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What is an electronic parking brake?

  • How does an electronic parking brake work?
  • Do I need it fitted to my car?
  • Parkers explains the tech

An electronic parking brake – sometimes known also as an electronic handbrake –  is operated by a switch in the cabin that electronically applies the brakes and holds the vehicle in place.

How does an electronic parking brake work?

Instead of a conventional handbrake lever attached to a cable activating the parking brakes and holding the vehicle in place, the electric version merely requires the driver to flick a switch in the cabin.

The electronic parking brake will usually be applied automatically when the vehicle is switched off or park (P) is engaged on an automatic car.

To disengage the electronic parking brake, the switch can either be flicked again, or the driver can move to pull away in a normal fashion: when depressing the accelerator from a standstill the parking brake will automatically release. This effectively means the electronic parking brake need never have to be manually released via the switch.

There are some exceptions to this, however. Many vehicles require the driver to manually disengage the electronic parking brake when the engine is first switched on or when reverse is the initial gear to be engaged from standstill.

The system also won’t automatically disengage should the driver not be wearing their seatbelt or one of the doors is left open.

Do I need it?

Some drivers prefer the traditional feel of a manual lever when operating the parking brake, while others value the ease of use associated with electronic versions. One of the latter’s most useful applications occurs when undertaking hill starts.

Many vehicles fitted with an electronic parking brake also benefit from a hill-hold system preventing them from rolling back on a gradient. As the driver moves to pull away, the hill-hold system will kick in, preventing the car from rolling back for a couple of seconds.

Many Volkswagen Group cars now have Auto Hold technology, too, automatically applying the parking brake when the vehicle comes to a rest and deactivating as the driver sets off.

Not convinced? Another plus point for electronic parking brakes is the amount of extra space they create in the cabin. Removing the large lever used to operate a manual handbrake allows designers to add larger armrests, cupholders and other useful features.

Found on

Electronic parking brake systems can be found on a wide range of medium- to large-sized cars, including the Peugeot 308, Mercedes-Benz A Class and Volkswagen Golf.

Similar to

Automatic parking brake, hill-hold assist, Auto Hold.

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions