How to resolve handbrake problems

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The handbrake is an important part of a vehicle as it secures it when you have parked. Sometimes because of normal wear and tear, you can have problems with it and it is recommended that you get it fixed as soon as possible.

handbrake repair

How is handbrake adjustment done

If you want to adjust the handbrake cable, you will need to disconnect the handbrake cable, unbolt the calliper from its guide pins and firmly force the piston back to remove any play (put slight hand pressure on the calliper lever and you'll feel the play gradually disappear - stop at this point to avoid possible damage to the adjuster mechanism). Then wind the piston out so that the gap is just adequately wide enough to fit over the pads and disc. Refit the calliper and then press the brake pedal several times to let the auto adjuster remove any fine play still remaining. Finally reconnect the handbrake cable ensuring the calliper lever returns fully home when the handbrake lever is off.

Why is my parking brake not working properly

It might be because the calliper has not been adjusted on installation or when pads have been replaced. The auto adjusting mechanism is only designed to gradually remove play as the pads wear down, not the major initial adjustment required.

There are a number of reasons for handbrake problems but here are some common signs and symptoms of a bad handbrake:

  • Handbrake goes all the way up when you pull the handle thus showing signs of excessive wear
  • Handbrake does not secure car when applied – car rolls downhill when parked on a slope
  • Handbrake is stuck and cannot be released
  • Handbrake seems very tight or too loose

What to do if your handbrake light stays on

When you notice on the dashboard that the parking brake warning light stays on even after you have released the handbrake, there may be a problem with the handbrake itself or the fuse that communicates between the handbrake and the electrical system in your car. However it can mean there’s a more urgent problem which needs addressing, so you have to be careful. One reason for a handbrake warning light appearing is low brake fluid. If it's been a long time since you checked your brake fluid, then you will need to do that and add more if you find out your car is running low on the fluid.

How long does it take to fit or fix a handbrake cable

You have two handbrake cables in your car operating on the two back wheels. It should take between 30 minutes to an hour to do. The tricky part is removing the cable from the restraints/clamps, but it is easier to put it back afterwards.

If you go to a mechanic/garage, they can probably charge you 2 hours labour depending on the type of car you've got as some cars require bizarre amounts of dismantling to get to the actuator levers in the rear brakes themselves, which can bump up the handbrake repair price or make it tricky to DIY.

How much does a handbrake cable cost

The cost of the handbrake cable is usually in the range of £30 but if you go for an original manufacturer part, it can be very expensive. Just remember that it's only a cable and you could do with any brand.

gices Level 6
I'm a Software Developer and the co-founder of Clever Dodo. Born in Mauritius and now living in the UK, I usually blog about fitness, music, spirituality and driving topics to pass on my knowledge.

11 Replies

roycraven Level 1

i am having problems applying enough pressure to the handbrake to hold it on hills because of problems with hands

gices Level 6

I did not quite get your question. Is there a problem with your handbrake as in it needs tightening or do you have problems with your hands?

Peaches Level 3

I would suggest a visit to a mechanic or car repair shop, if the handbrake is faulty you will need to pay for a new one. If you are still having problems then it may be with your hands so you will need to seek help from your doctor. Remember if it is health related you will need to inform the DVLA.

roycraven Level 1

hands i can not apply enough pressure to pull it up far enough

gices Level 6

The handbrake might be too tight. If it's difficult to pull it up before it engages, then this is a sign that it needs loosening.

Otherwise it may need replacing probably because it's started to wear out and cannot cope with the pressure when it's on a hill. When was the last time you change your parking brake?

bridgetkearley Level 1

Hi i have a mazda 323 2000 reg i recently pulled the handbrake up to hard and now the handbrake light and abs lights wont go out. Im told there is a switch and i have probably gone past this and need to get it back under it please how is this possible? TIA

bri16625 Level 1


Alisha_2 Level 1

How do I fix it? I have the cables and I've tried to put them on but isn't working.

gices Level 6

It's difficult to tell without knowing what car we're talking about here. Some vehicles require a lot of dismantling before you can remove the cables.

Jamie_1 Level 1

I have got a broken handbrake cable on my 5 door corsa, how much will it cost for labour?

gices Level 6

Replacing the handbrake should take about an hour and the labour costs will be in the region of £30 plus the cost of the new handbrake cable. However labour costs vary from one garage to another.

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