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Old 26-06-2017   #1
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Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Since I've had my Panda I haven't had one thing: a handbrake.

It'll hold on flat ground but even slight gradients with the utmost foot brake pressure at best provides a slight roll down and if lucky, a steady still potion.

I need a complete check list of what to check and how to identify what needs adjusted or replaced on the car to get the handbrake like new.

To be honest, I can put it in gear for parking but on steep hills to avoid burning out the relatively new clutch I'd like the functionality of the handbrake back.

Today pulling away from a petrol station I got funny looks.. thought I had a flat front wheel. It was pulling unevenly .. saw the handbrake light on the dash. My mistake.. but the handbrake showed no ability to hold back the wheels whatsoever!!

I wonder what made it this bad.. but I am determined to fix it once and for all.

Stretched handbrake cable? Weak drum brakes?
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Old 26-06-2017   #2
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Just adjusted the girlfriends handbrake.

Made a difference to how it holds as a bonus.


3 clicks is on

4 clicks and its not going anywhere.
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Old 26-06-2017   #3
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

1. How did it pass the last Irish 'MOT' if it's never been effective? Over here they have to be pretty decent (though since the old days I've always relied on being in gear......).


2.Could be a number of things. Is it both wheels not operating?


3. You probably need pop the drum off and observe how the cable-pulling translates to shoe movement. It's been a while since you got your hands dirty and it's summer.
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Old 26-06-2017   #4
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Off with rear drums, the cable should hold on to the brakeshoes, but the easiest thing to do is tighten it under the cupholder (310mm) behind the handbrake, you should also be able to tighten the cable in the brakedrums, but thats a few more screws to take off.. theres a complete walkthgrough in the haynes manual for the poonda.
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Old 26-06-2017   #5
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

You probably need to inspect what you have first.

The handbrake lever/ratchet operates two cables, one to each rear wheel.
This pulls the cables that operate a lever in the back of the brake plate that operates another ratchet (just below the slave cylinder) between the two brake shoes pushing them out against the drums.

The system (both handbrake and normal hydraulic brake) works by pushing one end of the two shoes apart (the other end is fixed) and is what's known as single leading edge brake drum.
(a system that pushes both ends apart is call a twin leading edge system, Renault used a three shoe, triple edge system years ago)

Like the hydraulic slave cylinder, the ratchet between the shoes self adjusts to take up wear.


By the sounds of it, the handbrake lever/ratchet sounds ok, it's pulling the cables and thus pulling the lever/shoe ratchet (though it's ineffective) and the handbrake lever ratchet is locking on the button.

What it's not doing is pushing the shoes apart far enough to hold the brake on and there are a few reasons this can happen.

The inner cables can stretch over time, this leaves you with too much travel on the handbrake lever.
It can usually be adjusted out by adjuster nuts on the cable ends on the bottom of the handbrake lever. (under cup holder)
I suspect you or someone else has probably already tried this, it worked for a little while, then within a short space of time, started to fail again.

The cable inners can stick, dirt and water gets in and jams them up.
There are ways to get some lube down them, either with a cable oiler tool or just moulding a funnel out of plasticine on the outer cable ends, holding the end up and running a fine oil down the inners.

The shoes and/or drums are worn.
The lining on the shoes wear as does the inner surface of the brake drums themselves, the lining and metal drums wear against each over, scraping away both surfaces over time, leaving a bigger and bigger gap to close between the two.

Too much of both will cause the self adjusting ratchet between the shoes to max out and the travel of the cable, lever and shoe ratchet can't overcome the distance the brakes shoes need to travel, so no matter how much cable pull you apply or how well these cables are adjusted, the adjuster/ratchet between the shoes just can't push the shoes out far enough to grip the drums properly.

There are various wear measurements that apply to brake components, when they are surpassed they just don't work properly.

I don't know what the rear drums measurements are, but a classic sign of rear drum wear is a big lip on the drums where the shoes fit.
Lining wear is more obvious, just inspect the meat on the shoes.

