The parking brakes on my van are controlled by a pedal that supposed to be pushed until it clicks and locks into place. Well, the dang pedal has never, in the 6 years I have had the car, locked into place. It always drags right back out, like it is almost but not quite catching. Any ideas on what is causing this, and more importantly, how to fix it?
There is a ratchet mechanism that is supposed to hold the pedal in place until you press the brake again, and it releases. Take it to a mechanic and have them look at it. These ‘Press once to apply, Press again to release’ parking brakes have been around a while. It is either a mechanism that is stuck, gummed up, or rusty, and a good lubing with some lithium-based lube is all that is required. Or a spring that is disconnected or broken.
Does the brake apply any pressure, like they are working, just not locking in place?
Yes, they apply pressure, but they won’t lock into place. Well, more accuratley, 9 out of 10 times it wont lock, but the 10th time it will barley catch.
The parking brake cables underneath this van tend to “rust and bind” at this age.
If you have someone in the car pressing and releasing the parking brake while you’re underneath it feeling out the binding cables, (pushing and pulling on the exposed sections), you’ll be able to detect where the binding is occurring. Do this test with both rear drums removed, since it might be the last section of cable which is binding.
Once you isolate the binding cable(s), you can try a penetrating spray (like PB Blaster) to see if it will loosen up. If it does, follow that up with a lubrication, like while lube.
If you have to replace any cables, the dealer’s cables are nearly twice the price as those available at Autozone. But you may need to be slightly creative to get the Autozone cables to “fit” properly, especially the ones that go into the drums.
If your inclined, look under the dash yourself. You may need to remove a plastic knee panel to get a good look. But, the mechanism should be there up where the pedal’s pivot is. The ratchet mechanism and catch should be easy to see.