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By November 18, 2016January 1st, 2017Uncategorized

The handbrake and when should you use it on a ‘driving test’

Now the kind of people that refer to ‘accidents’ as ‘collisions’, and ‘Right of Way’ as ‘Priority’ might have you believe its called the parking brake or possibly even the emergency brake, however it remains a brake operated by hand that is used in situations other than ‘parking’ or in an emergency so we’re sticking with handbrake as the terminology.

(In an earlier post I’ve already discussed the pro’s and con’s of “ratcheting” – In short its not a test fault if you ratchet but It’s likely to set my teeth on edge)

Firstly,  it’s always handbrake on, and then into Neutral. The other way round used to be marked as fault, it won’t be now unless the vehicle rolls but it’s still best practice.

When do you need to use it?

When you need to stop the vehicle rolling – Forget all this nonsense about “when it’s a wait not a pause”, or if it’s longer than the time it would take you to put the handbrake on and off again (in fact my friend Reg Local will tell you Lancashire Police trainers used to say if it’s longer than 3 seconds you need to put it on).

What about traffic lights?

Well handbrake on, into Neutral – If you are the first vehicle in the queue, Driving instructors often will get you to sit there wearing out the clutch release bearing with the vehicle in gear and the clutch down.

This is so that you are supposedly ‘ready to go’ when the lights change.

As it’s not marked as a test fault, again this is acceptable but it’s not best practice. Engage the gear and get ready as the light changes to amber.

No  you don’t need to apply the handbrake at a stop sign.

The requirement is to STOP.

There is not and never has been a requirement to apply the handbrake at the stop sign in the UK. This is another myth spread by driving instructors on the somewhat spurious grounds that it tells the examiner that you have in fact stopped.


Personally, I follow the old fashioned technique on the manoeuvres, for example, on the turn in the road and the end of the first part, “clutch down, let it roll, steer left, brake, handbrake on secure the vehicle, into neutral”, or the parallel park pull up alongside, “handbrake on secure the vehicle, into neutral. select reverse, etc etc”

I prefer the vehicle secured at each point during the exercises, but as I’ve already mentioned as long as it doesn’t roll and its under control then it’s not a fault.

Hit from behind?

Lets look at another myth that’s related – If you are hit from behind at any reasonable speed, regardless of the way the front wheels are pointing your vehicle is going to continue straight ahead.

The tiny amount of contact the front wheels have with the road surface is not going to over ride the rules of physics.

We stick on a bit of opposite lock in police vehicles when using the “fend off” position to block the road so that when we get in back in the car after two hours stood in the cold and rain at 3am and forget which way the wheels are pointing when we go to drive off, the car goes away from the live oncoming traffic. No because if the car gets hit its going to affect the way it goes!