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posted: 8/26/2012 5:07 AM

Parking brake only as good as the cable

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Q. I have a 1996 Chevy S10 pickup truck. The parking break was used every day up until two weeks ago when, as I released it, the pedal came back slow.

I tried to release the parking break two more times until it released. The next time I pushed the emergency brake pedal down to the floor, it would not release. This caused the back drums to lock on the pads.

I was able to get the drums off and backed off the tensioners. The cable on both wheels will move about a half inch when you pull on the cable by the back wheels. The brake release has a half-round gear that is released by a round, 2-inch part that has a series of eighth-inch diameter round pins, which I think should pull in to release the parking brake. When you pull the release handle, they don't pull in; Should they?

The first thing you suspect is a stuck brake cable, but I am lost.

A. It is a little unusual for an emergency brake to have a problem on a vehicle when it is always used. Generally, problems occur when the emergency brake is never used and all of the sudden somebody tries to use it.

Nonetheless, it sounds like you have a cable that is seizing up and causing the brake to stay on. It is an older vehicle so this would not be totally out of the norm.

Once you get this cable issue straightened out you will want to readjust the back brakes from when you backed off the shoes.

From your description, it seems you have already proved the rear cables are moving freely. If that is the case, I would put my focus on the front cable. If you disconnect it from the rest of the cables you should be able to confirm whether it is seized and not returning on its own.

I would bet this is where you are going to find the problem.

Precious cargo

There are several times during the year when it makes sense to really focus on the condition of your car. The obvious times would be before summer and winter driving, but another great time of the year is now -- "Back to School" season.

During this time or year, there are a lot more cars on the road, families tend to put more miles on their vehicles and are depending on them more. You may have a child driving a good distance to college, or taking driver's ed in high school, or traveling daily to a community college. Maybe you drive your kids and others in an elementary school car pool.

Whatever the case, you have to depend on your car to be safe and reliable. Take the initiative to have your service provider perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle today. It will give you peace of mind while you are driving your precious cargo to and from school and all their other activities!

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit Send questions to

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