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 Ã«crunchÃ 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 itÃs commonly referred to, the handbrake, is designed to hold your car
stationary for longer periods of time, or when youÃre 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 Ã± they work in a
completely different way to the more traditional lever-action parking brakes.
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 itÃs doing is applying
the brakes, exactly as your foot would do, but through the lever with a mechanism for keeping them
In some cases, the handbrake cable can become worn or stretched, which means that it isnÃt
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 Ã± the brakes just simply arenÃt 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 Ã± so with the wear, and a slightly stretched cable, a handbrake just wonÃt
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 Ã± 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 Ã± too tight and you risk binding the brakes on when theyÃre warm. Too lose Ã– well, thatÃs
where you are already.
Usually, the handbrake adjuster is a plastic knob thatÃs fitted to the exterior of the cable, where a
metal shroud has been fitted with a threaded section Ã± 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 itÃs worth noting that it canÃt be adjusted endlessly Ã± sooner or later, you may need a
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. ItÃs 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 youÃre
removing, so as you pull the old one out, youÃre pulling the new one through with it.
Whilst you may feel like youÃve 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 Ã± you need to be able to operate the lever itÃs attached to Ã± opening it out to physically get
the end of the cable on, but itÃs usually made easier by having some space Ã– the same canÃt be said for
attaching the end to the lever inside the cabin.
Again, a lot depends on the exact car Ã± with some cars, itÃs 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 Ã– this is really where product
knowledge comes in, and of course, unlike the rest of the car, you canÃt see where the plastics are fixed,
which means the risk of breakage or cracking is high.
For what itÃs worth, unless you really do know what youÃre doing, our advice would be to let a
garage sort it Ã± if the plastics get cracked or broken, you can at least get them to replace them at no cost
(or pain) to yourself.
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 isnÃt 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 didnÃt Ã± theyÃd 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 youÃre mechanically minded you can
do most jobs yourself, but for the others Ã± 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.