Electric parking brake problems: Everything you need to know

As technology keeps advancing, auto manufacturers introduce new features in their vehicles, one of which is the electric parking brake, also known as the electronic parking brake (EPB). Many modern cars have advanced to EPB.

The EPB is an improved, safer, and better braking system integrated into the onboard electronic computer for a better braking experience and more convenient means of applying emergency brakes under various situations.

In this article, we’ll discuss at length the functions of the electric parking brake, how it works, the advantages of having it on your baby ride, most common electric parking brake problems, amongst others. Sit back and enjoy the reading.

What is an Electric parking brake?

electronic parking brake stuck

Electric parking brake (EPB), a North American accent for the electronic parking brake, is an electronically controlled emergency brake. It is typically activated by depressing the brake pedal and pulling up the EPB button and deactivated by pressing a button with just a fingertip.

This braking system works in harmony with an actuator mechanism and electronic control unit (ECU). Two EPB mechanisms are presently in production; caliper integrated systems and cable puller systems. Electric parking brakes can be considered as a subset of brake-by-wire technology.

Electric parking brakes were first seen on the 2001 BMW 7 Series (E65), and ever since then, it has appeared on several vehicles.

Electric parking brake applications

As explained earlier, an electric parking brake is an improved and more convenient means of applying the emergency brake under various situations.

When you want to engage the electric parking brake, all you have to do is; locate the EPB button and pull it up while depressing the brake pedal. The button is typically located close to your gear stick with a ‘P’ inscription on it.

If you pull it up, you’ll hear a mechanical click that indicates it has been activated.  Once the EPB is activated, the emergency brake light will illuminate your instrument cluster.

To release or disengage the electric parking brake, you have to step on the brake pedal and then push the EPB button down. The emergency light on the instrument cluster will turn off to indicate the EPB is deactivated.

There’s another way to disengage the electric parking brake without touching the EPB button. It works in most vehicle brands like Honda vehicles; I can’t say it works in all cars.

To do this, all you have to do is go ahead and buckle up your seat belt and engage your emergency brake. Release the brake pedal and depress the accelerator pedal; the parking brake will automatically disengage. This is a concise tutorial on how parking brake works and EPB applications.

Most common Electric parking brake problems

parking brake indicator light not working

Like every electronic system and component in a vehicle, problems can occur on the EPB if switches or wires between the actuator and module are opened, shortened, broken, or develop high resistance. Common issues such as low system voltage or open fuse can cause the electric parking brake system to malfunction.

Some of these faults will register a trouble code on the onboard computer, indicating a fault with the EPB, or display a ‘Service parking brake’ message if there’s a reported fault. A scan tool will help track down the cause of the failure.

In any case, if the issue is a result of a failed module or actuator, you will have to order a new one from your dealer. These components are relatively new, and they have not saturated the market. However, as time goes on, these components will be available in many auto spare part stores.

If your electric parking brake fails to release manually or automatically, it could fail due to one of the following reasons.

  • The brake pedal switch or gear stick selector switch is bad
  • There is a miscommunication between the EPB module and either of the switches
  • The EPB module or actuator has an electrical fault
  • The electronic parking brake motor has jammed or failed
  • You have a corroded parking brake cables. This is a common brake system problem on Honda civic.

Suppose you own a Lincoln LS, and you see a ‘service parking brake’ warning message on your dashboard; it could mean a false signal or an actual fault with the system.

The Lincoln LS is designed with a susceptible EPB module in the electrical system. In some cases, these messages can be triggered by an electronic coolant flow valve or a lousy ignition coil. Faults within the electrical harness can cause similar issues as well.

Advantages of electronic parking brakes

electric parking brake problem acura

Automation

Electric parking brakes vs. handbrake are pretty different from each other. The electronic parking brake incorporates an electronic system that makes your car come to a stop when you pull the EPB button.

Thanks to the automated brake system, the efficiency and accuracy of the EPB than the conventional emergency brake system. The electric park brake performs optimally on both front and rear wheels.

In addition to EPB effectiveness, most modern electric parking brakes come with the Hill Start Assist feature. A hill start assists automatically apply brakes on the rear wheels on sloppy roads to prevent rollbacks.

Emergency brakes

One of the primary benefits of electric parking brakes is their ability to conveniently apply brakes in emergencies. It features a safer braking mechanism; you can accelerate the vehicle and still engage the electric parking brake.

