Unlike a regular pedal brake, a parking brake (also known as a hand brake) operates by running from a hand-operated lever, usually located in between the driver seat and the passenger seat, through a parking brake cable down to a brake mechanism on the wheels. While the pedal brake is used to slow you car down or stop it at a red light, the purpose of the parking brake, as its name might suggest, is to make sure your car doesn’t budge while it’s parked. It’s a key part of vehicular safety, so as soon as you notice that the brake isn’t working exactly as it should, you need to be proactive about troubleshooting any potential problems and fix them immediately. The first place you should look to is the cable. Fortunately, there are many problems that are easy to identify and fix yourself before you take the step of paying big bucks to go to a mechanic, so keep reading this handy guide to learn how to troubleshoot your parking brake cable.
Problem 1: The Parking Brake Doesn’t Brake
The most obvious problem you can have with your parking brake is, very simply, that it just won’t brake: when you operate the hand lever, you may notice that the car continues to slip and slide. The first and simplest step to take is to check out the cable. Trace the cable from the lever to the brake mechanism under the car, and check it for any bumps, twists, or kinks that could be interfering with its ability to brake. The easiest problem is to fix is if the cable has simply come out of alignment, which can happen over time if you drive over some bumpy potholes or rough terrain. If this is the case, then simply put the cable back into alignment. If the cable has actually been cut, broken or otherwise seriously damaged, on the other hand, then you’ll need to replace it as soon as possible.
Other things that you can check out as being the cause of brake problems including the parking brakeshoes and the drum. If dirt or oil have gotten into the brakeshoes or drum, this could be preventing the parking brake from functioning correctly.
Problem 2: A Dragging Parking Brake
Another common problem people have with their parking brakes is that they only work half-way—the brake might impede the wheels, but it won’t stop them completely, leading to a halting, dragging movement. Again, this could be caused by cable misalignment, or the cable could be binding or bunching up. Simply adjust the brake cable manually, but if this is a recurring problem, then it may need to be replaced. Also, make sure that the spring that operates the brake lever isn’t damaged and works correctly.
These are the only problems with your parking brake that you should address on your own. Because of the safety issues involved, if after following the troubleshooting steps above you are still having problems with you brake, then you should consult a professional.