heres signs you need to adjust and or replace your parking brake cable

2018-07-04 18:09:16

Have you ever had that gut-wrenching feeling of walking away from your car and seeing it roll forwards or backwards from the space where you parked it? Or hearing that crunch as it gently rolls into another vehicle or wall? That could be a sign that your parking brake needs some adjustment.

The parking brake, or as it’­s commonly referred to, the handbrake, is designed to hold your car stationary for longer periods of time, or when you’­re not in the vehicle. Often, people just leave their car in gear, which kind of does the same job, but is poor practice.

For the purpose of this article, we need to discount electronic parking brakes they work in a completely different way to the more traditional lever-action parking brakes.

The Action

A traditional handbrake works by applying the rear brakes through a separate cable and linkage, connected to the rear caliper or drum (if your car is that bit older). Effectively, all it’­s doing is applying the brakes, exactly as your foot would do, but through the lever with a mechanism for keeping them on.

In some cases, the handbrake cable can become worn or stretched, which means that it isn’­t applying the same amount of force to the rear pads or shoes, which is when you get to the point of your car rolling away the brakes just simply aren’­t on enough. Unlike the pads which get pushed onto the disc through a hydraulically operated piston, which has a great deal of movement, the handbrake is limited by the action or mechanism that it uses to apply the brake.

Whilst not so much of an issue with discs and pads, the older drum style brakes need adjustment to remain efficient, and as the shoes wear out, the wheel-cylinder responsible for operating the brakes can also only move so far so with the wear, and a slightly stretched cable, a handbrake just won’­t work.


The good news is that a worn handbrake cable is easily adjusted, providing you know where to look! Some manufacturers put an adjuster in the cabin the old Range Rover used an adjuster that was under the cubbybox for example, whereas others put it in a relatively accessible place underneath the rear of the car. If you need to locate yours, usually a quick online search will reveal all the details.

Most people in the trade will aim for about three clicks on the ratcheting mechanism of the handbrake too tight and you risk binding the brakes on when they’­re warm. Too lose ’– well, that’­s where you are already.

Usually, the handbrake adjuster is a plastic knob that’­s fitted to the exterior of the cable, where a metal shroud has been fitted with a threaded section turning the plastic knob will move the cable in the bracket, meaning that it will be more taught at the wheel end. This does allow for quite a lot of adjustment, but it’­s worth noting that it can’­t be adjusted endlessly sooner or later, you may need a new cable.

Fitting a new cable can be awkward. With cars and components so tightly packaged, sometimes gaining access to the whole cable is almost impossible; pulling it out is easy, putting a fresh one in can be terribly difficult. It’­s worth checking what sort of access you have before pulling the old one out, in the event of it being nigh on impossible to replace, you can always tie one end to the cable that you’­re removing, so as you pull the old one out, you’­re pulling the new one through with it.

The Fiddly Bits

Whilst you may feel like you’­ve achieved something with actually getting the new cable in place, often, attaching it to the lever or the caliper can be the most difficult part. Attaching it the caliper can take time you need to be able to operate the lever it’­s attached to opening it out to physically get the end of the cable on, but it’­s usually made easier by having some space ’– the same can’­t be said for attaching the end to the lever inside the cabin.

Again, a lot depends on the exact car with some cars, it’­s easier to attach the cable from underneath the car, providing you can actually access the bottom of the lever, while for others, you may need to remove all sorts of stuff like the seats, cubbybox, centre-console ’– this is really where product knowledge comes in, and of course, unlike the rest of the car, you can’­t see where the plastics are fixed, which means the risk of breakage or cracking is high.

For what it’­s worth, unless you really do know what you’­re doing, our advice would be to let a garage sort it if the plastics get cracked or broken, you can at least get them to replace them at no cost (or pain) to yourself.

Regular Maintenance

A Car is complex mixture of components, all built in a specific sequence to make it easier (read, cheaper) to make, gaining access to the components for servicing or replacement isn’­t necessarily high on the manufacturers list, so a great many jobs can seem impossible without the right tooling or equipment, and of course, the manufacturers would rather that you didn’­t they’­d much prefer it if you paid them £75+ per hour to do the job.

Regular servicing of your car is an essential part of ownership, if you’­re mechanically minded you can do most jobs yourself, but for the others find a good independent garage and get them to look after it. Manufacturers can no longer force you to use their services to keep a warranty intact.