As recently as 2008 and 2010 in Toronto, several cars had their brake lines cut. Your car has the emergency brake (also known as parking brake) feature specifically for situations like these. Brake fluid can also be lost when a brake line bursts, usually due to rust or an improper repair.
Whether you drive a manual or automatic transmission, you should always use your parking brake. Whenever you park the car, apply the parking brake. That’s the only way to make sure that the cables don’t seize up.
If you haven’t used the parking brakes in a while, don’t try using it without having it inspected! If you apply it for the first time in a while, there’s a chance that the cables won’t release because they may be binding. It’s important to know that just because you released the parking brake lever, the cables may not have actually retracted fully. The opposite can happen too—just because you applied the parking brake lever doesn’t mean they’re actually engaged. Take your car into a repair shop and have them verify that the parking brake system works.
If you’ve never experienced the need to use the parking brake, here’s what you need to know. If you have a parking brake lever (as opposed to an electrical switch), you can vary how sudden the brakes are applied—but keep in mind, in an emergency, chances are you’ll be yanking on the lever very quickly. If you’re really curious, drive the car in a closed area at a very slow speed, put it in neutral and slowly apply the parking brake. You’ll get a feel for how the system works.
If you have an electric parking brake, don’t be surprised if it’s applied forcefully, because it wants to stop the vehicle in an emergency situation. All of this will make the situation that much more frenzied, but stay calm! You need to remain in control of the vehicle.
Don’t forget to release the parking brake. It should go without saying that if you do drive with the parking brake on, you could damage the system. Have an auto repair technician double check the system if you’re unsure!
I can’t stress how important it is for you to regularly use your parking brake. If you’re not in the habit of using it all the time, start now—you just never know when you’ll need it!