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Checking and renewing brake cables

Handbrake cable layouts vary from car to car,
But have only a limited range of types of components.

Although you may, for example,
Find an adjuster screw almost anywhere between the brake lever and the wheels,
It can be treated in much the same way.

Even on the few cars where the handbrake works on the front wheels,
The system is similar.

Cables stretch slightly with use.
They need regular checking and lubrication, and adjustment when necessary.

Handbrake layout

The most straightforward type of handbrake layout,
With one cable leading to a Y-shaped equalizer and a secondary cable.

Check every six months, 6,000 miles (ca. 9,656 km),
Or 10,000 km or if you feel that the handbrake has become weak.

Alternative handbrake layout

With a primary cable running to a compensating
Bracket works the brakes via a secondary cable.

A more serious problem is fraying cables, which can suddenly break.
Moving parts may also rust and stick,
So that the handbrake cannot be applied or released fully.

Loosen the wheel nuts of the (hand- braked) wheels before raising that end of the car,
And check the other wheels on both sides.
Raise the car on axle stands placed so as not to get in the way of the mechanism. Remove the raised wheels.

Look over the whole length of the cables for fraying, particularly at sharp bends.

Check for cracks where cables run inside a flexible outer casing
They can let in water and cause rusting.

See that all parts are clean, sound and lubricated.
If necessary, smear them with brake or anti-seize grease.

At longer intervals about every two years dismantle all the moving parts,
Using the same method as for renewing a cable.

Clean everything thoroughly and check it for wear.

One common trouble, which reduces braking power,
Is clevis pins becoming `waited’ worn away in the middle?

Renew a waisted pin and always use a new split pin or spring
Clip when reinserting a clevis pin.

Grease all parts during reassembly, including the threads of adjusters.

Replacing a handbrake cable

Cable layouts vary, so take careful notes or drawings as you dismantle one,
To avoid confusion later.

One or two cables may run back from the lever. They usually start above the floor and
Pass through it at points covered by a fixed guide plate.

Twin cables are fixed, usually via adjuster screws,
To either side of the lever. Each cable goes to one of the brakes.
They are adjusted separately.

Twin cables are usually fixed to the handbrake adjusting screws.

A single (primary) cable is fixed to an arm below the lever, usually by a clevis pin.
There may be an adjuster here. Sometimes there is a rod rather than a cable.

The rear end of the cable may carry an ‘equalizer yoke’ a transverse sliding guide.

Another ( secondary ) cable runs freely across the equalizer,
Each of its ends being connected to one of the brakes so that this
Y shaped arrangement divides the pull equally best equalizer

There is usually an adjuster for the primary cable in front of the equalizer,
And for the secondary cable on one side only.

Often, you remove an equalizer to free the cable from it.

An equalizer yoke fitted to a rod on the handbrake lever.

Parts of either cable may run inside flexible outer casings. The casings are held at their ends by abutment brackets on the frame.

Usually, one end of a casing is a long,
Threaded tube which can be adjusted on the bracket by lock nuts.

Some cars, for example, the VW Beetle have rigid outer tubes instead. When removing a cable from such a tube, tie a string to the cable,
Draw the string through the tube and leave it in place to pull the cable back.

Instead of a Y-shaped equalizer layout,
Some cars have a single cable linking the brakes around an equalizer fixed to
An adjustable rod on the handbrake lever.

On other cars, the primary cable runs either directly to the rear axle,
Or to an adjustment point where it works a secondary cable leading to the rear axle.

The cable runs around a compensating bracket, sometimes via a pulley,
And to one of the brakes.

From the bracket, a third cable (or sometimes a rod) runs to the other brake,
In such a way that the compensating bracket equalizes the pull between the brakes.

Removing a clevis pin.

A cable may be connected to the brake itself outside the drum or caliper,
Usually by a clevis pin. Often a drum has an inside connection,
In which case you have to remove the drum,
And also usually spring and sometimes a clip inside the drum.

Whatever the details, all connections are by normal clevis pins with split pins or
Spring clips, by ordinary nuts, bolts, and screws.

So long as you note the details, handbrake reassembly should not be a problem. Always renew all split pins and spring clips.

Mini handbrake cable

Early Minis and similar Leyland front-wheel-drive cars have
Cables running through channels and around quadrant shaped sectors on the
Rear radius arms. The system is prone to rust and sticking.

On a Mini, the cable is held in a sector on the rear radius arm.
Keep the sector pivot oiled to prevent it from seizing.

To release a seized sector, treat it with penetrating oil. Disconnect the cable from the brake backplate. Tap or lever the sector back and forth.

Grease the sectors and channels way before reconnecting the cable.

Note that is you remove the cable that the sector is nipped in two places to hold it.
Lever the nipped parts open to remove the cable; close after reassembly

On a Mini, the cable is held in a sector in the rear radius arm. Keep the sector pivot oiled to prevent it from seizing.

Also, read

How car electrical systems work

Renewing hinge pins and hinges

Ekster EU

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