Handbrakes are a key part of the vehicle braking system

Stretched handbrake cable symptoms

If the parking brake cable becomes excessively worn or stretched, it will not be able to pull the the parking brake as tightly. This will result in the parking brake not being able to hold the weight of the vehicle, which may cause it to roll or lean, even when the parking brake is fully engaged.

Handbrake cable adjustment

This can usually be found in the centre console where the traditional handbrake is found in a car. Directly behind the lever, you will find the adjustment nuts on a shaft. If you cannot see it it is because you probably have to remove the centre console. Usually this is left for your mechanic to do. Therefore, contact your local e-CAR mechanic.

car handbrake-cable-e-car

Role of a handbrake

The handbrake cable also referred to as a parking brake or emergency brake. Handbrake cables operate the emergency brake and are usually located at the rear brakes. In road vehicles, this is a mechanism used to keep the vehicle securely motionless when parked. It is quite helpful since it stops a car from rolling forwards or backwards when parked on a slope or a surface that is uneven. Parking brakes often consist of a cable connected to two wheel brakes, which is then connected to a pulling mechanism.

The cable connects the handbrake lever to the brakes on the rear wheels of the car. Without a fully operational cable, the car cannot be secured or prevented from rolling downhill. The cables stretch with use, and need checking regularly to make sure they do not need adjusting. Cables wear over time, and this can lead to fraying. Other issues with the handbrake include the rusting of moving parts, causing them to stick so that the handbrake cannot be applied or released fully. If the parking brake cables or other parts of the parking brake mechanism are bad, they must be replaced. You should make sure to check the cables when replacing any components in the braking system such as pads or discs.

What causes handbrake failure?

This could be caused by wear over time, or a failure of the electronic system which controls the parking brake. Cars with a manual handbrake could also experience a ‘slack’ feeling to the handbrake, likely caused by a stretched cable.

How long should a handbrake cable last?

It’s also possible for the attachment points to corrode and rust or even break. If the cable or connectors/attachments breaks while the parking brake is engaged, you will not be able to disengage the system. There is no set lifespan for your parking brake release cable.

Can handbrake cables stretch?

Cables can slip or stretch, and in those instances, your handbrake may only need recalibrating. Over time, these cables develop slack and need to be re-adjusted. You might not necessarily need a new cable.

Can you snap your handbrake?

When a handbrake cable does completely snap the consequences can be catastrophic. It will mean that there is nothing to lock the car in its place when stationary.

Replacing a handbrake cable

The handbrake on most cars is a mechanical linkage of rods and cables, operated by a lever on the car’s floor or dash. Over a period of time, the linkage wears – the cables become slack, or the pivot points and linkage pins become badly grooved, allowing slack to build up. You can compensate for wear until the handbrake adjuster won’t take up any more slack, then you need to fit new parts.

Handbrake types

Also known as the emergency brake or e-brake, the handbrake is either a foot-operated or a mechanical hand lever. It has a connection to the rear wheels through a metallic cable. You will see the handbrake in between the two front seats or to the left side of the petrol and brake pedal. It can aptly be described as a backup braking system that steps in when the primary brakes do not work.

When should I use the handbrake?

Many people have the misconception that you only need to use the handbrake if you park on a hill or if your vehicle has a manual transmission. You should always use your handbrake – it is a good habit to develop. Using the handbrake on a regular basis helps keep it in proper working order. When you do not use the emergency brake, it can corrode and you won’t know there is a problem until you really need it.

By engaging the handbrake each and every time you park, you can be assured that your vehicle won’t roll away. It adds another level of security and reduces stress on the transmission and driveline parts.

If you do suffer a complete loss of your brakes, slowly apply the emergency brake. While your handbrake is mainly used to hold your car in place, it can help you safely bring your vehicle to a stop in an emergency situation. Keep in mind that it will not bring your vehicle to a sudden stop – it can just help slowly bringing it to a stop.

How do you know if your handbrake is worn?

  • Apply the foot brake, this will stop the vehicle from rolling forwards or backwards.
  • Release the handbrake and then reapply it.
  • Remove your foot from the foot brake – if the vehicle remains stationary and the handbrake has not travelled too far upwards then everything should be ok.

What happens if you leave the handbrake on while driving?

If allowed to remain engaged for too long, driving with the handbrake on can cause premature wear of brake components and could even lead to damage to the wheel bearing or a catastrophic failure of parts near or associated with the braking system.

It is important that the handbrake cable is replaced if any signs of wear occur