Camry LE 2004 parking brake

125K miles. Ever since I inherited the car about 10 years and 90K miles ago the car spends a lot of time parked and the p-brake is always used.

Lever-type parking brake needed adjusting (maybe second time). I looked at my Haynes manual and searched the internet, and got conflicting info:

Method A – disassemble center console and turn a bolt inside there to take up slack in cable (I think I saw that done with my late '00 Camry).

Method B – remove rear wheels and adjust star-wheel inside each p-brake drum (integral with rear disc?).

I decided to take it to my Trusted Independent Mechanic. They reported that they opened the center console and adjusted p-brake as much as possible, but for any more adjustment the cable would have to be replaced.

Questions (man, do I feel ignorant):

  1. Does the '04 LE, in fact, have rear disc brakes with integral drum for p-brake?

  2. If so, does it have the star-wheel adjustment for p-brake?

  3. If yes, do I need to talk to my mechanic about why they adjusted it by taking slack out of the cable?

  4. If tightening cable is, in fact, the right way to adjust the p-brake, should I be surprised that I will need a new cable (I realize that it might take another 50K miles to get there)?

If the e-brake works on “shoes in the hat” and has the star-wheel, you do not start with adjusting the cable other than if you don’t know what was done to it before, you loosen the cable so you can be sure that the shoes can be adjusted correct - then after that procedure, you adjust the cable to proper function - on my cars, that means 4 “clicks” and the wheels are locked.

TwinTurbo is right. The first questioned asked should be: rear drums or discs.
But my answer will still be the same.

My '03 LE 4cyl has rear drum brakes.
Looking at rockauto, it seems all '03 and '04 versions (4&6cyl) have rear drum brakes. Wouldn’t be the first time they had conflicting info on that site but it is rare from what I have seen. Should be easy enough to confirm on your car.

FWIW, Advance Auto Parts shows rear rotors (with “hat”) for '04 4-cyl. But they also show rear drums (and shoes).

“Easy to confirm” --Sure, just take off a wheel. But that’s part of what I was trying to avoid in the first place. :grin:

You don’t have to take off a wheel, just look through the spokes of an aluminum wheel or take off the hubcap of a steel wheel and you can see if you are looking at a rotor or disc.

Here’s what you get when you replace the rear brake components on a 2004 Camry.


OK, I got down on the ground and peeked in the holes in the wheel.

Front rotor and caliper visible. Rear is drum (and no caliper).

Advance Auto Parts shows several drums for rear:

Some have access hole to get to star wheel, At least (the first one) one does not.

Hence, still wondering if there is a star wheel adjustment. And if 125K+ miles is reasonable life for the cable.

The star wheel on your drum brakes has nothing to do with your parking brake adjustment.

Your mechanic has said the cable is adjusted as much as he can. Anymore requires a new cable. It is simple, take his advice or get another opinion. As for cable life, not everything wears the same . Some cables may never need replacing but others will.

The brake shoes must be adjusted before the cable is adjusted, your parking brake cable may not have needed any adjustment, it should be returned to the original setting now before the brake shoes are adjusted.


Yes. There is a star wheel adjustment, otherwise the shoes had no chance of being adjusted so they can work correctly with the hydraulic system. Coincidently they also has the job of working as an e-brake through a cable. Don’t concentrate on the cable first.
If Your Camry is at 125k miles, it might be a good idea to remove drums now and get them cleaned out for brakedust and a good look at all the hardware in there. As I wrote earlier, back off the cable a little so all the hardware is “neutral”, then adjust the shoes on the star wheel - either by the hole or by remove/refit the drum until you hear a tiny bit of scrubbing from the shoes, when you turn the drum, step on the brake hard to be sure the shoes are centered, readjust as needed. When both sides are done, then you can adjust the cable, if needed.
Also, check that the cable(s) are moving freely. Rust and dirt does not do them any good.
Wheww, that was a lot of typing for a 15 minutes job.

You can’t be serious??? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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Doesn’t the star wheel adjuster push on the top of the shoes at the same location as the parking brake levers?

For discussion:


It’s the other way around.
The parking brake lever uses the same hardware as the self-(not so good)adjusting mechanism. When that mechanism stop working - as it does most of the time - the rear brakes goes out of adjustment - which you might not notice for a very long time - and along with goes the e-brake.
Been working with brake systems for around 40 years and seen all there is to be seen, both good and bad.

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Camry adjusters are wonderfully reliable. If they stop working the pedal noticeably sinks closer to the floor. I would ask the OP if the brakes are otherwise working fine.

BTW, I’ve been working on brakes for 50+ years…your point?


Take Your pic, it’s a good one - then pull that parking brake lever half an inch forward and let that be it’s “released” position, thats what it will be if you adjust on the cable - you are shortening it, then how is it gonna adjust the shoes as the arm for the star wheel will be pulled up above the wheel.
Also the leverage from the cable is changed. You’ll have more force on the shoes with a 90 degree angle than with - say 70.

Simple question: If you adjust the adjuster outward, how does that take up slack on the parking brake cable?

Too much info to absorb on the fly today. I do feel like a need a red emoji to show how embarrassed I am at not being able to think some of this through myself.

Regarding Insightful’s implied question: Brakes seem to be working fine. I have not noticed any increase in pedal travel.

Reading the shop’s repair order more closely, I see that it says, “Service and adjust rear brakes. Disassemble center console and adjust parking brake cable.” I think I’m beginning to understand.

Because the shoes will already be very close to the drum,. That was an easy one. :smiley:

Well, it seems that the shop did adjust and service them so I assume all is well and good for the OP and, of course, once in a while a cable stretches, but in my experience it’s rare. They either stay the same or they snap.