Things Drivers Should Know (III)

January 17

Parking brake.

Sometimes it’s a hand brake between the passenger seats, sometimes it’s a pedal up high to the left of the brake pedal. Very few people use it. How do I know? When you see a car, parking on an incline, turn its engine off and then you see it bounce back and forth a few centimetres they did not use the parking brake. When a person turns the ignition key in their car and all the lights come on immediately, they’re not using their parking brake. I see that crap all the time.

Why does this matter, you fucking pedant, I hear you  ask? There are two main reasons why you should shut the hell up and just read this post, seeing as you’re already here.

Now, this only matters if you have a crappy, boring automatic transmission. That’s right. I went there. When you put the automatic transmission in P (Park), a parking pawl engages. You can think of it as a pin that slides in to stop the gears from moving. It’s quite small, and is used to basically jam the transmission and prevent it from operating. So when you bounce your incredibly heavy SUV off the parking pawl, the entire weight of the truck is bouncing off a small metal pin. With sufficient abuse, it may become damaged. If your automatic car rolls when it’s in Park, the pawl is broken (additional internal damage is likely).

Also, when your vehicle is in park and the parking brake is engaged (and this bit is true of automatic or manual transmissions) many electrical systems revolving around creature comforts remain turned off. Why is this important? When cranking the engine (when turning the ignition key to ‘start’ and the engine turns over until it starts, basically),  you’re putting incredible strain on the battery’s output. You’re using most of what it has to offer. If the blower motor (the thing that makes wind come out of the vents), rear defroster (that melts the ice you should have scraped off your rear windshield), radio, seat heaters (if applicable), headlights, radio, windshield washer (to try and melt the ice you should have scraped off the front windshield), windows (that you’re lowering and raising to try and remove snow/ice from the windows instead of scraping it), you’re also using the battery. The alternator (thing that generates electricity) does not start generating electricity to recharge the battery until the engine is running at about 2,000rpms.

On cold days, as I step into my car, I make sure the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) is turned to the off position, that all internal gizmos, stuff in the 12v outlet, etc. are all off/unplugged. Yes. I actually do this. And once the car has started, I wait a minute or two before starting anything. Besides, if it’s that cold, using the vent will only bring in glacial air into the vehicle, making you colder. Also – what a surprising number of people don’t know, if you’re using the front defogger (directing air to the front windshield) this uses the AC system in your car. That’s why it’s so good (or should be) at removing humidity from the front window and… hence defog it. Defog. Deeeefog. Defog. I lie that word. Defog.

However, if you behave with the electrical crap and the parking brake is engaged, fewer electrical systems are on when you crank the engine, giving your battery a bit of a break. You’re being kinder to your car and, typically, over the years your car will be nicer to you.


Oh, and give the new Cake album a listen. It’s wicked brilliant.


Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Cars

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