When the lip is big it's often hard to remove the drums from the car as the shoes have adjusted out behind the lip and it holds the drums on.

I suspect, knowing your cars mileage your problem is probably shoe AND drum wear.

Year ago you would get the drums trued on a lathe and new, larger linings fitted to the brake shoes but these days you just replace the drums and shoes as they are cheap enough.

Brakes are pretty vital to get right, so I would say only try and tackle brake jobs yourself if you are totally confident you know what you are doing.
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Last edited by Goudrons; 26-06-2017 at 07:51.
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Old 26-06-2017   #6
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

We had it adjusted last year and you barely had to pull up the lever to get it stopped. But it didn't take long to loosen up again.

1, we had adjusted it a week or two before the MOT

2, how can I check if it's both wheels?

3, I inspected them last year but sort of didn't know what I was looking at sadly. If I posted a picture from last year would you point out what it looks like?

Goudrons that's a great in depth response. I would only work on it with my uncle who knows what he's doing. Though the Panda handbrake and why it's not holding seems to be a mystery to him too. Though I intend to sort it this time
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Old 26-06-2017   #7
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

You really need to measure.

The shoe linings you can compare with an image of a new set, though rule of thumb is when they are down to around 3mm, it's time to bin and replace them.

The drums are 180mm internal diameter.

Measure both and work out how much is missing,
(so say the shoes are worn by 4mm and the drums mearsure 183.5mm, that's 7.5mm)

If when pulling on the handbrake, the ratchet in the drums only moves the shoes apart by 7mm and is fully adjusted out, the shoes won't touch the drums and you'll have no handbrake!
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Old 26-06-2017   #8
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Quote Originally Posted by SB1500 View Post
We had it adjusted last year and you barely had to pull up the lever to get it stopped. But it didn't take long to loosen up again.

Sounds like it's probably time for some new cables
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Old 26-06-2017   #9
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Easy way to tell if both wheels are bad is to jack up the rear of the car so that both wheels are off the ground.

Then apply the handbrake one notch at a time and rotate each wheel in turn. After a couple of notches you should begin to feel increased resistance, and as you notch a bit more, both wheels should 'bind' equally. If one binds before the other, the fault could be in the drum, but more likely you have an uneven cable problem. Free up the cable assembly first, as above. If there is still a fault, then strip the drum that is freer to rotate next - if necessary.
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Old 26-06-2017   #10
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Easy way to tell if both wheels are bad is to jack up the rear of the car so that both wheels are off the ground.

Then apply the handbrake one notch at a time and rotate each wheel in turn. After a couple of notches you should begin to feel increased resistance, and as you notch a bit more, both wheels should 'bind' equally. If one binds before the other, the fault could be in the drum, but more likely you have an uneven cable problem. Free up the cable assembly first, as above. If there is still a fault, then strip the drum that is freer to rotate next - if necessary.
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Old 26-06-2017   #11
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Quote Originally Posted by SB1500 View Post

We had it adjusted last year and you barely had to pull up the lever to get it stopped. But it didn't take long to loosen up again.
Can only be either a weak cable or a self adjuster jammed ?
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Old 02-07-2017   #12
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

I think I'll need to make a list of what to check based off of these great replies and feedback with what we find.

I'm not sure I'm qualified enough myself to touch the brakes unsupervised.. could be a deadly mistake lol

Time for a look on eLearn!
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Old 02-07-2017   #13
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

This diagram seemingly shows most of the suspects mentioned..
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Old 02-07-2017   #14
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

I spent months trying to get handbrake sorted on a very high mileage diesel Panda .I started with shoes and changed everything .In the end it was the darn cable !
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Old 02-07-2017   #15
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Re: Getting to the bottom of a useless handbrake..

Quote Originally Posted by koalar View Post
Can only be either a weak cable or a self adjuster jammed ?


This^ What some tend to neglect/ miss is the self adjuster. Over time they clog up with a combination of heat & debri. It's not the first time I've had to take these out a clean the hell out of them then dry lube and refit, pump 10-15 times & hey presto handbrake works a treat.
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