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Fixing a parking brake

My 2002 Chevy Prizm (basically just a Toyota Corolla with a Chevrolet symbol on it) just failed inspection because the parking (hand) brake does not work. My father says that I need to just back it up a few times hard and slam on the brakes. That will adjust the cable.

I’ve tried that, but it just doesn’t work. Is there anyway I can fix it without paying tribute to a garage? I really don’t have the money for that right now. Unfortunately, I was a liberal arts major, and it took me over 2 hours to change the bulbs on my headlights.

The problem might be with a stretched parking brake cable. If this is the case, you need to gain access under the vehicle so the parking brake cable adjustment yoke can be adjusted to take up the slack.


If it’s not a stretched cable as Tester suggested, then it is almost has to be a problem inside your brake drums. This could be a frozen (rusted?) adjuster, bent/broke p. brake parts related to the system. If you are brave enough to pull your drums, which probably requires wheel bearing removal, you can usually look around for any obvious damage. But without knowing what you’re looking at, you might leave this job to a friend who is familar with a brake job. Whatever you do, don’t dissamble more than one side at a time, that way you’ll have a blue print (on the other wheel) to use when reinstalling it. Good Luck.

I sure wish I could find a picture, so I can find that parking brake cable adjustment yoke. I went to GM site, which wants to charge me a buttload of money to find out how to fix the bleeping car they sold me.

Also, GM’s web designers don’t know how to design a web page without Flash. I should teach classes on this. It’s actually pretty easy.

I had a brake job done less than a year ago, but it might have been only the front brakes. I love to save gas, so I’m very easy on the brakes. I did notice that I have to press more than a little to get the car to stop.

When you say the e-brake “doesn’t work,” do you mean a. the handle doesn’t move at all, or b. the handle moves (too) easily, but the handle reaches its limit before you get holding power?

I’m assuming b. because of what your dad said. Now, does it b(1) not offer any resistance AT ALL when pulling back (and no stopping power at all), or b(2) does it offer SOME (just not enough) resistance and braking?

a. would suggest something’s rusted into place, b(1) would suggest a snapped cable, and b(2) would suggest an overly stretched cable (what your dad said). Also, did you get the car like this, or did it fail on you? If it failed “all of a sudden,” that also suggests b(1).

Ooooo…that puts an entirely different spin on it. DON’T touch the cable yet. You shouldn’t need to mess with wheel bearings to get the rear brake drum off on a Prizm, and once you do, the brake mechanism is pretty standard. So if you really have zero experience, but can find somebody who does know a bit about drum brakes, you can do step one.

Assuming you don’t live in the rust belt and can get the drum loose without major surgery, I’m betting you’ll find it can wobble a LOT, rather than being held in alignment by the brake shoes. This means the star wheel is WAY out of adjustment. If so, bringing it back into adjustment will both reincarnate your parking brake and significantly improve the performance of your foot brake. If this is the problem, your buddy should know how to do it. Watch him or her, because you’ll need to do it again in awhile, because the shoes will need to bed into the drums from their new, properly-adjusted position. Hope this helps.

I haven’t checked a hand brake in almost 10 years. Do they still have an adjustment in the console for cable slack??
Just a thought. I’ve been wrong before…