Electric Parking Brake Problem: Common Causes & Solutions

As the automotive industry evolves, incorporating high-tech features into vehicle design becomes more prominent. One such advancement that has come to the forefront is the electric parking brake. Despite its numerous benefits, like any technology, it also brings along a set of challenges.

This article will discuss the electric parking brake in detail, outlining its workings, its benefits, and possible problems that users might encounter.


What is an Electric Parking Brake?

The electric parking brake, often referred to as an electronic parking brake or EPB, is a significant advancement in vehicle technology. Unlike the traditional handbrake that involves a mechanical linkage of cables and levers, the electric parking brake operates using electrical signals.

The system is typically activated via a switch in the car’s console rather than the traditional lever between the seats. When the driver flips the switch, the vehicle’s computer system sends an electric signal to an actuator in the brake system, engaging the parking brake.

The EPB can be integrated with other car systems for enhanced functionality. For instance, it can be programmed to engage automatically when the car is parked, disengage when the car starts moving, or assist during hill starts.

Button to activate electric parking brake.

The key benefit of this system is its convenience and ease of use. Additionally, the elimination of the mechanical linkage frees up space in the car’s cabin, making the vehicle more spacious and comfortable for the occupants. Yet, like any technology, the electric parking brake also has its share of problems that we will discuss further in this article.

Electric Parking Brake Applications

Electric parking brakes have become increasingly popular in many types of vehicles due to their ease of use and space-saving benefits. They are commonly found in modern passenger cars, from compact city cars to luxury SUVs and performance sports cars. Many manufacturers, such as Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen, among others, have fully adopted this technology.

Furthermore, the EPB is not just limited to passenger cars. Some commercial vehicles and motorhomes are also now equipped with electric parking brakes to take advantage of the added safety and convenience features that they offer.

Most Common Electric Parking Brake Problems

Despite its benefits, electric parking brake systems may also experience problems. Some of the most common include:

1.     Failure to Engage or Release

This can be caused by various issues, such as a malfunctioning switch, a faulty control module, or an issue with the electric motor that operates the brake.

2.     Warning Lights

If the EPB has a problem, the vehicle’s computer will typically illuminate a warning light on the dashboard. The cause can range from a minor issue such as a faulty sensor to a more serious problem like a failure in the brake mechanism.

Car dashboard light with warning sign.

3.     Stuck in Engaged Position

Sometimes, the EPB can become stuck in the engaged position. This could be due to a power failure, a fault in the brake system’s electronic control unit, or a damaged actuator.

4.     Software Glitches

The EPB system is controlled by software that can sometimes encounter bugs or glitches, causing the parking brake to behave erratically.

Remember, regular maintenance and checks by a qualified mechanic can help prevent most of these problems.

Advantages of Electronic Parking Brakes

Despite the potential problems, electric parking brakes have several advantages that make them a popular choice among manufacturers and drivers alike:

1.     Ease of Use

The operation of an EPB is as simple as pressing a button, which is far easier than using a conventional handbrake, especially for people with physical limitations.

2.     Space-Saving

Without the need for a bulky handbrake lever, car designers have more flexibility to use the space within the car’s interior.

3.     Automatic Operation

Some EPBs can engage and disengage automatically when you start and stop the car, offering added convenience and ensuring that the brake is never accidentally left disengaged.

4.     Improved Safety

In addition to serving as a parking brake, many EPBs also offer a hill-start assist feature that prevents the vehicle from rolling backward on a slope when the driver switches from the brake to the accelerator.

5.     Less Maintenance

Traditional handbrake systems with their mechanical linkages typically require more maintenance than EPBs.

To sum up, electric parking brakes offer a mix of advantages that balance out the potential issues they may present. With regular maintenance and care, these systems can provide reliable and convenient service for the life of the vehicle.

What Causes Electronic Parking Brake Malfunction?

There could be several reasons why an electronic parking brake malfunctions. These include:

1.     Faulty Components

Problems can occur if one of the components in the system, such as the control switch, actuator, or control module, becomes defective.

2.     Electrical Issues

Given that EPBs are electrically controlled, any electrical issues such as short-circuits or blown fuses can affect their operation.

3.     Software Problems

Bugs or glitches in the software that controls the EPB can cause malfunctions.

4.     Physical Damage

Physical damage to the brake system, such as a broken cable or actuator, can also lead to malfunction.

5.     Wear and Tear

Over time, components within the EPB system can wear out and fail, just like any other part of a car.

How Do I Reset My Electronic Parking Brake?

Resetting your electronic parking brake can often solve minor issues. The exact method may vary depending on the vehicle’s make and model, but here’s a general procedure you can follow:

  • Turn on the ignition, but don’t start the engine.
  • Press and hold the brake pedal.
  • Press and hold the EPB switch.
  • After a few seconds, you should see a message on the dashboard indicating that the parking brake has been reset.

