Rear Wheel Freezing

A friend of mine owns a '97 Honda Civic. When she drives it in the snow, parks and goes to work, after a few hours she can’t move her right rear tire wheel. What is causing that and how can she fix the problem?

If she applies the parking brake, that’s probably what’s preventing the wheel from turning. Either the parking brake cable or the mechanism inside the hub is getting wet and freezing.

The cable is usually the culprit.

The short term solution is to not apply the parking brake when the temperature is below freezing.

I forgot to mention that she drives a manual. Should she still not apply the parking brake?

For sure. Use the transmission to help hold the car and turn the wheel into the curb. If none is about, block the wheel(s) with a piece of wood. Winter time is especially hard on Parking brake. Frequent use of the brake during mild weather only and frequent lubrication during oil changes in winter help.

If she wants to eliminate the wheel locking she will need to have it fixed (dried out and lubed) or not use it. Assuming she does not park on hills she should be fine using low or reverse gear.

What does she need to have fix? Does anyone have an idea of how much that would cost?

A mechanic will have to examine the parking brake cable to see what’s wrong. Sometimes the rubber seal at the end of the cable gets lost and water gets in the cable, which then freezes and won’t let the brake release.

A mechanic may be able to clean and lube the cable, or a new cable might have to be installed. Either way this is not an expensive repair, and since the parking brake is pretty important I’d consider it a safety issue and pay whatever it takes to fix it.

I had a Toyota with the same symptom. Turned out that something had caught the parking brake cable and damaged the housing, letting water in. Eventually, the cable rusted at that spot, causing the brake to drag in the summer as well.

I forced lubricant down the cable with a motorcycle cable lubricating tool, and taped up the damaged spot. A few years later when the problem recurred, I replaced the cable. Replacing it takes about an hour, because it involves dismantling removing both rear brakes. Can take longer if the brakes are rusted on.

That car once froze all four wheels. I was driving in deep snow and all four brakes got wet, then I parked it overnight in subzero cold. Next day, all four wheels were immobile.

You should ALWAYS use the parking brake…especially for a manual. It probably is the cable…it needs to be fixed. Snow/salt is very harmful to exposed metal mechanical parts.

I know this problem needs to be fixed and while neither she or I are rich, she needs to be aware of how much to save to fix the problem. Can anyone tell me about how much it will run to get the cable fixed? A ball park estimate would help me to understand what she’s looking at. $100; $500; $1000?