What Is The Difference between Braking Using Foot Brake and HandBrake?

All the car drivers and learners know how to use foot brake and handbrake. Even the non-learners are aware of their operation. But, how many are actually aware of the working mechanisms of braking using the pedal and the handbrake? I guess, very few! So, without any delay, let’s find the actual difference between these two types of brakes along with their appropriate usage.

Foot Brake and Handbrake: The Real Difference

If you have always been looking for the answer to- “when should I use handbrake and foot brake,” then delve deeper into their mechanisms and find the appropriate answer?

1. Overview

Commencing with the foot brake system, it is a pedal connected to vacuum booster, which is used to stop or slow down the vehicle’s motor. This is also known as the system of hydraulic brakes that multiplies the foot-force applied in order to stop the car weighing several tons.

Whereas, the handbrake, also known as the parking brake, or emergency brake; is a straight pull handle near the steering column. This can also be a hand-operated lever at floor level next to the driver, or a foot pedal located beside the leg of the driver. Simply put, this means it can be in any of the above-defined forms in a car but is used only during an emergency stop or when the vehicle is in stationary state.

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2. Mechanical Difference

Foot Brake

The Real Difference of foot brake and handbrake
All about foot brake and handbrake. Cre: Fabio Lamanna

However, the foot or service brakes works differently. When the power brake is applied, the force is transferred to the master cylinder. This cylinder then generates a compressive force on the hydraulic liquid that passes through the brake lines to its caliper. Pushing the caliper against brake rotor, the liquid assists in slowing down the rotation of the wheel. In case of drum brakes, the same effect is seen; the only difference is that the brake drums are pushed against the two shoes by the piston.

Every time, when the driver steps on the brake pedal; the hydraulic force is distributed between the front and rear wheels. On average, 75% force is received on front wheels while 25% is received at rear car wheels.


In most of the cars, hand or parking brake is a mechanical device that doesn’t depend on stored energy and is capable enough to deplete hydraulic circuit or compressed air. When handbrake is brought into action, it operates only via the piston in the caliper or on the dedicated shoe brake inside the rear rotor. In other words, parking brakes are dedicated only on the rear wheels.

5 Tips for new drivers using Handbrake:

3. Appropriate Use

When it comes to handbrake, the usage actually depends on a situation. For instance, they are mostly used during vehicle’s parking or when you have to stop at traffic lights (in this situation, put the car in neutral gear). Besides this, on hill start (sharp slope- upward or backward), the brake really helps against rolling forward or backward.

On the other side, the pedal brake is mainly used to slow down or completely stop the moving car.

How to use foot brake and handbrake
Working of foot brake and handbrake.

Hopefully, gaining the industrial knowledge on handbrake and foot brake will enhance your driving tips and skills, too.

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