parking brake woes
September 27, 2008 10:38 PM   Subscribe

car help: parking brake stuck! I can't move my car... even to take it to a mechanic.

I have a 2002 hyundai accent (stick shift). Today, when I attempted to start the car (in reverse out of its spot in a heated parking garage) I noticed that it was seriously resisting and even squealing... it even left tire marks for the 1 foot I managed to reverse it. Since it's a stick shift, I habitually put the parking break on. I, of course, pushed the brake lever off before I drove and the light went off as well; however, the brake is clearly still on as the car will not move. I attempted to put it in neutral and push the car, because I have noticed a few times recently that the brake will stick for a moment, and then 'groan' and 'pop' out of place when moved a couple inches. Unfortunately, this time it did not work, and the brake is still on. I also attempted to pull the lever back and forth over and over to engage/disengage the brake, but this hasn't helped. The car is good on oil, but I don't know what else I should check.

how do you fix a car that you cannot drive to the mechanic? what can more can i do myself to help it unstick?
posted by speef to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
It sounds like one or more of your breaks are seized. This thread might be useful.

I'm sorry, but it sounds like you're going to need to have the car towed to a mechanic. Call around to a trusted independent shop, explain the problem, and see what they say. A good shop will either have their own tow truck, or have a good relationship with a towing company.
posted by wfrgms at 11:10 PM on September 27, 2008

As an automechanic i can tell you that this is a common problem with your make and model vehicle. usually the problem is a stuck park break mechanism on the rear brake caliper. Another cause could be a stuck park break cable. Either way, the components are stuck because they are rusted or worn out and binding.

Try this, with the parking break off and chocks blocking both front tires, jack the car up one corner at a time and see if you can spin the tire by hand. If neither tire turns, your cable is stuck. If you can turn one tire and not another, your problem is with the side that doesn't turn. Take the tire off that side. Spray the park break mechanism on the caliper with WD-40 or even better PB Blaster. Try not to get any on the brake pads or rotor. Let it soak for a good five minutes or longer then hit it with a big, hard-rubber or plastic mallet (do not use steel it will shatter aluminum).

If you don't have such a mallet, then soak the mechanism on both calipers, but your tires back on, and then jostle the vehicle by rocking it back and forth. Either way, the point is to free up the stuck parts and get the tires spinning freely.

If this happens again, get the parts replaced or stop using your parking brake.
posted by Paleoindian at 11:18 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

That's a much more elegant solution than my "jack up the front and make a ramp and let it roll back and brake the parking break freeze" idea. I think mine might be faster though I guarantee no results.
posted by sanka at 11:44 PM on September 27, 2008

Get it towed. If you have an auto club membership (e.g. AAA), this will be covered.
posted by winston at 12:08 AM on September 28, 2008

... and tell them you need a flatbed.
posted by Zambrano at 8:31 AM on September 28, 2008

If the wheel has hubcaps, remove them. Get a large rubber mallet and give the wheel a couple of good solid strikes right in the middle. With any luck, this will break free the "stickiness" and get it moving long enough to get it to a mechanic to have it fixed.
posted by gjc at 10:03 AM on September 28, 2008

Thanks for the suggestions. I have a feeling getting it towed will be quite the ordeal, as i'm in the back corner of a very tight parking garage, between a wall and a concrete column... and of course the car must be lifted and taken away, since the rear wheel(s?) are not moving. Hopefully some of the other advice will work before I have to have it towed.
posted by speef at 12:29 PM on September 28, 2008

If your car is in a tight spot, they'll probably still be able to use something like Go Jacks to move it (also called "rolling jacks" and "car dollies"). Not a big deal for most tow guys.
posted by IvyMike at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2008

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