Adjusting Emergency Brakes
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated May 9, 2013)
Unlike regular brakes, emergency brakes are purely mechanical, and as such this means that they not only work differently, but also need to be maintained in a different manner. One of the easiest ways to maintain the emergency brake is to periodically adjust it. Considering this difference, adjusting emergency brakes is a process that is not the same as what you may do when working with regular disc or drum brakes.
- Test your brakes. Before you actually begin adjusting emergency brakes, you need to test them to see if they really do need adjusting. The easiest way to do this is by finding a slight hill, and then engaging the brake. You will easily be able to tell when the brake actually begins to engage. When you press on, or pull on, the brake you should begin to feel it engage after moving 1/3 of the way. Anything more than that means that you will need to do some adjusting.
- Raise the car. In the event that you do need to adjust your brakes, you will need to raise the car to access the brake line. Ideally, you will be able to do this with the help of a lift, but if you can't then you will want to use some jack stands. Make sure that the car is nice and stable when you have it lifted.
- Locate the brake. Crawl under the car, and locate the emergency brake adjustment. This brake line is usually located underneath the car, in roughly the same area that the brake is located at inside the vehicle. Find the brake line that is attached, and locate the screw or bolt that is located nearby to help tighten the line.
- Make your adjustment. Using either a wrench or screwdriver, tighten the brake line so that it will engage sooner than it had in the past. You should be able to visibly identify when the brake line has been tightened.
- Lower and test. Lower the car off of the lift or jack stands. Repeat the test outlined in step one to see if the emergency brake engages sooner than it did.
- Repeat as necessary. If the brake still isn't where you would like it, then repeat steps one through five until you have it adjusted to your liking.
Now that you have your emergency brakes properly adjusted, you can begin cleaning up. Typically you should only need to test your emergency brake once or twice a year to ensure that it is working properly. If you feel that the brake adjustments need to be made more often, and then feel free to do so.