Hand Brake vs. Normal Brake: Understanding the Differences and When to Use Each

Brakes are undeniably one of the most critical safety features in any car. They allow drivers to slow down and bring the vehicle to a complete stop, ensuring control and preventing accidents. However, many drivers often have questions regarding the distinct purposes and appropriate usage of the two primary braking systems: the hand brake and the normal brake (foot brake).

This article by Cash For Cars Brisbane delves into the key differences between these braking systems, explaining their mechanisms, functionalities, and the ideal situations for using each.

The Hand Brake

The hand brake, also known as the emergency brake or parking brake, is a lever typically located between the driver’s and passenger’s seats in a car. It operates independently of the foot brake and utilizes a separate set of cables and mechanisms to engage the rear wheels.

When to Use the Hand Brake Effectively

The primary function of the hand brake is to keep a parked car stationary, especially on inclines. Here are some key situations where using the hand brake is essential:

  • Parking on an incline: When parking on a hill, engaging the hand brake prevents the car from rolling forward or backward, adding an extra layer of security.
  • Emergency situations: In the event of a complete foot brake failure, the hand brake can serve as a backup system to slow down the vehicle. However, it’s crucial to note that the hand brake offers less braking power than the foot brake and requires more driver effort for effective stopping.
  • Additional functionalities: Beyond parking and emergencies, some hand brakes can be used for controlled drifts or initiating hill starts on manual transmission vehicles.

Common Myths and Misconceptions about the Hand Brake

Several misconceptions surround the use of the hand brake. Here’s clarifying some common ones:

  • Myth: Using the hand brake while driving damages the car: This is untrue. While prolonged hand brake engagement while driving can cause overheating and damage, briefly using it alongside the foot brake during emergencies is perfectly safe.
  • Myth: The hand brake is less important than the foot brake: While the foot brake is the primary braking system for slowing down during regular driving, the hand brake plays a vital role in parking safety and emergency situations.

The Normal Brake (Foot Brake)

The normal brake, also known as the foot brake, is the primary braking system in a car. It’s operated by pressing the brake pedal with your right foot and utilizes hydraulic pressure to engage the brakes on all four wheels, providing the most significant stopping power.

When to Use the Normal Brake

The normal brake is used for all regular driving situations, including:

  • Slowing down and coming to a complete stop
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Gradual speed reduction at traffic signals and intersections

Key Differences Between Hand and Foot Brakes

Here’s a breakdown of the key distinctions between the hand brake and the normal brake:

  • Engagement method: The hand brake is engaged manually using a lever, while the foot brake is hydraulically activated by pressing the pedal.
  • Braking power: The normal brake offers significantly more braking power compared to the hand brake, making it crucial for regular driving and stopping maneuvers.
  • Functionality and design: The hand brake primarily functions for parking and emergencies, while the normal brake is the primary system for controlling speed and stopping the car during regular driving conditions.


Understanding the distinct purposes and appropriate usage of both the hand brake and the normal brake is crucial for safe driving. While the normal brake reigns supreme for regular driving situations due to its superior stopping power, the hand brake plays an essential role in parking safety and serves as a backup system in emergencies. By effectively utilizing both braking systems, drivers can ensure optimal control and safety on the road.

Read About Car Removal Brisbane


Can I use the hand brake while driving? 

Briefly using the hand brake in conjunction with the foot brake during an emergency is acceptable. However, relying solely on the hand brake for slowing down while driving is dangerous due to its lower braking power and potential overheating risks.

What happens if I forget to release the hand brake while driving? 

The car will still move, but you might experience a slight dragging sensation and potentially reduced fuel efficiency due to the partial brake engagement.

How often should I check my hand brake? 

It’s recommended to have your hand brake inspected and adjusted periodically as part of your routine car maintenance schedule.


By following these guidelines and understanding the distinct purposes of each braking system, drivers can ensure safe and responsible car operation.