Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Toyota van parking brake - WON'T stop van rolling fwd, WILL stop it rolling backward

I escaped the USA in 1996 and have been living in Australia ever since. I’m really disappointed that Tom & Ray have taken a call from a guy trying to fix the Hubble telescope because I wanted to be their most distant listener. Drat!

I listen to the guys via podcast every week but it’s hard to call in to your show due to the time difference (and the 8 pounds of flesh they want for international phone calls).

I have a 1986 Toyota HiAce van. Big mother, sold everywhere else in the world but the USA. However foreign this model may be to America, it has pretty standard looking rear drum brakes like you find on any Toyota light truck.

My problem is with the parking brake. It will hold the van still if it is trying to roll backwards but if I am parked nose pointed downhill, the parking brake doesn’t do diddly. I have to put a rock in the shape of Tom’s nose in front of a tyre if I expect to find the van where I left it. Kidding, I just turn the front wheels into the curb.

I have adjusted the brake cable so it engages the brake hard when the brake’s pull-handle is about halfway through its travel. Made no difference. I took the rear wheels and brake drums off and inspected the shoes and drums. Looks OK, lots of friction material left on the shoes and the drum inner diameter is within spec.

I have not messed with the ratchet wheel adjusters- I thought these were supposed to self-adjust when you apply the brake while reversing.

What the heck am I missing, folks?

Oh, and can you help me with a steering wheel problem on this van? It’s on the wrong side of the dashboard and no matter how hard I yank on it, it will not move to the left side. Must be a hidden lever or something somewhere. Your input would be very helpful. :slight_smile:

Thanks a bunch!


I think the problem is the shoe adjusters(ratchet wheel adjusters). Some vehicles do adjust themselves when you pull the parking brake. Others, several Toyotas I’ve worked on, do not adjust. It only ratchets so it doesn’t turn back during operation, it doesn’t tighten at all. I think the position of the shoes, as determined by that adjuster, plays a big role in the direction the parking brake holds. Usually the P-brake moves the bottom of the shoes while the wheels cylinder and adjuster move the top. Without adjusting the upper shoe brace(rachet) the shoe contact with the drum is minimal, especially with asymmetrical wear from driving. I suggest returning the P-brake cable to it’s original position. Then adjust the rachet wheel until the drum is just barely rubbing the shoes. It will help your hydraulic brake work better as well as the P-brake. There’s quite a bit if empty space in the wheel cylinder to fill if the shoes aren’t adjusted correctly.

Thanks very much for the reply.

I think you’re right- the brakes don’t appear to be self-adjusting, whether they should be or not.

I’ll get the back end up on stands later tonight and have a go at adjusting them.

Should I make the adjustment with the ratchet wheels with the p-brake handle in ‘free’ or ‘brake’ position?

Adjust with the p-brake in “free” position. That way the brakes should be applied when you move the p-brake to “park” position. If you adjust in “park”, then the p-brake would/should already have the shoes pushed against the drums.

I listen to the guys via podcast every week but it’s hard to call in to your show due to the time difference (and the 8 pounds of flesh they want for international phone calls).

They don’t take the calls live. You leave them a voice mail, and if they are interested, they will call you back. Ignore the time difference and just call and leave a message. They will have to pay the long distance charges if they decide to call you back.

Sometimes the drum brakes will adjust themselves if you follow this procedure:

  1. Put the car in reverse, get it going about 5 or 10 MPH, then slam on the brakes hard enough to lock them.

  2. Put the car in drive, get it going about 5 or 10 MPH, then slam on the brakes hard enough to lock them.

  3. Repeat steps one and two a couple times.

If you want to keep from ruining your tires, do this on a loose surface like dirt or grass instead of on pavement. If it doesn’t work, then you should remove the drums and adjust them manually.

Yes, make the adjustment with the p-brake off(disengaged). And remember the return the cable for the brake handle that you adjusted back to where it was to begin with before you adjust as well. Otherwise you will not be taking advantage of the full range of the P-brake mechanism.

Thanks for that. Haven’t gotten to this task yet but I hopefully will in a few days.

Many thanks for your advice & assistance. :slight_smile:

Thanks much for the info about the voice mail. :slight_smile:

I’m a little hesitant to drive the thing as hard as you suggest; this monster is 23 years old. It also weighs 1.6tonnes (3500lb) and getting the brakes to lock fully might be a big ask. 'Course, with a 2.0L 4-banger, getting it moving at all is a pretty big ask. :smiley:

I’ll probably manually adjust the beggars. Picked up some brake adjustment tools at Ye Olde Waye Too Expensive Auto Partes Shoppe (which I probably could have saved some dough on by just buying a screwdriver and bending it) which should allow me to spin the ratchet wheels through the access holes in the brake backing plates.

Thanks again. :slight_smile: