Hand Brake Cable Adjustment

Oh Yeah…just what you need. You pull in to the garage and pull on the handbrake. The entire handbrake pulls up straight and you know what that means – a snapped cable! It will look just like the picture in Fig 1.

Okay, okay, it really isn’t a big deal. If you got two hours to spare and a couple of new brake cables, you can do this fix yourself. The cables I use are COFLE, made in Italy. The VW part number is 133.609.721, and can be purchased at CIP1 or other suppliers. They are $11.95 at CIP1. Get two of them, as it is supremely wise to replace both cables while the antibiotics and band-aids are close at hand. A couple of pain pills before starting wouldn’t hurt either.

Now, put your Thing up on jack stands and pull the rear wheels off (Fig 2). You can either take the entire wheel and drum off together, or split them and pull the wheel first and then the drum. I take the wheel first, because I don’t want to scratch up my wheel rims with the wheel nut removal tool. An impact wrench makes the entire process is easier. While I own both, I use the impact because I have converted all of my drums to studs – that will be another how to article.

The studs are long enough to get in the way of the iron tool for hammering the axle nut loose (Fig 3). The large nut holding on the drum is 36mm. Don’t forget to remove the cotter pin before trying to remove the nut. I know, it’s a simple thing…but you would be surprised at some of the calls I get about this. The nut comes off counter-clock wise. Both sides.

Now you will see the inside of the brake drum area (Fig 4). There is a rear brake actuator lever that is attached to the handbrake cable. Just take a screwdriver and tweak the lever enough to disengage the cable from it. There is a 13 mm nut where the cable comes into the drum on the inside of the backplate (Fig 5). It will most likely be rusted, so put some penetrating oil on it and give it a few minutes. Then remove the nut.

This releases the clip that holds the cable in place where it comes through the back plate. You need to use a large blade screwdriver to separate the crimped fingers of the clip. Separating the crimped fingers will release the cable, and you just pull it out from the back plate.

Now, you go inside the car and remove the rubber boot covering the handbrake. Disconnect the four 10 mm nuts on the cables and save them, as you will be re-using them on the new ones. There should be an equalizer plate sitting on top of the hand brake, with two holes for the cables to run through (Fig 6). Sometimes parts are missing but they shouldn’t have gone far. Remove the cross-pin holding the hand brake handle in the bracket on top of the tunnel. There is a small wire cir-clip on either end that has to be removed to allow it to slide out. Once out, look inside the tunnel for any other missing parts. This is where they like to hide.

Right! Now it’s time to reverse procedure. Pull the old cable out and then commence to thread the new cable into the small tube sticking out of the trailing arm (Fig 7). Put the threaded end of the cable in first, and shove it as far as it takes for it to show up in the hand brake section of the tunnel between the seats. As I mentioned, we are doing both sides at the same time. Make sure the left cable is on left side, and the right cable is on the right side. They will just lie in nicely if you take your time. They will look like (Fig ?? . When you put the cable back on to the brake actuator, put the GREEN fiber/plastic washer on the inside as shown in the picture. It stops wear on the cable coming through the brake plate.

Now I know there are two opinions regarding whether or not to grease the cables before putting them in the tube. Fourteen years ago I did one side with grease and the other without. I will let you know what happens the next time around. They normally last 20 or more years. Hope to see you then.

Re-install the hand brake, and put the pin back through. Put the drums back on the car and get them on tight – 253 ft lbs. This can be done with a torque wrench, or get them on as tight as you can and go to the local tire shop and have them torque them for you. Adjust the brakes, check again to see if the cotter key is back in.

Don’t exceed the 253 ft lbs, as the ends of the stub axles will stretch or snap off at around 300- 325 ft lbs. I know this! My wife hates it when she sees our rear wheel pass us at the intersection. That was Lesson II for me back in 1983. The tire shop guy was “just being safe” when he torqued mine to 300. It popped off the next day at 45 mph. I bought my own torque wrench the same day.

Okay, now put the cables through the equalizer plate, and put one of the 10 mm nuts on each cable. Adjust them to where the plate is level between the two cables (Fig 9). Also set them so there are about 6 clicks on pulling up on the hand brake. When they are level, and have the 5-6 clicks set, put the other lock nut on top of the ones you installed first. This keeps them from backing off. Put your rubber boot back on and get out on the road.

The picture in (Fig 10) shows why I always replace both cables at the same time. One had the end snapped off, and the other was 5 inches back in the tunnel and frayed down to two strands of cable.