Adjusting the handbrake: Here’s how! | ATP Autoblog


If the parking brake has too much play when it is applied and then does not grip properly – then you should adjust the handbrake (leave it). In this article, we will tell you how best to do this. You will also find out when you should adjust the handbrake. Are you ready? Then let’s get started!

When to adjust the handbrake?

The good news first: Normally you don’t have to adjust the handbrake at all or only very rarely. When should you do this? Here comes the answer:

  • You should adjust the handbrake after replacing the handbrake cables.
  • In addition, adjustment of the handbrake is also required after the rear brake discs have been changed.
  • Even if you change the brake calipers or brake caliper carrier on the rear axle, you should adjust the handbrake afterwards.
  • Finally, an adjustment of the handbrake is also necessary if you notice that it has too much play – i.e. later than usual.
    • At least as long as there is no other reason for it!

For better or for worse, we have to come to the “bad” news: Adjusting the handbrake is different for each vehicle model. But don’t worry: we have detailed instructions on how to adjust the parking brake for two different vehicle models. And that’s exactly what we’re going to continue with! Are you ready? Let’s go!

Tip: Even if we don’t deal with your vehicle here: In any case, you will find further information in the vehicle manual! If necessary, you can also contact your trusted workshop or make an appointment in a rental workshop. Of course, our auto parts professional Brian is also happy to help you with words and deeds – just a comment from you is enough!
You don’t have to screw on the brake caliper on all vehicles to adjust the handbrake!

Adjusting the handbrake on the VW Golf 4

In order to be able to adjust the handbrake on your Golf 4, you must first remove the ashtray or the storage compartment of the center console:

  • Take the tray out of the holder.
  • You can then remove the covers on the left and right using a flat screwdriver.
  • Now another cover appears – you can remove this too by unlocking the clips at the back.
  • You should now see the handbrake adjustment screw.

Tip: You can also check here again whether there is too much play. All you have to do is move the handbrake cable slightly.

  • If you now tighten the nut, the path of the handbrake cable is shortened and the handbrake engages earlier again.
  • Finally, you should test again whether the handbrake is set correctly.
    • rule of thumb: from about 3 points the handbrake should then grip.
    • You should also check whether the wheels are fixed when the handbrake is applied – i.e. not turning.
    • And conversely, you should also check whether the wheels can be turned when the handbrake is released.
  • If this is the case? Then you can reinstall everything you previously removed.
  • Complete!

But as I said: Adjusting the handbrake is not always done in the same way. Do you have a BMW E46? We also have useful step-by-step instructions for this vehicle up our sleeve! Are you ready to go? Here we go!

Adjusting the handbrake on the BMW E46

We will show you how to adjust the handbrake on your E46 with a drum brake on the rear axle. And here is the step-by-step guide:

  • First you unscrew one wheel bolt each on both rear wheels in order to be able to access the adjusting screw.
  • Then remove the cuff of the handbrake lever.
  • Then you loosen the handbrake cable screws, which are located under the cuff.
    • But please don’t unscrew them completely – only so far that the ropes are no longer under tension!
  • Next, you’ll need to jack up your car so you can turn the wheel whose bolt you removed.
  • Now turn the wheel very slowly until you can see the adjusting screws through the hole for the wheel bolt.
    • It is best to shine a flashlight through the hole to get a better view.
You should jack up your car when readjusting the handbrake so that the wheel can be turned – this makes it easier to access the adjusting screw on the brake caliper.

Did you find her? Excellent! Then it’s high time to adjust the handbrake:

  • With a small slotted screwdriver, you can now turn the prongs of the adjusting screw until the screw can no longer be moved.
    • Then you loosen it again by three points.

Now you can screw in the wheel bolt again and tighten it with the correct torque according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Finally, only the fine adjustments of the handbrake are missing – you make these again on the screws on the handbrake lever:

  • Adjust the screws until the wheels can no longer be turned from the 3rd point.
  • Of course, you should also check the handbrake on the BMW afterwards:
    • The rule of thumb of 3 points also applies here – the handbrake must not be too tight or too loose.
    • The wheels must therefore not turn when the handbrake is applied.
    • Conversely, the wheels must not grip when the handbrake is released.

Would you like to see the whole thing as a video? Nothing easier than that! In the following video you can watch how a professional adjusts the handbrake on his BMW E46:

So and how does it look to you? Have you ever adjusted your handbrake yourself? Did you also follow these instructions here or do you have a different vehicle? Tell us in the comments – as always, we are very excited!


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