How to Adjust an Emergency Brake

by Contributor

The emergency brake is considered unnecessary up until the point when your hydraulic brakes fail or your car begins to roll down a steep hill. An emergency brake is strictly mechanical, as opposed to the disc or drum brakes found in the wheel wells, which are hydraulic. The mechanical nature of the emergency brake also means that, unlike drum or disc brakes, it requires the occasional adjustment.

Test the Emergency Brake

Step 1

Find a hill or sloping road and then begin to engage the emergency brake.

Step 2

Determine when the emergency brake begins to engage. On a standard car, the emergency brake should begin to engage when it has been pressed one-third of the way. By the time it has been pressed two-thirds of the way, it should be fully engaged and stopping the car.

Step 3

Make sure the emergency brake is fully engaged by the time it has been fully pressed. If the brake is not fully engaged before it has been fully pressed, it must be adjusted.

Step 4

Consult your owner's manual to determine if the emergency brake is supposed to begin and end its engagement cycle at points other than one-third and two-thirds of the way down.

Repeat this test once a year to ensure maximum effectiveness of the brakes.

Adjust the Emergency Brakes

Step 1

Raise the car on a car lift. While using a car jack may be tempting, do not use it. A car jack is much too unstable to properly support a car for long and should at least be reinforced with safety stands.

Step 2

Locate the emergency brake adjustment. It will be found underneath the car, roughly in the area where the emergency brake pedal is located in the interior of the car.

Step 3

Adjust the emergency brake using either a screwdriver or a wrench, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. The brake line will be visible and in most cases will need to be tightened. This can be accomplished by turning the emergency brake adjustment so the line becomes tighter.

Step 4

Test the emergency brake again by parking on a sloping road and engaging the emergency brake, again noting at what point it engages when it has been pressed and at what point it is fully engaged.

Repeat the adjustment process until the emergency brake will engage properly. Take care not to adjust the emergency brake too tight, or it will always be engaged, which will damage your hydraulic brakes as well as the emergency brake.


  • Emergency brakes become more important as the car ages. The transmissions on older cars are more likely to slip, causing the vehicle to roll freely, becoming a massive safety risk to drivers and pedestrians alike. Engage the emergency brake on your car whenever you park it. Better safe than sorry.

Items you will need

  • Ratchet
  • Wrench set
  • Screwdrivers

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