How to adjust your car’s emergency brake

ebhandle  150x150 How to adjust your cars emergency brake

Remember when car companies thought your stick shift should look like an accordion? Image courtesy of

Adjusting your emergency brake is an easy DIY job, and should be done periodically to make sure it works properly. You will need a wrench, a screwdriver, and a car lift. A regular jack is not sufficient to keep your car elevated for this job, and you are running a risk by using one, even if you use jackstands. Car lifts are expensive; around $1,400, but fortunately you can rent the use of a lift from certain places. Contact your local auto parts stores and garages to see if they rent out usage of their lifts; you should be able to find one that does without too much trouble.

Test your emergency brake at least once a year to make sure it works properly. Find a hill or slope, and with your car in neutral, engage the emergency brake. You want to make sure that when the emergency brake is one-third of the way pressed, your car will slow down. When it is two-thirds of the way pressed, your car should be stopped. If your emergency brake fails to fully engage before you have pressed it completely, you’re going to have to adjust it. These are just general guidelines, however. You should consult your owner’s manual as well to see if there are any variations with the points at which your car should slow and stop.

To adjust your emergency brake line, raise your car on the lift, and then locate the emergency brake adjustment. The adjustment will be right below where your emergency brake pedal is on your car, so it should be simple to find. Depending on the type of car you have, you’ll need either a wrench or a screwdriver to adjust the emergency brake. Check the brake line to see if it is loose; if it is, tighten it as needed. After you tighten the brake line a bit, test the brake again by going back to a hill or sloping road and repeating the above process. Make sure that you do not over-tighten the brake line, since this can result in damage not only to your emergency brake (and may even result in your emergency brake getting stuck in place), but also to your hydraulic braking system.

—Seth Berger

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