What is the Function and Working of Hand Brake System?

A brake is used in a vehicle to stop or park it properly. The hand brake system is used in the vehicle to stay in a parking position and even on the up-side down road. Parking brake or hand brake system, when used directly locks the vehicle wheels, which helps to keep the vehicle in just one position.

In this article, I will discuss a hand brake system’s detailed working and function.


Hand Brake System

Hand brakes or parking brakes are also called secondary brakes. These operate independently of the foot brakes. These are used for parking on slopes and during emergencies. Generally, these brakes use the same brake shoes as the main foot brakes, but they are actuated by a completely separate mechanism from the main brakes.

Most cars use mechanical cables to actuate these. Some cars with four-wheel disc brakes have a separate drum brake integrated into the hub of the rear wheels. This drum brake is only for the secondary brake system and is actuated only by the cable, it has no hydraulics.

On some other cars with all disc brakes, the hand brakes actuate a separate set of brake pads in the rear calipers. These pads are very small in size and are clamped mechanically only against the brake motor. The hand brake is generally located on the side of the driver’s seat.

In most vehicles, the hand brake applies only to the rear brakes, a ratchet release handle to which the catch rod is attached is hinged on the hand brake lever. To the other end of the catch rod, a pawl is attached, which slides in the guide fixed on the brake lever.

The brake lever itself is hinged on a bracket, which is bolted to the chassis frame on the inside. On the bracket is also mounted a ratcher as shown in the figure. The operating cable is attached to the lower end of the brake lever.

Read More- What is a Front Wheel Drive System?

Working of Hand Brake System

To apply the brakes, the ratchet has to be released first. This is done by pressing the ratchet release handle, which causes the pawl to move up, disengaging the ratchet. Then the brake lever is pulled up, which further pulls the cable which operates the rear brakes mechanically through a linkage operating on the piston of the rear wheel cylinder, which is in two halves.

The ratchet release handle, which had been pressed so far, is released now so that the pawl moves down with the spring action and engages with the ratchet thus keeping the brakes applied.

The handbrake can operate on either drum brakes or disc brakes. The choice depends on the vehicle’s design and manufacturer. In older vehicles, drum brakes were more common for handbrake systems, while modern vehicles often use disc brakes.

  • Drum Brakes: If the vehicle has drum brakes, the handbrake lever pulls on the cables or rods, causing a mechanism inside the brake drums to engage, creating friction and preventing the rear wheels from turning.
  • Disc Brakes: In vehicles with disc brakes, the handbrake lever is connected to a caliper, and when engaged, it clamps down on the disc, creating friction and preventing the rotation of the rear wheels.

Read More- 7 Types of EPS System(Electric Power Steering) You Should Know.

Functions of Hand Brake System

The primary function of a hand brake system is to secure the vehicle from any kind of slippage. It prevents the vehicle from rolling or moving when it is stationary, especially on inclines or uneven surfaces. The other functions of the Hand brake system are-

  1. In the event of a failure in the primary braking system (foot brake), the handbrake serves as an emergency brake. It can be used to slow down and stop the vehicle in emergencies.
  2. When starting on a hill, the handbrake can be used to prevent the vehicle from rolling backward before the driver accelerates.
  3. Regular use of the handbrake helps to maintain the components of the system, preventing them from seizing or becoming ineffective due to lack of use.
  4. When performing maintenance tasks on the vehicle, engaging the handbrake adds an extra layer of safety by preventing accidental movement.
  5. In some cases, especially with trailers or heavy loads, the handbrake can assist in stabilizing the vehicle during loading and unloading.

Advantages of Hand Brake System

So the advantages of the Hand Brake system are-

  1. The handbrake provides a secure means of parking on inclines or slopes.
  2. In the event of a failure in the primary braking system, the handbrake serves as an emergency brake.
  3. The handbrake aids drivers in hill starts by preventing the vehicle from rolling backward before accelerating.
  4. In situations where the vehicle is towing a trailer or carrying a heavy load, the handbrake can assist in stabilizing the vehicle during loading and unloading.
  5. The handbrake system often includes a warning light on the dashboard. If the light remains on after releasing the handbrake, it can indicate potential issues with the braking system, alerting the driver to seek maintenance.


It’s important to note that the handbrake is not as powerful as the primary braking system (foot brake), and it is not designed for regular stopping while driving. Its main purpose is for parking and emergencies. Regular maintenance and inspection of the handbrake system are crucial to ensure its proper function and safety.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’S)

When should I use the hand brake?

The hand brake should be used whenever the vehicle is parked, especially on inclines or slopes. It is also used as an emergency brake if the main braking system fails.

Is the hand brake the same as the foot brake?

No, the hand brake is a separate system from the foot brake. The foot brake is the primary braking system operated by the driver’s foot, while the hand brake is a secondary system operated manually.

What should I do if the hand brake warning light is on?

If the hand brake warning light remains illuminated after releasing the hand brake, it may indicate an issue with the braking system. It is advisable to have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic.

Spread the love

Leave a comment