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Engaging your parking brake ensures that your car doesn’t roll when you park on a hill. This is important in a wide variety of situations, whether you’re parking at home and your driveway is angled, or you’re backing down a boat ramp to unload in the lake. If your parking brake won’t engage, then you’re relying solely on the transmission’s park setting to hold the vehicle in place, which is never a good thing. It could slip, and it could also cause damage to the transmission.
Most parking brakes are relatively simple affairs – really nothing more than a cable that attaches to the handle that sits between your front seats (or the parking brake pedal under the dash in some cars). Pulling the handle pulls the cable, which engages the parking brake assembly and pushes a pair of brake shoes into contact with the inside of the drum.
However, despite that simplicity, there are several things that could go wrong with your parking brake. The most common issue is simply that you need to adjust your brake shoes. However, there could be a problem with the cable (corrosion or wear, for instance), or there could be a problem with the handle itself, although this is rare.
Need to Adjust Brake Shoes: The single most common reason your parking brake won’t engage is a need to adjust the brake shoes. This requires removing the rear wheels, removing the drum, and then adjusting the wheel to spread the shoes apart. Both sides should be adjusted.
Cable Is Detached: Another potential reason here is that the cable may have come loose from one or both sides. The cable must attach to both rear brakes for your parking brake to work (if it attaches to just one side, the brake will engage but feel loose, and the car will roll on a hill).
Cable Is Loose at the Handle: A much less common problem is that the nut where the cable attaches under the handle is loose. If this happens, there will be slack in the cable, and pulling the handle will not engage the parking brake. This is most common after inexpert parking brake repairs.
Rusted Bell Crank: The bell crank is really nothing more than a lever that sits near the front of the parking brake assembly. These are prone to rusting, particularly if you don’t use your parking brake very often. If this is the case, your parking brake will not engage.
One of our experienced mobile mechanics will come to your home or office and inspect the entire parking brake system, from the handle to the bell crank, the cabling and the attachment points at the rear. The mechanic will also provide you with a full report that details the scope and cost of any necessary parts and repairs.
The mechanic will inspect all aspects of your parking brake, beginning with the handle or pedal in the cabin. The mechanic will also inspect the cables, the shoe condition and adjustment and other aspects of your parking brake system. It may be necessary to remove one or both rear wheels, as well as the brake drums (if your car has drum brakes). If your car has disc brakes, the caliper and rotor may need to be removed to inspect the parking brake shoes, which are located inside the built-in drum on the rotor itself.
If your parking brake will not engage, it will not prevent you from driving, but it does make parking on an incline risky. It’s possible that the transmission will slip out of park, and the vehicle will roll down the slope. One of our mechanics can fully assess your parking brake and advise you on what is needed to repair it.