How to Adjust the Parking Brake on Drum Brakes
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How to Adjust the Parking Brake on Drum Brakes

An easy to follow guide for adjusting the parking brake on vehicles with drum brakes.

The parking brake on a car or truck with drum brakes needs to be adjusted periodically. When applied, the parking brake lever pushes the drum brake's shoes against the inside of the drum. A drum brake's self-adjustment lever only changes the shoes location relative to the drum itself. A parking brake that is out of adjustment will not force the shoes against the drum hard enough to hold the car or truck still when parked on a hill.

Test the Parking Brake

Park on a hill with the front of the car or truck facing downhill. Point the wheels straight ahead. Step on the brake peddle. Apply the parking brake fully. Set the transmission into neutral. Release the foot brake. The vehicle should not roll at all. If the automobile does roll, the parking brake is to loose and must be adjusted. Step on the brake peddle and release the parking brake lever. Allow the car or truck to roll downhill. If the rear brakes drag, the parking brake is to tight and needs to be loosened.

Adjust the Parking Brake

1) Park the car or truck on a solid, level surface. Place blocks in front of and behind of both front tires. Set the transmission in neutral. Verify the vehicle will not roll.

2) Raise the rear wheels and support the automobile on jack stands. Never trust a tire jack.

3) Set the parking brake three clicks with either the foot pedal or the hand level, depending on the model.

4) Locate the parking break equalizing bracket. Follow the parking brake cable from the front of the vehicle to the long, slotted bracket. A cable leading to both drum brakes connects to the equalizer. Usually the equalizer is on the driver's side of the frame, about 3 feet in front of the rear wheels.

5) Apply multi-purpose grease to the parking brake equalizer's threads. Work the grease into the threads. The cable coming from the brake lever has a threaded rod on the end of it. The equalizer's adjustment nut spins onto the threads.

6) Grip the end of the threaded rod opposite the equalizer with either an open-ended wrench or locking pliers. Do not allow the threaded rod to spin while adjusting the parking brake cable's tension.

7) Turn the adjustment nut with an open-ended nut until the driver's side rear wheel can be rotated backwards with two hands, but will not roll frontward.

8) Release the parking brake lever. Rotate both back wheels. The wheels should spin freely in both directions. If not, loosen the equalizer's adjustment nut slightly.

Lower the vehicle and give it a test drive at slow speed. Park on a hill and test the brake. If the equalizer has been adjusted correctly but the car or truck still rolls on a hill, then inspect the drum brake's shoes for contamination, cracks or wear. Driving with the parking break applied will overheat the shoes and cause premature failure.

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Comments (2)

This will surely prove handy when I have problems with my parking brake. A truly helpful article.

The parking brake adjustment on many newer cars is right next to the brake itself. Later Hyundais have the same mechanism but in the cabin, and some newer Mazdas have a nut you adjust instead.