Let’s debunk the “Parking Brake” Myth
Put your car in “P” for park. This is more than enough to keep it still.
Reefing on the hand-brake after parking has become the emotional equivalent of cinching a good knot so your pony doesn’t run off. But you know what’s funny? It’s been 50 years since anyone’s car has run off, and yet we cling to this cultural habit because it feels really nice!
Now if you lived in a normal climate we’d say, “Good’on’ya Mate!” “Go ahead and punctuate every drive with that feeling of security!” No harm done.
But you live prreeeety close to the Arctic Circle. This habitual hangover from the days of early engineering costs our customers SO MUCH MONEY!
So we are going to get on our soapbox and preach a bit about modern engineering, worn out pistons, and frozen calipers.
First, the Automatic Transmission. Most modern cars don’t trust you to shift. They do it for you. The “Park” feature on your shift indicator has a far more secure mechanism for keeping the wheels from rolling than an emergency brake ever will. “Park” really means the wheels won’t move. Your pony won’t run off. It’s engineered this way!
So the moral of the story if you drive something with an automatic transmission that’s 30 years old or newer: Put it in P for park. Leave the E-brake for things like messing with your girlfriend when she’s driving.
Second, the exception to this rule: The worn out engine that’s married to a standard transmission. Let’s say you drive an Outback with 220K miles. It very likely has “low compression”. This means that the pistons don’t fit in the cylinders tightly anymore. Or in plain english, your engine fits together like regular sausage in a foot-long bun and there’s air going everywhere!
When a vehicle with a standard transmission is parked, it depends on the engine to keep it still. It depends on the vacuum or suction of the cylinders to keep the drivetrain from turning.
Park this worn out Subaru on a hill in first gear and gravity WILL likely force those pistons to rise and fall. In this case, you could call this an emergency.
BUT, not in Fairbanks. If you pull the Emergency Brake even on this car the brake pads will freeze to the discs and you’ll be in “Park” until Spring! So when you park this, park it like you do your airplane or boat trailer. Chock the wheels. We are not joking! Carry a couple of pieces of firewood next to the hockey stick you use to keep the back hatch open.
This brings us to the third and ultimate part of this speech: Frozen Brakes. When you use the emergency brake between October and April, you run the risk of freezing the car in “Park”. It’s like having a City Cop put a parking boot on your car…until Spring.
Relax! There is no emergency in parking your car. It is designed to stay put when parked, engineered to do so. Let go of the myth of the parking brake. But, if you just can’t let go and you wind up with frozen brakes, tow it in. We will thaw you out and send you on your way😀.