Adjust A Handbrake

Adjusting a handbrake correctly keeps cars from rolling in a parking lot.

A vehicle handbrake or emergency brake stops the rear wheels from turning to stop the car. When parking a standard transmission vehicle on a slope, setting the handbrake keeps the car from rolling. Car owners can use the handbrake to hold the car in place on a hill at a red light or stop sign and release it while depressing the clutch and gas for forward motion. When the brakes suddenly fail on a car, the handbrake will stop the car and prevent accidents. Adjust handbrakes to stop cars fully at the fourth notch on the lever.


1. Park the car on level ground. Place the rear of the car on a jack so both back wheels are off the ground.

2. Go inside the car. Grasp the rubber boot on the handbrake lever and pull it off over the handbrake end.

3. Place a flat screwdriver in the slot on the cable. Place one adjustable wrench on the handbrake below the nut. Place the other adjustable wrench on the nut and turn the bottom nut clockwise to loosen it. Repeat this process to loosen the bottom nut on the other brake cable.

4. Pull the handbrake up three notches. There will be an audible click for each notch.

5. Tighten each bottom nut two revolutions. Go to the back of the car and turn each rear wheel forward by hand. There should be resistance so that each wheel is hard to turn with the same amount of pressure on each.

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6. Pull the handbrake up one more notch. Try to turn the rear wheels forward. The wheels should not turn.

7. Press the button on the handbrake and lower it to release the brake. Spin the rear wheels and observe the spinning motion so each spins freely. Have a second person pull the handbrake up four notches and observe the wheels so they stop at the same time.

8. Tighten the top nut on the handbrake with an adjustable wrench while holding the bottom nut in position. This action locks the adjustment to the brake in place.

9. Slide the rubber boot over the handbrake.

10. Lower the jack supporting the rear end of the vehicle.