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4 Pedals in Old Cars? (The Obsolete Fourth Pedal)

4 Pedals in Old Cars

Who knows how automobiles will change 30 years from now. But the 4th pedal in old cars is the emergency or parking brake.

The parking brake is a mechanism used to keep a vehicle secure when parked. Once engaged, the brakes are applied to keep the car from moving.

The mechanism used to engage the parking brake is most commonly a hand-operated lever. But considering the interior design of cars prior to the 1980s, most parking brakes were operated with your foot.

In cars of an older vintage with a manual transmission, this would be the fourth pedal located on your extreme left.

How Does the Parking Brake Work as an Emergency Brake?

A parking or emergency brake can either be a hand brake or foot brake.

The parking brake also works as emergency brake. It works as backup brakes should the primary brakes fail.

I once had a car that was experiencing brake issues.

I needed to come to a stop and when I applied the primary brakes, my foot went down to floor without the car coming to a stop.

By slowly but firmly applying the emergency brake, the car was able to come to a stop and no one got hurt.

Parking brakes are not as effective at bringing a car to a stop as the main brakes.

But in an emergency, you’ll be glad you have it – hence the name emergency brakes.

How Does the Parking Brake Work on a Car with Rear Drum Brakes?

How the parking brake works on cars with rear drum brakes.

In a car with rear drum brakes, the parking brake bypasses the hydraulic brake system to lock the wheels in place.

Here, the parking brake system uses cables attached to either the foot pedal or hand brake to engage the drum brakes.

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The cables then pull on another lever that puts pressure on the brake shoes to keep the car stationary.

How Does the Parking Brake Work on a Car with Disk Brakes?

How parking brakes work on cars with disk brakes.

Applying the emergency brake on cars with four-wheel disk brakes and locking rear calipers activates a corkscrew mechanism that pushes a piston into the brake pads to keep the car from moving.

Why Do Different Cars Have a Different Number of Pedals?

Aside from the parking brake, which will always be the foot pedal to the extreme left.

Cars have a different number of petals depending on the transmission.

Three pedals on a car with manual transmission and a hand operated parking brake.

For instance, a car with a manual transmission means that you decide when to shift gears. These cars have three pedals on the floor.

From left to right you have the accelerator used to make the car go faster.

The brake used to bring the car to a stop and a clutch pedal used to disengage the transmission from the engine so you can shift into another gear.

Two pedals on a car with an automatic transmission and a hand operated brake.

A car with an automatic transmission can handle the shifting of gears on its own. So, they typically have two pedals. From left to right, these are the accelerator and the brake pedal.