Do All Cars Have Emergency Brakes? (Basic Facts)

Whether it’s a lever, button, an emergency brake assist, or an autonomous braking system, people are happy to have them. There are different emergency brakes, and it’s hard to keep track of them.

However, in their most basic form, we can all recognize them easily. Let’s find out if all cars have some form of emergency braking.

Here’s the answer to whether all cars have emergency brakes:

All automakers equip all of their cars with emergency brakes. In the past, the traditional hand lever was quite common. These days, you’re more likely to find an electric parking brake that coexists with a collision avoidance system.

Are Cars Required to Have Emergency Brakes?

There’s a reason all cars have emergency brakes, and that’s because we all deem them necessary. From keen observation, we know three parties that can cause features to become standard in cars. The law, the automakers, and wonderful car owners.

First, the law requires that all cars must meet braking and emergency braking standards. This means all cars must be able to come to a full stop when their brakes are applied. Their emergency brakes must also get the job done in an emergency.

We won’t get into all the details, but now you get the point.

Automakers also require their cars to have emergency braking to not only meet up to minimum requirements. Having them as standard gives them a competitive edge. No one would want to buy a car without emergency brakes if every other vehicle had them.

You can easily see how the consumers factor into the equation.

When Did Cars Get Emergency Brakes?

Many inventors made significant contributions to car braking systems in the 20th century. Hence, emergency braking systems were improved and reinvented during this period.

Emergency brakes were spotted in vehicles as early as the 1920s. Usage gradually spread as improvements were being made. By the 1960s, practically all standard vehicles had emergency brakes.

These brakes were also used often since the main brakes weren’t as reliable as they are now. There were also fewer driver assist systems.

By the end of the 20th century, it was practically impossible to own a car without a parking brake.

Do New Cars Have Emergency Brakes?

New vehicles have emergency brakes, which you may know as parking brakes. The parking brake does much more than just keep the car from rolling downhill when parked.

Emergency brakes are very useful in slowing cars down. As you may have guessed, this reduces the risk of accidents by a large margin.

There is no reason new cars shouldn’t have emergency brakes. We’ve already established that they’re an industry standard and everybody wants them. Besides, old vehicles have emergency brakes, so any new car must have one too.

However, it’s noteworthy that different brands use different braking technology today. With that in mind, do not freak out if you don’t find the conventional emergency brake that you’re used to.

Most cars produced today would come with an electric parking brake. There has been a consensus between vehicle manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

It will ensure that the majority of cars sold in the United States would be equipped with automatic emergency braking. What this means is that many cars on the road could deter collisions automatically.

The system can slow cars down if it senses a potential risk of impact. In other cases, it may stop the car entirely, especially at low speeds.

So, regarding new vehicles, all seems to be in the right order. We don’t expect any brand to compromise going forward.

Do Automatic Cars Have Emergency Brakes?

Just like cars with manual transmissions, cars with auto trannies have emergency brakes too.

It serves the same functions, often looks the same way, and operates similarly.

If you’re in a modern automatic vehicle, it’ll likely have an electric parking brake. This takes away the heavy lifting people usually have to do whenever they engage or disengage a parking brake.

An electric brake is usually just a button-like mini lever close to the shifter. To engage it, you only have to pull the lever. Then you’d step on your brake pedal and push the button to disengage.

Also, just like with manual trannies, automatic emergency braking is gradually becoming standard today in automatic cars.

Can You Buy a Car Without Emergency Brakes?

We’d like to believe that you cannot. Unless you’re buying your car from an underground street racing garage with abandoned cars, get emergency brakes.

You might feel emergency brakes aren’t as effective as you’d like them to be. People often say they merely slow down car speeds and don’t cause them to halt completely. Recall that emergency brakes are parking brakes that serve other functions as well.

They’ll help prevent your car from sliding downhill on a slope.

So, regular car brakes will halt your vehicle, and emergency brakes will keep it still when it’s parked. If a car doesn’t have a fully functional emergency brake, it’s a red flag.

Most credible mechanics today will only let you buy a used car if it has all the standard requirements. These are standard requirements both by law and by popular opinion. This means cars lacking windshield wipers and, of course, parking brakes are out of the picture.

