What to Do if Brakes Lock Up When Car Is in Reverse?

One common problem that our readers face is: their brakes lock up when car is in reverse. This can be very dangerous, especially in hilly areas. Let’s find out the solution.

If you travel by your car frequently, you must have experienced your brakes locking up when you put your car in reverse. This is a very common problem faced by a lot of vehicle drivers every day. 

When this problem occurs, the brakes in your car lock, and as soon as you put your car in neutral or forward, the brakes are again released. When you put your car in reverse, the brake pedal drops, and you can feel and hear air pressure built up in the braking system. 


Brakes Lock Up When Car Is In Reverse

Why Brakes Lock Up When Car Is In Reverse? 

Generally, most cars have two types of brakes, either disc brakes or drum brakes. The ultimate goal of all brakes is to stop your car from moving when you hit on the brakes. 

Locking up on the brakes creates an unsafe environment for the person driving the car and the people on the roads or in other vehicles. There are other safety mechanisms in your cars in case your brakes fail. 

All cars have an emergency handbrake that you can use to stop the car immediately if the primary brake stops working. The braking system also has an additional component known as the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).  

Cars use this ABS in case of emergencies to unlock the brakes if they are stuck or if they get locked. Locking up of brakes occurs when you are driving in reverse.

When a car is moving in reverse, the wheel is locked, and the shoes are out of their place. Due to this, the brake cylinders get enough room to expand uncontrollably. 

When you put your car in neutral or forward, the wheel shoes automatically return to their original place, unlocking the brakes.

You should completely avoid using your car if the brakes are locking up, as if this problem persists, you can lose the braking system entirely while driving. 


Brakes Lock Up When Car Is In Reverse

Possible Reasons For The Locking Up Of The Brakes


This is one of the major contributors due to which the brakes of your car might lock up while driving in reverse. 

The braking system can heat due to a lot of reasons such as the weather, loss of cooling fluid in the system, rash driving, and so on. If your car is old, then also your braking system can start to overheat quickly. 

Brake Fluid

Using the correct brake fluid is very important for the proper function of your braking system. If the braking fluid you use is not compatible with the braking system, there are high chances that your brakes will start to lock up, especially in reverse. 

Braking fluid and a decent coolant are also important because they prevent the braking system from heating. 


Your braking system can automatically start acting up and locking if any major system component is faulty—components such as brake pads, drum brake backing plates, broken calipers, and rotors. 

Your braking system can sustain damage if your car suffers from an accident. 

Worn out

There is a certain or fixed lifetime period of mechanical parts. Commonly the pistons and the cylinders are the parts that get worn out easily. Similarly, your braking system will also be worn out after some time. 

There can be a variety of reasons for this to happen, such as extra load, rash driving, and so on. 


Brakes Lock Up When Car Is In Reverse

Importance of Braking Fluids

Braking fluids are a very important part of a braking system as they protect the ABS, calipers, other valves, and stuff from wearing out. Brake fluids are special hydraulic fluids that have the primary function of maintaining a good braking system. 

Regular Maintenance

You should regularly check the level of braking fluids in your brakes. If the quantity of these fluids is less in the braking system, this will result in the locking up of the brakes. A good quality brake fluid protects the metal and other components. 

What Brake Fluid To Use?

You can’t just use any brake fluid in your car, and you have to consult the manufacturer or a mechanic. It is always better and safe to use the manufacturing standard rather than deciding what’s best for your car yourself. 

Like a lot of people, you will also ponder the question of why we need to change the brake fluid after some time. This is because brake fluid tends to absorb moisture. Due to this reason, this fluid starts harming the system rather than having a positive impact. 

Brakes are very important, especially when you are driving in reverse, as you have a limited field of vision. A lot of car drivers struggle to drive in reverse due to this reason. Selecting the right kind of brake fluid will help you to have a safer riding experience. 


Brakes Lock Up When Car Is In Reverse

What To Do When Your Brakes Lock Up

If the brakes of your lock are in reverse, then the most important thing you can do is not panic and try to remain calm. If you remain calm, then you can think of the best possible ways to tackle the situation. 

  • You should immediately switch on the hazard lights and try to find a corner on the road where you can stop the road and assess the situation. 
  • Pull over at a spot where you won’t cause any disturbance to other vehicles on the road. You can even honk the horn to indicate to the other vehicles that you have some issues with your vehicle.
  • You can use the emergency handbrake to stop your vehicle from moving. If you can’t stop the car immediately, you must drive it below 40 miles per hour to control the car without brakes. 
  • The next step should be that you can get assistance from any mechanic, service center, and so on. If you know how to fix brakes, you can also fix the braking system manually. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can bad brakes affect the reverse? 

If you hear a strange noise while reversing your car, this noise is likely due to some problem or fault in the braking system. 

In most cases, you hear a loud screeching sound that arises while you shift the gear from the front or neutral to the reverse. 

Another major problem in bad brakes is brake locking. Due to this problem, you will not be able to drive your car in reverse. In this condition, the brake pedal falls flat, and you are unable to press on it. 


Brakes Lock Up When Car Is In Reverse

What causes a rear brake caliper to lock up? 

The rear brake calipers can seize or lock themselves due to many reasons. You can experience a stiff brake pedal if the pads on the braking system have worn down. 

When the brake pads wear down, they produce less friction between the brake pads and the drums. Due to this limited friction, you feel that the brakes are stiff or locking. 

A seized caliper occurs primarily due to aging or rust. Due to these factors, the caliper stops releasing from its initial position. You can identify that your vehicle has a seized caliper if your vehicle starts pulling to one side when you press the brakes. 


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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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