What to Do When Your Parking Brake Gets Stuck

So, you parked on a hill, remembered to engage the E-brake, but now that it’s time to leave, you can’t get it to disengage. What do you do?

A sticking emergency or parking brake is most commonly a winter problem because of ice. And for that, you need to melt the ice, which you can do a number of ways:

  1. Warm up your car and hope that is enough to melt the ice around the parking brake.
  2. Create a snow and ice dam around your car so that the heat from the engine is trapped below your car, more effectively melting the ice around the parking brake.
  3. Use a hairdryer to melt the ice from the parking brake.

No matter what method you use, you see the common theme—melt the ice and the parking brake should work.

But what about when ice is clearly not the problem? Well, then, things are little trickier.

During spring and summer, the most likely cause for a stuck parking brake is either:

  • Rust/corrosion
  • It was engaged too hard

There are a few techniques you can try to manually disengage the brake:

Brake Release Method #1

If rust is making the parking brake stick, gently rocking your vehicle may shake the rust loose enough to disengage the brake. So, try shifting into Reverse and back into Drive a few times.

Even with the parking brake engaged, your vehicle may shift or rock enough to shake some rust loose. After you’ve changed gears about five times, try the parking brake again to see if it will disengage.

Brake Release Method #2

If you are confident about your automotive maintenance skills, then you can try taking apart the emergency brake assembly. To do this, you will need:

  • A jack
  • Protective eyewear
  • Steel brush
  • Lubricant
  • Wrench

If you’ve got the time, the tools and the know-how (or can follow instructions from a YouTube video), then you may be able to un-stick your brake without any further assistance.

Brake Release Method #3

If rust is not the issue—in other words, your parking brake is stuck because you yanked the lever with Herculean force—then these manual strategies may not work. If the brake line is pulled tight, any wrong move could snap the line completely, and then your emergency brake is completely useless.

In this case, or if the other methods didn’t work, then you need to call for a tow to get your car to Quanz Auto Body. Our ASE-certified technicians will repair your emergency brake and give you tips to prevent sticking in the future.