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Q: So, I drive an automatic transmission Honda Civic, and every time I park in the driveway I put on my hand brake. My boyfriends keeps saying I don’t need to bother because an automatic vehicle shouldn’t roll, but I was taught otherwise. What is the definitive answer? Civic Disagreement (Victoria, BC)

A: Ah yes, the eternal debate. The answer depends on if you ask “Should I use the parking brake?” or “Do I have to use the parking brake?” Should you? Yes. Do you have to? No.

The emergency brake uses only levers and cables, is completely mechanical, and bypasses the normal brake system. This ensures that a vehicle can be brought to a complete stop if there’s a failure of the brake system. Picture the hand brake on your bicycle, the e-brake works in exactly the same way.

The reason to use the hand brake, even in an automatic vehicle, is because the outer sheath of the brake cable is often exposed to moisture from rain or condensation, and over time the cable inside will rust and seize. Each time you use the hand brake you exercise the cable and keep it working better, longer.


The argument against, of course, is that automatic transmission vehicles are equipped with a parking pawl. The mechanism assembly is designed to lock the transmission output shaft with a  tooth that engages into a sprocket inside the transmission. This means the car can’t roll forward on its own when it is in park. There is a danger though; because the pawl tooth is just a small piece of metal wedging itself in the gears to keep it from rolling, it is prone to failure or getting stuck, which would keep you from pulling the shifter out of park especially on a hill. To save yourself that headache, just use the parking brake, and forward this article to your boyfriend for good measure!

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