Grandad, What is a Handbrake Turn?

Image source:

Automologist MAC gives a final nod to yet another disappearing automotive feature. 

Very soon I anticipate that question as sadly for all of us petrolheads, the life of the old hand-pulled parking brake (emergency brake to all of the yanks out there) is slowly but inevitably coming to an inglorious end. Actually, the end is coming at an alarming speed. Soon the wild squealing of wheels as a car is steered sideways around a corner will be no more as modern technology replaces that old lever with an electronically controlled button.

According to research conducted by CarGurus, only 37 percent of new models have the traditional handbrake lever sitting behind the gear stick. Oh, and of course “Daddy what is a gear-stick?” may be my next article. Just as all of the new fandangled driving aids have slowly but inexorably made their way into our cockpits, the much-loved handbrake will soon be consigned to the scrap heap of automotive history.

Out with the old…Image source:

Many of the luxury brands like Audi and Porsche and Jaguar and Land Rover have already dispensed with that old tiresome technology and now all of the other more mass-market brands are following suit. Only Suzuki and Dacia still offer the mechanical lever across their entire ranges, and only sportier cars and superminis tend to have them these days.


Of course, the new-style electronic button and the old lever serve the same function of keeping the vehicle stationary and you could, of course, argue that with modern automatic gearboxes that have an electronic brake already and automatic “hold” on hills, even the electronic switch is, in effect, obsolete. But it was these very modern new automatic and DSG controlled units that sounded the death knell for the good old handbrake turn as the danger of the driver aid functions and the manual system under the direct control of the driver could well interfere with each other. In other words, manufacturers are trying to idiot-proof their cars.

…In with the new.

The new switch controls a pair of small motors that engage the rear brakes with a faint whirring noise when applied. Unlike the old manual system, there is just about no adjustment to the system and most of the new switch handbrakes also disengage automatically when you pull off as well, both of which are of value, I guess. Without a handbrake, there will be more space in the cabin for sure, but how am I gonna explain the pure joy of a handbrake turn to my kids….and maybe even teach them how to do them?

No comments yet! You be the first to comment.