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Electronic handbrakes – are they better?

Electronic handbrakes arecommon in new cars as opposed to traditional manual handbrakes. As you can imagine, they do the exact same job. The electric handbrake is more user-friendly than traditional handbrakes as all you need to do is press a button rather than pulling and releasing the handbrake.

Is one better than the other? and how does an electronic handbrake work? We will explain in this blog:

  • How do manual and electric handbrakes work?
  • Pros and cons of electric handbrakes and manual handbrakes
  • Are electric handbrakes better than manual ones?
  • How reliable are electric handbrakes?
  • Can you tow a car with a stuck electric handbrake?
  • How to use an electric handbrake in an emergency?
  • How to perform a hill start using an electric handbrake?

How do manual and electric handbrakes work?

Manual handbrakes have a cable that tensions when activated and released. This cable is connected to the rear brake system that is squeezed when you pull the handbrake, which holds the car in place.

Electronic handbrakes work in a similar way but uses electric motors to lock the car in place. As you press the electric handbrake button, motors located on the rear brakes press the brakes together which hold the vehicle in place.

Are electric handbrakes better than manual ones?

Both have their pros and cons, so here are a few for you to make a decision on which you would prefer:

Electric handbrakes pros

-If you are a forgetful person or if you are juggling a lot of things, many electronic handbrakes will automatically apply itself when you turn off the car.

-It’s a button. This means you don’t have to lift and release that clunky handbrake.

-It takes up less space in the centre console which means that there will be more space in the cabin.

-They make driving away easier as many will automatically disengage as you apply the accelerator.


-They are more expensive to repair if they break as they are tricker to replace.

-They can take some time to get used to if you have only used manual ones.

-You cannot use them if you take them on a track course, but this is only a problem for a select few.

Manual handbrake pros

-They are typically cheaper to fix and repair if they break.

-They are more familiar as they have been around for a long time.

-They are mor mentally assuring as the are a physical thing rather than a button.


-They take up a lot of room within the centre console and the cabin

-They don’t automatically disengage as you drive off.

-They are more prone to damage is they are forcefully used over a long period of time.

How reliable are electric handbrakes?

Electronic handbrakes are more complex than manual due to being electronically operated, but they are simple to use. Failures in the electronic handbrakes are rare.

However, in the rare chance that they do fail, some electronic handbrakes have manual release. This varies from car to car which means that it’s best to check your owner’s manual.

Can you tow a car with a stuck electric handbrake?

If your car does not have a manual release built in and you cannot release the electronic handbrake, you will need to release the handbrake before it is towed. Calling a flatbed will be the best cause of action if you cannot release the handbrake where you are. This will reduce the chance of causing damage to your car.

How to use an electric handbrake in an emergency?

When travelling at speed, you cannot use the electronic handbrake in an emergency. This will cause damage to the vehicle and may result in the car losing control. It’s better to firmly press the brake pedal until you have reached a full stop.

How to perform a hill start using an electric handbrake?

Performing a hill start is exactly the same as in a car with a manual handbrake.

Firstly, make sure your handbrake is engaged and the clutch pedal is firmly to the floor. Gently lift your clutch up until you feel the biting point whilst adding slight pressure to the throttle. Once you have felt the biting point, release the handbrake and gently apply more throttle to slowly and smoothly drive away.

If you want to more information about how to perform a hill start, read our hill start blog or speak to one of our team at your local Chorley Group branch to find out more information about electronic handbrakes.

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