Take Care of Your Parking Brake With These Helpful Tips

Posted on: 24 August 2015


Your vehicle's parking brake plays an integral role in keeping your vehicle stationary, whether you're parked on an incline or on a relatively flat street. Keeping this mechanism in great shape is important for both safety and practicality issues. However, you're probably not aware of what you should do to keep it in good shape.

The following offers a few tips you can use to maintain your parking brake and ensure it works properly when you need it.

Dealing with a Stuck Parking Brake

If you don't use your parking brake now and again, there's a good chance that it could become frozen in place. This usually happens when the parking brake isn't used regularly, leading to the following scenarios:

  • There's not enough lubricant to actuate the parking brake, which could make it difficult or even impossible to use.
  • Parking brake components are literally frozen to one another due to rust and corrosion buildup.
  • The cables have somehow binded up along their travel.

If you're dealing with a frozen parking brake, you'll want to make sure that none of its mechanisms have frozen up due to surface rust. If you do see any rust, it's usually a good idea to remove the rust using fine sandpaper. This can be followed up by cleaning and lubricating the parking brake mechanism.

If the cable binds up on the pulleys or caliper, it can be straightened out as long as there's no damage to the cable itself. A damaged cable must be replaced as soon as possible to prevent any parking brake-related mishaps from occurring.

Replacing Broken Parking Brake Cables

It's not uncommon for a parking brake cable to fail without warning. These cables can succumb to rust and corrosion, as well as fraying due to constant physical contact against another surface or even an effort at removing cable slack gone wrong. Regardless, you'll want to know how you can replace your parking brake cable if and when it decides to give up the ghost. Here are some tips to consider as you replace your parking brake cable:

  • On vehicles equipped with rear drum brakes, you'll have to remove the wheel along with the drum to reach the brake lever end of the parking brake cable. Once the cable has been disconnected here, you can trace the rest of the cable back to the parking brake handle.
  • Some vehicles use a dual-cable setup, where the second cable connects to the first via a yoke and/or pulley. The secondary cable may need to be adjusted along with the primary cable after replacement.
  • For the best performance and safety, you'll want to choose parking brake cables that meet or exceed the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standards for your vehicle.

Don't Forget About Those Occasional Minor Adjustments

Even if your parking brake doesn't need any major work, it can still benefit from minor adjustments from time to time. For instance, the parking brake cable can stretch with age and use, which could prevent the parking brake from holding your vehicle in place properly. You'll need to take as much slack out of the cables as possible through careful adjustment of the cables.

What About Electric Parking Brakes?

On many new vehicles, you'll notice that the traditional parking brake lever or pedal has been replaced with a small electronic button located near or on the center console. An electric parking brake (EPB) does away with the typical cables in favor of an electronic mechanism that applies the parking brake at the push of a button. Not only do electronic parking brake systems offer less physical clutter, they're also designed to work in concert with anti-lock braking systems to produce safe, controlled emergency stops.

So, how do you go about maintaining an EPB? That's a job that should be left up to a brake service mechanic with the tools and training needed to tackle automotive electronics issues. A typical EPB system usually requires access to specialized computer software for adjustment and troubleshooting tasks.