How to Adjust Handbrake Cable

by Dan Ferrell

For the most part, the parking brakes on your vehicle will not require adjustment, as most parking brake systems come equipped with a self-adjusting mechanism. However, after years of service, a manual adjustment may be necessary. Most systems include a control cable or rod, an equalizer bar, application cables or rods, adjusting mechanism, and a pedal or lever.


Step 1

Start the engine and depress the brake pedal several times to fully position the brake shoes in the brake drum. Then turn off the engine.

Step 2

Jack up the rear of the vehicle using a floor jack until the tires clear the ground, then support the vehicle on two jack stands and chock the front wheels.

Push the parking brake three notches. Listen for the three clicks as you step on the parking brake pedal or pull the brake lever on the center console.

Pedal Type

Step 1

Locate the parking brake equalizer bar or yoke around the middle section of the underside of the vehicle. The equalizer yoke holds the two brake cables that connect to the rear tire brakes.

Step 2

Loosen the locknut on the equalizer yoke using a wrench. On some models, the equalizer bar does not have this locknut; instead, each brake cable is provided with a turnbuckle at each end (next to the equalizer bar).

Step 3

Turn the adjusting nut with a wrench or the turnbuckles with your hand or a pair of slip joint pliers to get rid of the excess slack on the brake cable.

Rotate both rear tires with your hands. You should feel the brake shoes slightly drag against the brake drum. If not, keep adjusting the nut or turnbuckles as described in the above step. Then tighten the locknut and go to the Parking Brake Check section.

Lever Type

Step 1

Remove the console trim that covers the parking brake lever. Consult your owner's manual for the proper procedure for your particular vehicle model.

Step 2

Tighten the adjusting nut or nuts at the base of the hand lever using a ratchet and deep socket to get rid of the excess slack on the brake cable.

Step 3

Rotate the rear tires with your hands. You should feel a very slight drag of the brake shoes against the brake drum. Tighten the adjusting nut or nuts a little at a time, if necessary, and keep checking the rear tires for a slight drag.

Reinstall the console trim over the parking brake lever.

Parking Brake Check

Step 1

Release the parking brake pedal or lever and apply the parking brakes. The pedal (or lever) should not travel too far before the parking brake is properly engaged. If it does, readjust the parking brake.

Step 2

Lower the vehicle.

Park your vehicle on a slope and apply the parking brakes. The parking brake pedal or lever should not travel too far to properly hold the vehicle in place.


  • Different vehicle models may differ in some detail in the adjustment of the parking brake system. If necessary, consult your car owner's manual or vehicle service manual. You can buy a service manual on most auto parts stores, or consult one for free at your local public library.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack
  • 2 jack stands
  • Chocks
  • Wrench
  • Slip joint pliers (if necessary)

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