Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Can't depress parking brake

I have a 1997 Chrysler Town & Country. I just returned home from a 4 week trip, and since then have not been able to depress my parking brake. There is some give in the pedal, but it won’t set the brake on (no clicking). While I was away, the brake was on, and it released normally the first time I drove since I returned home, but in that drive I passed over a bank of partially compacted snow. My thought initially was perhaps a ball of ice was trapped under the brake, but the temperature has been in the 40’s for several days now with no change. Can anyone suggest what the problem might be?

I actually have another brake question. I had my brake pads replaced last year (about January) and ever since then, they have squeaked (when the brakes are applied). When I also had my tires replaced in October, the squeak became persistent (now applying the brakes stops the squeaking, to a point, when it starts again, although the squeaking seems to originate from different tires). Depressing the brakes or turning the wheel slightly to the left would stop the squeaking after the car warmed up (I suppose really after the brakes warm up, since it takes a few miles of actually driving to make a difference), but otherwise, it has been a constant annoyance. Everyone I have asked up until this point has said it’s nothing to worry about–I even took my car back to the place which installed the tires (and, earlier, to the place where I had my brakes done) and they both said the noise was fine and it would go away. Could the parking brake issue have any relation to these squeaking problems?

Thanks for any help!

The parking brake ratchet mechanism is maybe stuck or broke. This is under the dash. You may need a mechanic to look at it unless your mechanically inclined. Hopefully the ratchet mechanism is just stuck, and some grease can free it back up. Don’t use WD-40 or any other type of thin liquid, since it will run off quickly and leave you with the same problem again. Use a lithium grease if it is just stuck, and can be freed up.

The brake squeak is due to lack of anti-squeal shims or just inferior brakes. Disc brakes have always been prone to squealing, but as bad as you describe, must be due to the factors I mentioned.

Some cars come with stainless steel or Teflon shims that go between the pad and the caliper to cut down on squeal. These sometimes get tossed out when pads are replaced.

Other cars (e.g. BMWs) should have silicon grease put on the backs of the pads before installation.

You might be able to quiet the brakes by pulling out the pads and putting a product called “Disk Brake Quiet” which is sort of a plastic adhesive on the backs and reinstalling them.