The EPB mechanism functions by opening and closing the rear axle several times until the vehicle comes to a halt.

If you want to know when to use an electric parking brake, you can use it when driving at low or even high speed. The system is more safe and reliable than regular brakes, especially when cruising at high speed.

Several issues can come up on manual brakes when applying them at high speed. The sudden friction may disrupt the smooth movement of your tires on the road, and that could lead to a crash. However, this is not true with the electric parking brake.

Better control

Electric parking brakes provide better control than the cable-operated brake system. The electronic parking brake gives more edge over conventional brakes. They are more smooth and reliable.

Occupies less space

Since there are no brake cables, wires, or hand brake levers involved, it occupies less space in the car. This also makes it better than the conventional brakes.

Child lock system

It offers a child lock feature to prevent accidents. With this feature in place, you won’t be able to deactivate the brake once the ignition is turned off.

FAQs

Q: How do you reset the electric parking brake on a Honda Civic?

The Honda Civic electric parking brake is designed to engage once you switch off the ignition. Here’s how to reset it;

  • Switch the ignition to the ON position and shift the gear lever in PARK. Do not depress the brake pedal.
  • Pull and release the EPB button to activate the electric parking brake.
  • Pull and hold the EPB button until you hear a mechanical sound, then release the button.
  • Pull up and hold the EPB button for 3 seconds, and release when you hear two mechanical beeps.

The electric parking brake is fully reset to activate whenever you turn off the ignition.

To deactivate this feature, repeat the above process; the system will make a single click to show you have successfully deactivated this feature.

Q: Why won’t my parking brake release?

One common issue with stuck parking brakes is corrosion. The corrosion on brake systems is typically caused by water and dirt. Corrosion can cause the brake cable to snap, parking brakes to fail, and brake pads to stick to the brake disc. If you are fond of pulling your brake lever too hard, it will cause your brakes to stick against the drum brake walls over time.

Q: How do you release an electric parking brake with a dead battery

Electric parking brakes are not designed to work with dead batteries. If your car battery is discharged and you need to disengage the electric park brake, you have two options. Either you jump-start your car with another vehicle or with a portable jump starter, or you release the brake manually.

And to release it manually, you need a unique tool along with a jack tool. Fix the proper bit on the tool, take off the plug on the tire well, insert the jack tool and turn it counterclockwise to release.

Q: Should you use e brake when parking?

Emergency brakes are designed to be applied when parking vehicles. Regardless of the transmission, you’re driving (automatic or manual), whether you want to park on a slope or level parking lot, or whether the weather is inclement or unpleasant, you should always park with the emergency brake. And as the name implies, you should always use it in emergencies.

Q: How do you release a parking brake manually?

It is almost impossible to release an electric parking brake without switching on the ignition. The invention of electric parking brakes comes with many challenges, from diagnostics to servicing the system. It also means when there is a failure in another system such as the electrical system, parking brakes may not be coming up and may not release.

So, I will highlight the steps that might just allow you to release your parking brake manually. It requires getting at the back of the wheel and getting access to the back of the caliper. Follow the steps below.

  • Raise your back wheels and support with jack stands.
  • Slide under the vehicle and locate the rear brake caliper.
  • Look at how the EPB motor is mounted. Some are serviceable; some are not. If they are serviceable, they will have bolts holding them on the caliper housing. If they are not serviceable, you’ll not be able to perform this procedure.
  • Locate and remove the bolts holding the EPB motor but don’t unplug the electric brake motor. This will cause the system to lose base settings. In some cases, it may require you to replace the brake caliper and the electric parking brake motor.
  • After removing the bolts, carefully remove the EPB motor out of the way.
  • Using the correct socket that will fit in the back of the caliper piston, turn the caliper piston adjustment to release the caliper piston.
  • After doing this, you can take the EPB motor out from suspension systems while lowering the vehicle.
  • Once on the ground, you’re ready to fix the customer’s concern.
  • After fixing a customer’s concern, you will need the reverse procedure on the electromechanical parking brake to fix things together.

If you have an electric parking brake problem on honda accord or on any vehicle and want to know how to release the brake manually, watch this video.

Final word:

The electronic parking brake is a welcome invention in modern cars for better and improved convenient braking over conventional brakes, especially at high speeds and when parking.

However, you’ll experience some common electric parking brake problems as the system begins to wear out. Knowing how to fix these problems will save you stress, time, and energy.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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