It’s important to note that this process should only be carried out in a safe environment, such as a flat and secure parking area, and not on public roads. If the problem persists after trying to reset, it’s best to consult with a professional mechanic.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix an Electric Parking Brake Problem?

The cost of fixing an electric parking brake problem can vary widely depending on the nature of the issue and the make and model of the vehicle. For a minor issue such as a software glitch, the cost might be relatively low if it just requires a system reset or software update.

However, if a major component like the EPB actuator needs to be replaced, the repair could be quite costly. A new actuator can cost several hundred dollars, and when you add in labor costs, the total could easily exceed $1,000.

It’s also worth noting that work related to the brake system should be carried out by a qualified professional. While it might be tempting to try and save money by doing it yourself, the brakes are a critical safety system and not something to be taken lightly.

Remember that these are just estimates, and the actual cost could be higher or lower. Always consult with a mechanic or a professional service center for accurate information.

What Is The Primary Difference Between Traditional Parking Brakes And Electric Parking Brakes?

The primary difference lies in the mechanism and the way these systems are operated. Traditional parking brakes use a mechanical linkage system of cables and levers, which is manually operated by the driver through a hand lever.

On the other hand, electric parking brakes are activated electronically via a switch in the car’s console. When activated, an electric signal is sent to an actuator in the brake system, which then engages the parking brake. The electric parking brake eliminates the need for mechanical linkages, freeing up space in the vehicle’s cabin.

How Can One Identify That There Might Be A Problem With The Electric Parking Brake?

One of the most apparent signs that there could be a problem with the electric parking brake is the illumination of a warning light on the vehicle’s dashboard. Other symptoms may include the failure of the parking brake to engage or disengage or the parking brake getting stuck in the engaged position. Sometimes, unusual noises could be another indicator of a potential issue. 

What Advantages Does An Electric Parking Brake Offer Over A Traditional Handbrake?

Car pulling the mechanical handbrake.

Electric parking brakes offer several advantages, such as ease of use, space-saving benefits, automatic operation, improved safety features, and potentially less maintenance. For instance, the EPB can engage or disengage automatically when the car is started or stopped. It can also offer a hill-start assist feature, which prevents the vehicle from rolling backward on a slope during the transition from brake to accelerator.

Are There Any Types Of Vehicles Where Electric Parking Brakes Are More Commonly Used?

Electric parking brakes are becoming increasingly popular and are now found in a wide variety of vehicles, from compact city cars to luxury SUVs and high-performance sports cars. Many well-known manufacturers have adopted this technology. EPBs are also being incorporated into some commercial vehicles and motorhomes.

Why Are Electronic Parking Brakes Seen As A Space-Saving Feature In A Vehicle’s Design?

Traditional handbrake systems involve a mechanical linkage of cables and levers, requiring a substantial handbrake lever within the vehicle’s interior. This lever can take up significant space, limiting the design possibilities.

An electronic parking brake, however, is operated by a small switch, eliminating the need for the bulky handbrake lever and freeing up space within the car’s interior. This provides car designers with greater flexibility and can make the vehicle more spacious and comfortable for the occupants.

How Do Electrical Issues Lead To Electronic Parking Brake Malfunctions?

Electronic parking brakes operate based on electrical signals. Therefore, any electrical issues such as short-circuits or blown fuses can disrupt these signals and affect the operation of the EPB. For example, a short-circuit could result in the parking brake not receiving the signal to engage or disengage, causing it to malfunction.

What Are Some Measures One Can Take To Prevent Electronic Parking Brake Problems?

Regular maintenance and checks by a qualified mechanic can help prevent most electronic parking brake problems. This can include regular software updates, checking the electrical system for potential issues, and physical inspection of the brake system to identify and address any signs of wear and tear or damage.

Auto mechanic working on car electronics.

What can one expect when taking a car to a mechanic for an electronic parking brake problem?

When taking a car to a mechanic for an electronic parking brake problem, the mechanic will typically start by diagnosing the problem. This can involve checking for warning lights, testing the operation of the parking brake, and using diagnostic tools to read any error codes from the vehicle’s computer system.

Depending on the findings, the mechanic may then proceed with repairs or replacement of faulty components, software updates, or other necessary actions. The cost can vary significantly depending on the specific issue and the make and model of the vehicle.


In conclusion, electronic parking brakes offer significant advantages in terms of convenience, safety, and interior design flexibility. While they can experience problems like any other vehicle component, being aware of common issues and their warning signs can help ensure prompt attention and resolution.

Regular maintenance and checks can prevent many problems, and professional mechanics can provide effective diagnosis and repair services when required. As with all vehicle systems, understanding how the electronic parking brake works can contribute to a smoother, safer driving experience.

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About Brock Rangel

Hi, I am Brock, and I am the lead editor/photographer for TheCarColony. I have been a mechanic for over 14 years now, and I am here to spread my car knowledge across the web!