Handbrake use, maintenance tips and the cost of handbrake repair

If you drive a car, you don’t need me to tell you what a handbrake does.

However, you might find it interesting to understand how it works. It could give you a much better idea of what might be happening when it starts to fail and what’s entailed in its repair. We’ll give you some guide prices to repairs and inspections, plus, how much to replace a handbrake cable.

How does your handbrake work?

Your handbrake utilises the same brake system as your brake pedal. The lever pulls a metal cable attached to the brake shoes; they lock against the discs, preventing your car from moving.

Your handbrake will often be referred to as your parking brake, or occasionally, the emergency brake. This name originated from when the handbrake was considered an emergency option for times a failure occurred in the main braking system. For its best chances of stopping a runaway car, the handbrake applied the brakes in the rear wheels, which would be more effective in reducing the speed of the car than if the brakes were activated in the front wheels.

The handbrake cable can also be called a parking brake cable.

Obvious signs of a failing handbrake

The car still moves

The most obvious sign that your handbrake is failing is that your car still moves when the vehicle is parked, and the brake applied.

This could be down to worn or damaged brake shoes or discs, but the most likely reason will be a fault with your handbrake cable.

Check your warning lights

If your car features an appropriate indicator or dashboard warning light, this will illuminate when the relevant sensor has detected a fault.

A sticking handbrake

Another key symptom is when your handbrake becomes stuck in place, and won’t release.

If and when any of these problems occur, it’s time to have the fault properly diagnosed and corrected.

Handbrake repair cost

If you’re having handbrake trouble the most likely area you’ll be interested in is the handbrake cable replacement cost.

From a franchise or dealer, you can expect to pay anything from £70 or £80 to around £150 depending on the make and model of your car. Sports cars and luxury marques could cost considerably more.

Fixter consistently beats franchise and dealership prices by up to 30%. That offers you savings of between £20 and £45. And don’t forget, we collect and deliver every car we fix—saving you further time and worry and leaving you free to get on with all the things you’d rather be doing.

When you need to replace your handbrake cable and when it might only need a little care and attention

You might not need a new cable when your handbrake ceases to work as well as it usually does. Cables can slip or stretch, and in those instances, your handbrake may only need recalibrating. A quick inspection could save you from paying for something you don’t really need.

All of our Fixter mechanics will look after you and your car in the best way possible. They’ll offer premium advice and the best resolution to your car’s issue to have you up and running again in no time.

Your Fixter mechanic handbrake inspection process:

  • We’ll inspect your handbrake system to locate any problems with performance or its components
  • Where required, we’ll replace your handbrake cable with a new one
  • If we fit a new cable, we will calibrate it for correct performance
  • If the existing cable only needs recalibrating, we will carry out the required operation
  • Once calibrated, we’ll test the handbrake to recommended industry standards
  • Where necessary, we will make adjustments to assure the customer of the best possible performance of the braking system

Looking after your handbrake for optimum performance

Because your brakes are such an important safety feature of your car, you should pay close and regular attention to their performance.

Checks and maintenance should be carried out during all services to spot issues before they develop into more severe problems. These check-ups could help prevent issues with sticking brakes or stretched cables.

Your handbrake is one of the items most likely to be affected if your car has sat stationary for extended periods. Without regular use, it could become prone to sticking; or with overuse, the cable stretching.

Never drive with the handbrake engaged

While it seems obvious to say that you should never drive with the handbrake on, we’d guess that at some point every driver has done just that without realising it.

Driving with your parking brake engaged will add wear to brake shoes and discs, and also to the linings of your main brakes. Your brake system can overheat due to the added friction, and in turn, cause associated problems to develop within your wheels.

If you smell burning rubber, stop the car straight away and have it inspected by a professional mechanic to diagnose the problem.

Occasionally, if you drive for a prolonged distance or time with the parking brake engaged, the heat the additional friction produces can be transferred to the brake fluid, causing it to boil.

In most cases, the additional heat will only add a glaze to the brake pads. This glaze makes the pads slicker, and it becomes harder to stop the vehicle. Once you release the handbrake and return to normal driving conditions, the glaze will disappear under regular brake operation.

Handbrake calibration

Handbrake calibration is to be expected from time to time. With regular use the metal cable will be prone to stretching, pads and discs will corrode and wear, both of which can result in reduced performance.

Your mechanic will replace, recalibrate or clean any components or brake lines where required. Once sorted, your handbrake should return to an as-new operation.

How long should I expect my handbrake cable to last?

No brake cable has a typical lifespan. How long it will last depends on its usage and its operating conditions.

Where you live can affect a brake cable lifespan. Cold, wet regions will promote additional corrosion, and salty roads can also promote added deterioration.

Take care of your handbrake, and it will take care of you

Common sense and regular servicing should see your handbrake offer you years of healthy and efficient service. But, if any of the problems mentioned above arise, we’re ready and waiting to put them straight for you.

About Fixter

Fixter is revolutionising the car maintenance industry, one repair at a time. Fixter was founded to make car maintenance as easy as booking a taxi. Digital, transparent and stress-free, with world-class customer service. Since launching in Manchester in 2017, Fixter has expanded to more than 100 cities across the UK and provided thousands of car owners with honest, convenient and affordable car repair services.