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Handbrake Keeps Adjusting

5540 Views 19 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  beachedwhale42
Call it a handbrake, parking brake, emergency brake....whatever. It's that thing that I always pull when I park because I don't want my car to roll away. Anyways, I adjusted the handbrake on my car back in November, and got it back to about 6-8 clicks to hold the car. It was very nice. I think it may have gotten looser since then, but it was still around 8-10 clicks, and it held the car fine on a hill, so I wasn't worried.

Yesterday, when I released the handbrake, I heard a "thud", almost as if the handbrake had been released more than I had tightened it. When I got home, it took about 5 clicks before it was tight. Although it was nice, it was shorter than I was expecting, so I figured it was odd. When I released it this morning, I heard the same sound, and when I got to work, it was taking about 15 clicks to tighten it. It's almost back to where it was before I adjusted it myself a few months ago, and it can't travel much more without stretching the boot.

I should note that it's been a pretty cold winter for us. However, even though I drove on ice into work yesterday, it ended up getting into the 50s, and this morning was 60 degrees F. Almost shorts weather lol.

Obviously, I can tighten the nut on the handle to tighten the cable like I did previously, and the problem of a not-tight-enough handbrake will go away, but that only treats the symptom. Is there something else going on with the brake that I don't know about? Is this temperature related, or just the cable wearing out? There are just over 130k miles on the car, and I don't believe the cable has ever been replaced.
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Well, the temperature dropped back below freezing, and it's still loose. Maybe the warming up "reset" things, if you will? Apparently my wife's 2000 Cavalier did the same thing today too. Based on my reading so far, I'm led to believe that this is temperature related, but I'm still not sure.

For the record, it's okay if no one feelings will not be hurt lol. I will still post my findings here as a debugging log for anyone who stumbles on to this thread.
have you ever adjusted the star wheels in the back? Subaru does not have automatic adjusting e-brake drum set-up.

Adjusting Parking Brake Star Wheel - Ultimate Subaru Message Board

if you put the entire rear up on jack stands, good time to inspect disc brakes, suspension and maybe change rear diff fluid.
I have not adjusted the stars in the back. I tried, but I couldn't pull the rubber plugs off (it was also pretty freaking cold). I'll see what I can do tonight.....apparently the handbrake won't really hold the car on a mostly flat surface, even when pulled all the way. Sadly, I do not have any jack stands, so I will be limited :-(

Thanks for the suggestions!
You don't need jack stands.

First, deepening on how much you adjusted the cable, I would back that adjustment nut back to where you found it.

Then, (brake off of course, but car in gear) crawl under the car and use your flat head screw driver to pry off the rubber plugs. Rotate the star up (for both sides) until it doesn't turn easily anymore. That means the pads are now contacting the drum. After they contact, back the star adjustment off (rotate down) 4 or 5 "clicks/points/whatever-you-want-to-call-it".

Once you do this, then go back to the cable adjustment and adjust it so a "45lb" pull moves the lever 5 or 6 clicks.

Check to make sure the car rolls freely when in neutral and brake off. Push the plugs back into the backing plate, and you're done!
I'll try again and see if I can get the plugs off this time. I know it's preferred to adjust the brakes at the rear, but is it actually bad to adjust the nut on the lever? If I can't get the plugs off, I'm going to have to do that again, especially since I won't have any time to deal with this again until March (plus I have three days of snow on the forecast for next week, and I usually have to park in the back of the parking lot at work, which is on a hill).
probably the lever should only be adjusted once in the life of the car - after the cable has stretched. I have never adjusted ours. It MAY have been adjusted once by the dealer but I don't recall.

What I did, I pulled the lever up to the first click, adjusted the stars in the rear up until they wouldn't move, then moved it one 'increment' down. Did that to both sides. Couldn't detect any dragging when the lever was released. Screwdriver should work OK, medium needlenose pliers worked for me. The plugs 'hook' in at each end. you'll see.
Should be a 15 min job. No joke. The hardest part is removing the parking lever boot.
Haha.....last time I spent 20 minutes trying to get the rubber boots off the rear, and failed. The boot around the handbrake was wicked easy. Sounds like a fun time is in store for tonight.
So, I haven't gotten to look at things yet, but I found something interesting when I got home. My driveway has enough of an incline to it that, when the clutch pedal is in, the car will roll backwards into the street. When I pulled into the driveway tonight, I depressed the clutch, without using the brake pedal, but the car stopped rolling back after a few inches. I successfully repeated this about five times before pulling into the garage. It felt like the brake was still engaged (felt like just the right side though). Could it be that the brake is still engaged, thus pulling the lever doesn't engage the brake (at least, more than it already is)?
You will notice your wheels get very hot if the brake is dragging while driving. It doesn't take long before your wheels are smoking.

If you touch the drum after a drive and it isn't hotter than the front, your parking brake isn't dragging. Careful, because the rotors can be hot after a good stop.
It wasn't hot, and there was no smoke. I has a confuse.
you did say you heard a noise so, it's possible something is broken inside the parking brake drum hanging up under certain circumstances or ????

might be another reason to get the rear up in the air to check out turning the wheels forward and backward. probably best to go ahead and pull the rotors and inspect the drum brakes but, you may be able to do some detective work first to see which side makes odd noises or won't adjust or hangs up or w'ever.
So, I felt like you were right, that I needed to get it up to check things. I don't have the equipment to do it, so I took it in to the shop. Turns out that the cable to the right emergency brake took a crap, which kept the shoe engaged, which apparently did heat it up enough to kill the shoe and a few other things. My wallet is extremely unhappy, but I guess it could have been worse. I wouldn't want that thing to fail and hit another car in a parking lot :-(
ouch - too bad it was damaged so extensively.

should be worry-free for a long time after the rebuild. better be bulletproof after $1000. At least they gave me a free synthetic oil change? Yeah...I'll take solace in that.
I'll be the first to say it. Really? $1000? What did they replace?

I could see a pair of park shoes, the cable, maybe the spring kit and a rotor.
I'll pull the list for you, but I remember shoes, rotor, wheel bearing, and a bunch of other things, plus labor. They couldn't get the cables yet, so that was not in the price. And it was (only) $900 :-(
Here's what was on the bill, and how it was listed:
Rear Rotor: $124.99
Rear Hardware: $24.38
Rear Brake Install: $119.99
Brake Fluid Exchange: $69.99
Rear Wheel Bearing: $147.39
Rear E-Brake Shoes: $138.49
Brake Labor: $198.00
Driveline Labor: $154.00
Rear Pads (they were low, so I had them do this while they were in there): $78.70

Total: $888.62. I know the numbers above add up to much more, but they cut some money off, and threw in the free synthetic oil change. The list above was each individual thing, but the total was how much my wallet coughed up. Not included in this bill are the cables with labor (that'll be this weekend when they get the parts in). I'm sure it could be cheaper if I bought the parts myself (plus I wouldn't have to pay labor), but I know when things are out of my league, and this totally is. I also have zero time to deal with this until March, and I'll be doing a lot of driving this month, so it needed to be done :-(

Edit: The cost for the cables is about $83 each, plus labor, for a total of $300.
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