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For cars with a push button parking brake, is there a universal method to unlock the parking brake, eg when a crucial circuit board malfunctions?

For cars with a push button engine start and steering wheel unlock, is there a universal method to unlock the steering wheel?

Whenever I park front in into a parking spot in a parking garage, I have a dreadful feeling about what would happen if I am unable to start the car. How am I going to get the car out? Is this a real concern?

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  • One reason my Dad has a car with manual windows, real handbrake, etc etc And if he could still have one with a starting handle...
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 1, 2021 at 11:05
  • Surely the biggest problem with not having a manual handbrake is it is much harder to turn round in a hurry?
    – User65535
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:03
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    I found out the hard way that my Chevy Impala lacks a trunk key. Only method of entry to the trunk is via keyless electric release. Battery was dead and jumper cables were locked in the trunk. Another money saving high tech waste.
    – mikes
    Dec 1, 2021 at 22:25
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    Then don't. If you have the maneuvering chops... Back in. That way you are doing the more hazardous reversing move into a confined space (the spot) that is unlikely to be occupied, instead of backing "into the lane" where your visibility is awful, and pedestrians and other cars can come up quite quickly. The stock advice of "don't back in" is propagated by police, who prefer nose-in so they can read your license plates. Backed-in, the tow truck picks up your front drive wheels, and your rear undriven wheels roll fine. If the handbrake won't release, they have roller kits. Dec 4, 2021 at 4:29

2 Answers 2

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For cars with a push button parking brake, is there a universal method to unlock the parking brake, eg when a crucial circuit board malfunctions?

No - there's often a way to release it, but it will depend on the manufacturer's particular implementation.

For cars with a push button engine start and steering wheel unlock, is there a universal method to unlock the steering wheel?

No - since the steering wheel lock is at least partly there for anti-theft purposes such a method would defeat the purpose.

Whenever I park front in into a parking spot in a parking garage, I have a dreadful feeling about what would happen if I am unable to start the car. How am I going to get the car out? Is this a real concern?

Yes - but not a particularly big one, since the most common reason you wouldn't be able to start, wouldn't be able to release the parking brake, and wouldn't be able to release the steering lock is going to be a flat battery then a battery jump-pack or a nice long set of jump leads would seem to be the obvious solutions to that concern.

I've been driving for over two decades - and owned cars with technology levels ranging from early nineties basics where the most complicated bit of electronics in the whole car was the AM radio to a 2011 car that has an electronic parking brake and more electronic control modules than I count. I've never once found myself in a situation where having a manual handbrake or steering lock has "saved" me.

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  • Had my old Landrover stall at the lights - and the starter was duff. Starting handle worked a treat - the other drivers were gob-smacked and so impressed that it could be done.
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:35
  • @SolarMike transverse engines and front-wheel drive put paid to that. Dec 1, 2021 at 18:30
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The push button parking brake on my jeep will cut itself off if I forget and start to drive after some resistance. Not sure if this is the norm or just chrysler/fiat stuff.

There are some push starts that you can "force" the ignition ON so it depends on the make and model in question. You would still need to have your key near the antenna to read transponder however or the immobilizer would be active even with the ignition forced on. The wheel lock when malfunctioning is a killer. There is not much you can do beyond servicing it. With it active, generally you can not ignition on or drive, if you try to remove it then you break the security chain and will not be able to start the vehicle.

One of the worst I remember is some of the push start mazda's. There are a few that will set DTC's in the push button or steering lock module and will prevent the switch from working (even if the dtc is only stored and not pending) You can only get the button to function again by clearing the stored codes out. The majority of generic code readers out there I don't think will access these modules so most people get stuck calling towing to shop/dealer.

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    The push button parking brake on my jeep will cut itself off if I forget and start to drive after some resistance. Not sure if this is the norm or just chrysler/fiat stuff. My Buick does this. It is a feature. It's called automatic electronic parking brake release.
    – Jupiter
    Dec 1, 2021 at 16:58

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