely without much effort. Be careful to secure the car with wheel chocks or similar to prevent it rolling off the jack as you'll have to test the rear wheels with the e-brake disengaged. If you find a sticky calliper, you'll have to either rebuild or replace it and the braking system will need to be bled after it is reassembled.

The other possibility is that you have a sticky e-brake mechanism. It may be that the cable isn't moving freely within it's sheath and is holding on after the lever is released. Cable replacement is probably your best option here. It may be that the e-brake mechanisms on the rear brakes where the cable attaches to are corroded. If this is the case you may be able to simple strip these and clean away any corrosion.

Out of interest, how long had the vehicle been parked before you attempted to drive it?

2
  • First likely cause would be a sticking caliper as mentioned above. Second would be a damaged brake hose. Third would be parking brake as mentioned above and fourth would be a sticking master cylinder.
    – Jupiter
    Aug 5 '21 at 14:08
  • Super helpful response and comments, thanks peeps! Both times that it did this, I had just been driving for 30 or so mins without issue and parked the car for about 10 mins before restarting it and getting this issue.
    – Otherness
    Aug 5 '21 at 18:43

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