Handbrake Cables

11 Oct 2013
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United Kingdom

My Toyota Corolla has handbrake cables as in the diagram below.

It has separate cables going to each rear drum, which as I understand, the equaliser should apply equal force to each.
( that said its a little easier to understand the equaliser on set ups that have a looped cable going to both drums as in the second pic fig 28)

However am having real problems adjusting the shoes properly and though I can see, with the drums off, the cables move ok and 'open' the shoes, when the drums are on, one side fails to exert any real pressure.

Could its cable be overstretched and the equaliser not able to produce the force needed to hold it on properly ??

The other drum locks up properly.

The cables have been inspected at all ends and are not frayed or rusted; actually very well protected.

Toyota cables

Typical loop cable

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I think your problems actually within the brake drum itself, Ricky.....you’ll realise that the brake shoes have their own ‘automatic’ adjusters. The trouble is, they dont always self adjust and its best to turn them manually until the are just rubbing on the drum.
Obviously, the brake shoes should have equal wear, the wheel cylinders need to be free and some lube should be applied to the back plate where the shoes rub to achieve perfect results.
So, jack both rear wheels in the air, drums off, turn the adjusters so when you pull the handbrake on, both drums lock at approximately the same time.
John :)
Thanks, these are handbrake only drums as part of the rear disc/drum and the shoes are manually adjusted by means of a star wheel on each side.

The shoes and disc/drums are new and its something I have done many times over the years but this one just will not grip on the nearside properly, despite driving around trying to bed them in and many readjustments etc etc.

Thats why I wondered that even though there is still adjustment on the front handbrake lever cable, could it be down to a stretched rear nearside cable that the equaliser cannot cope with, yet still allow the offside drum to grip ok ?
If the disc/drums and the small shoes are new then this is quite surprising - assuming that the shoe operating mechanism is free to work and you are turning the adjusters the right way o_O
I have to say though, these systems do need to be adjusted 'right up' so the shoes do make contact with the drum. When I am doing these I tap the drum with a hammer whilst rotating it just to keep the shoes centralised. I also like to lubricate the backplate where the shoes make contact, and that includes the hold down springs.
If one cable is stretched, surely the compensator/equaliser tilts at an angle with the handbrake on? Presumably the cable is free to move on the compensator?
John :)
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Thanks, like the idea of tapping thew drum to help centralise the shoes , will give it a try.

Never used any lubrication on backplate etc, but will put some on them.

Have been under the car and checked the equaliser and the cables ends etc and they are looking/feel clean, free and floating.

Think if the above does not improve things, I will try swapping the drums and shoes from side to side and see if they give the same problem ? - could also refit the olds drums and shoes, though I never checked on how effective they were before replacing as it was the disc/pads that were the cause for renewal.
Sure, by all means swap the disc/drum to the other side and give it a try. Its a bit of a puzzler, this one and we assume the shoes are the correct ones, and the diameters match - I can't see what more it could be!
I'd guess you used quality parts, but to be fair they are all pretty good these days.....its Blueprint bits for me.
I've never known handbrake cables to stretch these days - split outers and corroded for sure, of course. If someone operates the handbrake when you look at the shoes and you see them expanding and then contracting again, that's good enough.
If you get the chance, compare the old shoes with the new ones for width and diameter....I rarely replace them due to wear, more likely corrosion or damage when the disc/drum comes away.
John :)
Just one wee thought...some systems require the adjuster block inside the drum to be able to float on the backplate.....I don't know if that's the case with yours!
John :)

No, the adjuster is fitted just between the bottom of the two shoes and clamped in position by the bottom spring.

Will let you know how things go on, though going to give it a rest until the weekend, chance for my bp and frustration levels to go down ! :mrgreen:

Thanks again.
If you manually pull the individual cable can you lock the wheel? No movement, cable / linkage to stiff partial seizure. Movement and no brakes, adjustment. Leave them as tight as you can on the adjuster, especially on the lazy side. But only if your sure everything is free.

From memory imbalance on the handbrake can be quite high and still pass MOT.
Even efficiency can be very low and still pass
If you manually pull the individual cable can you lock the wheel?


Rather difficult to do that as the cable is heavily sheathed from the brake shoes to the equaliser which is between the exhaust and bodywork and very difficult to get at.
With the drum removed I can see the cable moving the shoes , but do take your point.

When I next work on them ( need a rest for a day or two as mentioned in my last entry! ) I will disconnect the cable from the 'good' drum so I can really feel if there is any restriction to the problematic drum by operating the handbrake lever.
Is the cable arrangement on your car like the first pic or the second?
If it's like the first, the equalizer would turn to a crazy angle if one of the brakes was having an issue - much less so if it was the second type as it would be much more difficult to tell.
When I set up hand brakes, I put the lever up two clicks, and then spin each jacked up wheel, checking that the wheels spin with the same amount of effort. One more click and the wheels should lock - again with the same degree of force.
It interests me that you say the handbrake lever on the drum is external.....not too common I would have thought these days.
Best of luck with it!
John :)

Its like the top pic in post #1, the Toyota one, its the same as the full system below but they only show the earlier model with drum only whereas mine has the combined drum and disc. Handbrake drum ... external , think I must have described incorrectly.

The only adjustments being on the handbrake lever and the two star wheels on the shoes, the rear cables are fixed with no adjustment.

Yes, I adjust them in a similar fashion.


Update on my handbrake problems, carried out the above suggestions but still little grip on the nearside and not that much on the offside.

Rather than continue with these parts I decided to refit all the originals, disc/drums, old shoes and fittings, needed to give the old discs a good power wire brushing as they had been left outside; good job I hadn't disposed of them !

As soon as they were assembled they were roughly adjusted and the handbrake lever adjustment also just done up a bit and wallop, both rears locked up solid.

Fitted the wheels so I could really put some pressure on them and no way could I move them, if anything they are now better than ever before !

So, what on earth caused all my previous problems ?? - beginning to suspect the internal diameter of the drum but no not have the tools to accurately measure them, or possibly some slight size differences between them and the new shoes ??

I the past when doing higher mileages I always fitted top quality brake parts but now doing sub 10k thought I could uses things like Brakes Internationals Bremtec Discs/Drums , Breck Pads and Apec Shoes and but beginning to wonder ? just that Toyota prices are so ridiculous .

Still not going to do anything for now as its a case of re-bedding the shoes and pads and getting though the mot before the end of the month, even though these rear discs are getting a bit ridged and thin, hence the original reason for getting new ones.

@Burnerman - thanks for the tip on using a rubber hammer to help centralize the shoes when adjusting, worked a treat.

Thanks for all the input.
Many thanks for the update Ricky, like you I'd suspect the inner drum diameter....maybe if you had a vernier caliper you could check. I've never had that sort of grief before, and I use Blueprint parts all of the time.
Pleased you've made progress, you must have been doubting your own sanity by now!
John :)
This doesn't explain why it wasn't working properly in the first place. Not that it seems to have been the cause but I wouldn't touch cheap brake parts with a barge pole.
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