A handbrake is an essential safety feature primarily used to prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards or forward when stopped or parked. Similarly, the handbrake is of key importance when driving on hilly roads. This brake can act as a hill-hold assist when driving in uphill conditions. Furthermore, a handbrake can also be used as an emergency brake if the main brakes of the vehicles fail or malfunction.
The handbrakes sign can differ in different vehicle models. However, the most common handbrake signs are 1) an exclamation mark inside a circle or 2) a P letter inside a circle in red color. The handbrake sign commonly illustrates that the handbrake is engaged, and the warning sign will automatically stop blinking when you will disengage the handbrake. However, there can be times when the handbrake sign will keep blinking even when the handbrake is disengaged. We have shortlisted some key reasons to keep this sign blinking, along with some remedies.
When to Use Handbrake in Cars?
The handbrake is considered a part of the vehicle’s overall braking system as it is connected with the rear brakes. Thus, when the handbrake1 is engaged, it will press against the rear brakes with less force than the primary braking system.
So, using the handbrake whenever you park your car is advised. This is required in automatic and manual transmission despite the terrain type. The experts always recommend engaging the handbrake in parking conditions and keeping the gears in neutral or parking conditions. The modern handbrakes are controlled by a parking pawl, a device that locks up the transmission in parking conditions. In the case of the automatic transmission, it is advised to engage the handbrake before putting the gear in “Parking/P” to limit the stress on the car’s transmission system.
Similarly, you can also use the handbrake(1) while driving uphill. In this case, the handbrake will prevent the car from slipping down. Again, you can check out the online tutorials to learn to use a handbrake uphill. Finally, handbrakes can also stop the vehicle when the primary brake pads have overheated or the primary braking system has failed.
How to Apply Handbrake in Cars?
There are different methods to apply handbrakes depending upon the model of your vehicle. In older-model cars, the handbrake is engaged with the stick lever. The stick lever is placed in the middle of the instrument panel or with the gear stick. As you would know, the handbrake is activated by pulling up this lever and can be disengaged by pulling down this lever. Modern vehicles have a center level between the front seats just behind the gear stick.
You can again engage the handbrake by pulling up the lever and disengage it by pulling it down. Some SUV models and luxury vehicles have a handbrake option as a foot pedal. This is located on the left of other pedals and can be engaged by pressing or double pressing the pedal, depending upon the vehicle model. Some vehicles also have handbrake switch, so you can pull up the switch to engage the handbrake.
Why is Handbrake Warning Light Blinking on Vehicle’s Cluster Meter
Handbrake not Properly disengaged
As discussed, that handbrake sign appears on the dashboard when the handbrake is engaged.
This can cause the handbrake warning light to blink on the cluster meter.
Similarly, excessive handbrake usage can also decrease tension in the handbrake cable, preventing it from disengaging. This can be the case in traditional automobile models, as many model models disengage the handbrake automatically when you put the car in gear.
You can easily clean the dust between the handbrake lever with a brush or a cloth. But if the handbrake cable is damaged, it is advised to get it replaced by a professional mechanic. In addition, driving with an engaged handbrake can increase brake pad friction, decreasing its life. So, ensure that the handbrake is disengaged correctly before driving the vehicle.
Low Braking Fluid Level
Braking fluid(2) creates optimum pressure for brake operation. However, if the brake fluid is low, the brakes will lose power. This is the same for both handbrake and the primary brakes.
If the brake fluid level is low, you can get it filled from a service center according to the vehicle’s manual. However, if the handbrake sign does not go, it can be a sign of another fault causing this light to blink.
Handbrake sensors are placed at different positions depending upon the type of handbrake in your vehicle. For example, if your vehicle’s handbrake is lever-type, it can be set below the lever or center console assembly. Similarly, if the handbrake is switch-type, it can be placed in the switch box. Finally, if the handbrake is foot pedal type, the sensor can be placed under the foot pedal. These sensors signal to your vehicle’s electronic control system (ECS) whether the handbrake is engaged or not. The ECS then turns on the handbrake sign on the dashboard.
So, placing the sensor using the vehicle’s instruction manual is recommended, and cleaning it first. You can also use an inexpensive sensor code machine to identify the error in the sensor. If the sensor machine identifies a faulty handbrake sensor, it is recommended to replace it.