Adjust Parking Brake After Changing Brakes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Maintaining the parking brake system of our vehicle is crucial for safety. It is especially important after changing the brakes. The parking brake, commonly referred to as the emergency brake, relies on the connection and proper tension between its components and the vehicle’s braking system.

After servicing the brakes, we may find that the parking brake needs adjustment to function effectively. This could be due to changes in tension or alignment caused by the brake service.

Hand reaches for parking brake lever, adjusts it after brake change. Car interior, tools nearby

We understand that the intricacies of the parking brake can be daunting. Nevertheless, ensuring it works effectively is non-negotiable for any vehicle owner.

A poorly adjusted parking brake can lead not only to a vehicle rolling when parked on a slope, but also to uneven brake pad wear or even total brake system failure. Therefore, after any brake service, checking and adjusting the parking brake is an essential step we shouldn’t overlook. This is to confirm our car remains secure when parked and to maintain the longevity of the braking system.

Essentials of Parking Brake System

When we talk about the essentials of a parking brake system, we’re discussing a critical safety feature that ensures our vehicle remains stationary when parked. We’ll explore the key components and their mechanisms, as well as the different types of parking brakes found in vehicles.

Components and Mechanism

The parking brake, also known as the emergency brake, engages a separate braking mechanism from the main brakes for the sole purpose of keeping the car stationary. At its core, the parking brake system primarily consists of the following parts:

  • Lever or Pedal: This is the component that the driver operates to engage the parking brake.
  • Cables: Steel cables connect the lever to the braking mechanism at the wheels.
  • Brake Drum or Disc: Depending on the type of parking brake, it might interact with the brake drum on drum brakes or the caliper on disc brakes.
  • Parking Brake Shoes or Pads: These create friction against the drum or disc to hold the vehicle in place.
  • Adjuster and Adjusting Nut: These are used for adjusting the tension in the cables and the distance between the shoes or pads and the drum or disc.

Mechanically, when the lever or pedal is pulled or pressed, it tightens the cables, which then either pushes the parking brake shoes against the brake drum or clamps the caliper down on the disc brake.

Gear: Manual systems may have a physical gear that locks the wheel in place, while electronic systems use actuators.

Types of Parking Brakes

Parking brake systems come in different forms, broadly categorized as:

  1. Manual Parking Brakes: These systems typically use a hand lever or foot pedal to engage the brake. They rely on the physical force applied by the driver to tighten the brake cable.
  2. Electronic Parking Brakes: This modern system uses electronic control units and actuators to engage the brake with the push of a button, removing the need for manual force.
Type of Parking Brake Engagement Method
Manual Parking Brakes Hand lever or foot pedal
Electronic Parking Brakes Button press

Each type has its own specific adjustment methods. Manual systems typically involve adjusting the cable tension via an adjuster or adjusting nut. Electronic systems usually require a diagnostic tool for adjustments.

Adjustment and Maintenance

In this section, we’ll guide you through the precise steps required to adjust your parking brake after changing your brakes and share essential maintenance tips to ensure longevity and functionality.

Step-by-Step Adjustment Guide

Adjusting Parking Brake Shoes
  • Lift the vehicle and secure it with jack stands.
  • Locate the adjustment mechanism near the parking brake lever or, for some models, through the wheel hub.
  • If necessary, withdraw the brake shoes to provide enough slack for easier adjustment.
  • Turn the adjuster until there is a slight drag on the brake drum.
  • Test the parking brake lever or pedal; it should not travel more than halfway up and should hold the car firmly in place.

Cable Adjustment

  • If the brake lever or pedal travels too far, tension the cable using the adjustment nut located near the lever or under the vehicle.
  • Ensure there’s enough tension for the parking brake to engage within four to six clicks.

Regular Maintenance Tips

Inspection and Maintenance Schedule

Regular inspection is crucial to identify wear and tear early. We recommend checking your parking brake system every six months or as advised by your vehicle manufacturer.

Key Maintenance Actions

  • Inspect the parking brake cables for signs of corrosion or damage.
  • Check the brake shoes for wear and replace them if the lining is thin.
  • Ensure that all components move freely and apply lubricant where necessary to prevent sticking or rust.
  • Confirm that the parking brake holds the vehicle effectively on a slope.

All maintenance activities should be logged to keep a record of the brake system’s health over time, ensuring safety and reliability of your vehicle’s parking brake function.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

When addressing parking brake problems after a brake job, it’s crucial to diagnose issues accurately and make precise adjustments. We’ll guide you through recognizing symptoms and resolving parking brake failures effectively.

Recognizing Symptoms of Malfunction

Symptoms of a malfunctioning parking brake:

  • Loose Brake Pedal or Hand Brake: When the parking brake lever or pedal has less resistance than usual or travels too far, it indicates a lack of tension in the system.
  • Inadequate Holding Force: If the vehicle fails to remain stationary on an incline or moves when the parking brake is engaged, this is a clear sign of malfunction.
  • Uneven Resistance: If applying the brake results in uneven dragging on the wheels, there could be an issue with the adjuster or clearance.

Resolving Parking Brake Failures

Action Purpose
Check and adjust brake shoes clearance. Ensures the correct gap between the brake shoes and the drum, preventing loose feel and lack of resistance.
Inspect and realign the backing plate and brake adjuster. Ensures even force distribution and optimal friction for the parking brake to engage properly.
Lubricate adjuster screw. Prevents seizing and ensures smooth operation of the adjuster mechanism.

Before starting any work, we ensure to use jack stands to safely elevate the rear wheels.

We remove the wheels to inspect the brake shoes, check for wear or damage, and assess the adjuster for correct clearance.

With the right tools (like a wrench, allen wrench, and pliers), we’ll tighten or loosen the adjuster as needed.

It’s crucial to act with precision to prevent additional drag or resistance that can wear out the brake system.

After adjustments, we always test the brake pedal and hand brake for improved efficacy; we expect a firmer feel and stronger hold.

If the parking brake still feels loose, we may need to examine the cables for stretch or corruption, and ensure all bolts and connections are secure.

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