How to Repair an Emergency Brake on a Disc Brake

The parking brake is an important component of the vehicle even though many people don’t utilize them. The parking brake, or hand brake, can prevent the car from rolling while in “Park,” and can be used as an emergency brake in case the regular brake malfunctions. In vehicles that have four-wheel disc brakes, the brake pads sit pressed up against the rotor near the caliper pistons. If the emergency brake fails in a vehicle with disc brakes, the vehicle owner may need to repair it themselves. Professional repair costs can be as much as $350, so home repair may be needed.


Things You’ll Need:

  • Jack
  • Jack stand
  • Wheel blocks
  • Open-end wrenches
  • Slotted screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Slide hammer with drum attachment
  • Vice grips
  • New emergency brake cables
  1. 1

    Loosen the boot from the floor covering the bottom of the emergency brake handle with a slotted screwdriver. Remove the boot by pulling up and off the handle. Unzip the leather boot, pulling the boot off the leather. Pull out the two cables that run along with the emergency brake handle carefully (they are connected to the underneath portion of the vehicle; each cable is connected to one of the rear tires and the slack cable is the cable that requires replacement).

  2. 2

    Loosen the lug nuts on the tire that’s attached to the broken cable with a lug wrench. Raise the car using a jack and transfer the weight of the car on the jack to a jack stand. Place wheel blocks around the opposite wheel. Remove the lug nuts, and remove the tire to gain access to the wheel drum.

  3. 3

    Remove the wheel drum. Pound the wheel drum in a clockwise motion with a hammer if the wheel drum is seized, and if that doesn’t work, use a slide hammer with a wheel drum attachment to pull the wheel drum starting on the left side, moving to the rise on and so on until the wheel drum is removed. Pull the emergency brake cable connected to the drum from behind the wheel to check to see if anything is loose.

  4. 4

    Remove the broken cable line carefully. Loosen the tension nut that holds the cable to the emergency brake handle using a wrench. Pull the cable out from the nut. Loosen the anchor nut on the equalizer bar, and remove the other end of the cable from this position. Install the anchor ends at the equalizer.

  5. 5

    Replace the broken cable with the new one. Pass the cable through the tension nut, holding it with a pair of vise grips, and tighten the nut into place. The tension should be firm to the touch. Check to make sure that the cable cannot slide back and forth when removing the handle.

  6. 6

    Loosen the nut behind the drum brake where the emergency brake handle enters, which will allow enough slack. Remove the hook wire from the emergency brake from the front, and then pull the entire cable out the back. Slide in the new cable through the spring and the nut in the back, pulling it through the front and hooking it onto the emergency brake pad. Tighten down the tension nut until tension is gained, keeping the wire in place.

  7. 7

    Move to the middle of the vehicle and find an open-threaded nut where the cables thread in. Remove the old cable, and thread in the new cable. Put the brake drum back on.

  8. 8

    Pull the emergency brake handle inside the vehicle. Follow the path of the cable all the way to the back of the rear where everything was just replaced, and check for tension. If the emergency brake pad does not have enough tension to hold the drum on, tighten the nut in the middle of the vehicle (on the underside) with the emergency brake handle in the down position and test again. Repeat processes until the brake drum does not slide off easily. Reinstall the wheel and lug nut.

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