Science and technology

The handbrake is often the cause for disqualification at the vehicle inspection.Did your car fail its most recent vehicle inspection? Was it due to the handbrake not working properly?

You are not alone. The handbrake failing at the crucial moment is more likely to happen if you are driving a car with an automatic transmission. However, do not worry: read this and you will be able to avoid it happening again. The key thing is, the handbrake likes to be used.

"It is often a cause of great bafflement for the customer when the handbrake does not work at the vehicle inspection. It often turns out that the customer has not used the handbrake once during the whole year," says Otto Lahti, the manager of the Trafi department of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency.

He continues that the handbrake getting jammed is not a specifically common cause for disqualification. But it is, nevertheless, a reason for disqualification that could easily be avoided.

The cable wires of a handbrake are attached to the bottom of the car, and are therefore exposed, for example, to changing weather conditions. If different parts of the handbrake are not made to move at all for a year, they might not then move evenly on both sides at the sudden vehicle inspection. The non-usage occurs most commonly in cars with automatic transmission, as with them the handbrake is not needed, even during a hill start. Those driving cars with automatic transmission systems may not even think about the necessity of using the handbrake as the immobility of the car is secured whenever the gear is in the parking position.

Putting the brakes on

Hang on a minute. If the handbrake is not even needed in these cars, why does its dysfunction cause disqualification during a vehicle inspection?

The reason is that even though it is nearly impossible in Finland's cool temperatures and relatively even terrain for the brakes to overheat, you don't have to go further than Central Europe for the situation to be completely different.

"For example in central Germany it is completely normal to have hills the size of Yllästunturi repeatedly on route. When you are descending those in hot weather, the brakes might feel rather inefficient or nonexistent, especially if the brake fluid starts to boil. In those situations, it is good to have a mechanical emergency brake – the handbrake," says Lahti. He wants to remind everyone that it is not the handbrake's sole purpose to hold the car in place when parked.

Even though you wouldn't ever drive in hot and mountainous surroundings, the handbrake should still be kept in regular use, just in case. After all, the upkeep does not require great effort.

"I wouldn't say that it's necessary to use the handbrake every time when parking. But using it a few times a month already helps," Lahti says.

The benefits of regular use apply to all car equipment.

"If a car remains at a standstill for six months, strange rasping and rattling sounds might be heard when you then take it back on road."

In principle, the idea is the same as with muscles in the human body. If you do not use them, they deteriorate, and eventually get completely useless and do not work anymore.

Jose Riikonen – HS
Mari Storpellinen – HT
Image: Jani Kiviranta