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How Do I Know I Need to Adjust the Drum Brakes?
If your vehicle has drum brakes and you’re driving down the road, you may feel the brake pedal soften over time when pressed. Sometimes that’s from a malfunctioning self-adjuster. If the self-adjuster is having difficulty functioning, the rear drum brakes will need to be cleaned and re-adjusted. Giving the rear drum brakes an adjustment will help improve and make for safer braking.
How to Adjust the Parking Brake Cable
After setting up the shoes, it is time to check cables. If you notice your handbrake doesn’t hold as well as it used to, or you hear too many clicks while pulling it up, it might be ready for a bit of adjusting. We will focus on the models that have a lever, but even if your vehicle has a different style brake, the process is pretty much the same. Perhaps some parts will be positioned differently, but all in all, it is very similar, unless the adjuster is located underneath the car. So find your owner’s manual, a screwdriver, pry tool, socket, and ratchet set, and let’s get started.
At this juncture, you’ve seen that brake drums last long. However, with time they can start malfunctioning. So, if you want a safe drive, you need to ensure your brakes and other car systems are working properly. And that’s why we’ve provided a step-by-step guide on how to adjust drum brakes.
Part 4 of 4: Adjusting the parking brake cables
Step 1: Install the rear wheels. Mount the rear wheels, then install and tighten the lug nuts until snug.
Do not torque the lug nuts while the vehicle is still lifted.
Step 2: Turn the cable adjuster nut clockwise. Go back to your brake cable adjuster nut that you loosened earlier.
Turning the nut on the cable adjuster clockwise will shorten the cable assembly, making it taut. Do this in a few increments at a time, as you don’t want to tighten the cable so much that it makes the shoes drag against the drum.
You only want the shoes to engage when the parking brake lever is engaged.
Step 3: Engage the brake lever. Pull or step on the parking brake lever to engage the brake shoes.
The lever should stop firmly about halfway through its travel.
If the lever goes all the way to the floor, or pulls up really high in the case of a hand-actuated lever, you should turn the cable adjuster nut more.
Step 4: Check for correct parking brake adjustment. Attempt to turn the rear wheels, if you have a rear wheel drive vehicle.
You should not be able to turn them at all. Remember, the parking brake needs to keep your heavy car from rolling. If you can turn the wheels, then you will need to tighten the cables more – but you don’t want to tighten them so much that the shoes will drag heavily in the drums.
Step 5: Release the parking brake lever. There shouldn’t be any extra drag on the rear wheels beyond the rubbing from the brake shoe adjustment. If there is an increased drag, you will need to back off the cable adjuster until the only drag you feel is created during the shoe adjustment.
Step 6: Lower the vehicle and go for a test drive. Place the floor jack back under the lifting point and raise the car up enough to remove the jack stands. Carefully lower the car back to the ground.
Make sure to torque the lug nuts on any wheels previously removed to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Warning: Until you are certain that you have correctly adjusted your parking brake shoes, test drive your vehicle in a safe area such as a deserted parking lot.
It can be very easy to become confused when adjusting your drum brake shoes and the parking brake cables. There are many different brake system designs on the road today. For this reason, it is highly advised that you identify each component of your specific system before you begin. In every case, the shoes should be adjusted first, followed by the parking brake cables.
The main indicators of a properly adjusted drum and parking brake system are the brake pedal and the parking brake lever. If the brake pedal goes further towards the floor than usual, this means the system components have to travel too far before the shoes are completely contacting the inside of the drum. Centering of the brake shoes is paramount to a successful brake shoe adjustment.
The same standard should be applied to the parking brake lever. If it travels to the end of its range, the shoes or the cables are not adjusted correctly, and each step should be revisited to find where extra play in the system exists. In both cases, the goal is for the shoes and or cables to travel as little distance as possible before they begin to slow or lock the wheels.
If you have any difficulty during the process of adjusting your parking brake cable, adjusting your parking brake shoes, or if you find that your parking brake won’t function correctly after making adjustments yourself, don’t hesitate to contact a certified mechanic. One of our mobile mechanics here at YourMechanic will be happy to come out to your home or place of business to get your parking brake working again.
How to Know When the Right Time for Adjusting the Handbrake Is
There is a variety of handbrake setups, which is why your manufacturers’ instructions should be your main guide. However, a general rule says that this depends on how often you use it. You should perform an emergency brake adjustment test once a year, or once every two years. Find a sloping road or a hill and test your handbrake to see if it stops your car.
If you feel that the handbrake is getting a bit loose, that is the sign that the cables need to be readjusted. This is something you should pay special attention to if you’re looking at some popular import cars and buying a used car, especially if you’re buying a car from a dealer who bought from an auction. Besides these yearly readjustments, it is recommended to change it after 75,000 miles.
Keep in mind that improper adjusting can lead to premature shoe failure and damage the drum and rotor. So if you have never done a repair like this, make sure you’re familiar with what you need to do. Otherwise, it is better to leave the e-brake adjustments to an experienced mechanic.
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