Unless you can easily replace a missing part with a small budget, avoid such vehicles. They’d also advise you against buying a used car without a component that most people love or need.

Hence, we would also advise against buying any car without an emergency brake.

Related: 5 Cars Without ABS Brakes That People Love Driving (With Pictures)

What Are the Different Types of Emergency Brakes?

There are many types of emergency brakes found across different vehicles on the road today. To help you visualize them properly, we’d begin with the most commonly found types.

Center Lever

Everyone knows the center lever type of emergency brake. You’d find this parking brake in the center console of many cars. Especially cars manufactured up to the late 90s and maybe a few from the early 2000s.

As the name implies, it’s a lever that you practically pull to activate the parking brakes. You’d easily recognize it because of a pin attached to its tip. To disengage the brakes, drivers usually have to press the pin and release the lever.

Stick Lever

The stick lever is like the center lever in that it’s also a lever. However, it is no longer common and has been phased out. Still, it’s worth mentioning, and it functioned in the same way as all other types of handbrakes.

Foot Brake

You might think all pedals are for acceleration, gear switching, or regular old brakes. Well, that’s not true with all vehicles.

Like regular brakes, they may also install parking brakes as a pedal that you engage with your foot. They are called emergency brake pedals and are usually found on the far left of the other regular pedals. The positioning helps ensure you don’t mistake it for your clutch or service brake pedal.

Electric Brake

We’ve already explained what the electric parking brake is and how it works. It is the common emergency brake type used in modern cars today. Instead of expending energy to pull or press levers or pedals respectively, you only need to push a button.

Related: Car Won’t Move & Feels Like Handbrake Is On (Solved)

How Many Emergency Brakes Does a Car Have?

Usually, cars have one. It doesn’t make much sense to have several levers or pedals added to the standard brake pedal.

However, there are a few types of emergency braking systems and there are different functions each of these systems perform. The three major systems include the parking brake system, emergency brake assist system, and autonomous emergency braking system.

Parking brakes are the most commonly referred to term when we mention emergency brakes. This article is also focused on them.

Emergency brake assist systems are less known than the other systems because they’re more of a ‘helping’ function. This means they don’t function independently. However, they increase the overall braking efficiency in an emergency.

Autonomous emergency braking helps avoid collisions on roads. It acts in place of the driver when it recognizes an impending collision, hence the name autonomous.

In several cases, it can reduce the car’s speed to reduce the severity of an accident. Other times it helps prevent the accident entirely. Depending on your driving speed, an autonomous braking system will or will not be able to completely thwart an accident.

So, while there are different emergency braking systems, we can’t refer to them all as emergency brakes. Parking brakes take the cake in that segment.

How Does the Emergency Brake Differ From the Normal Brakes?

Of course, obvious differences include their locations and uses. Normal brakes are always on the floor, along with the accelerator pedal. Emergency brakes, on the other hand, are found either in between the front seats or on the floor close to the driver-side door.

Normal brakes or service brakes are the preferred option for halting a vehicle anytime, any day. Now, this is very important information. No automaker expects you to attempt stopping your car with an emergency brake under normal driving conditions.

In fact, under ideal conditions (no emergencies), you would only use the emergency brakes as parking brakes. Their only job would be to keep parked cars in place.

Related: 6 Popular Cars Without Electronic Handbrake (Manual Handbrake)

Final Thoughts

In case you’re wondering why parking brakes are called emergency brakes, there’s a bit of history there. They were designed to be emergency brakes, however, brake systems have become more efficient over the years. Hence, today, we mostly use them for parking (except, of course, you’re a race car driver).

Although emergency brakes are standard today, some dos and don’ts must be followed.

Always make sure that you disengage your parking brake before you drive. Driving with your parking brakes still engaged can damage your brake system. So if you’re driving with your parking brake still at work, disengage it as soon as you remember.

Most cars have warning systems that would alert you if you’re doing something wrong.

Hopefully, you’d never have to use your parking brakes for anything other than parking.


What is Automatic Emergency Braking | JD Power

How the Parking Brake Works | Your Mechanic

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