I don’t know if this happened to you or not, but did you ever
park your car on a hill, only to slowly see it start rolling away after
you come out of the store? Granted, this is a worst-case scenario, and how
many people don’t put the car in gear while parked? Regardless, the
parking brakes eventually wear down over time, causing them to become
ineffective in holding the car when parked. In this tech article, I will
go over the relatively easy steps involved in adjusting the parking brakes
on the BMW E30 3 Series models from 1984-92. Keep in mind that this
article is specific to cars with rear disc brakes. The 318i from 1984-86
uses rear drum brakes. The procedure for adjusting them is the same as
Parking brakes work essentially like a drum style brake. There are
two shoes mounted on the inside of the brake rotor. When you pull up on
the handbrake, it drives the shoes outward, causing them to grip the
inside of the brake rotor. Over time, friction wears the shoes down,
causing them to not grip the inside of the rotor. The solution is to
re-adjust the shoes so that they again come into contact with the rotor.
how it is done. Start off by chocking the front wheels. This will keep the
car from rolling when you jack up the rear wheels, which is the next step.
For those of you not familiar with jacking up the rear end, I highly
recommend you check out Wayne’s article on jacking up your BMW.
Be sure to jack the car up on a structural member. Otherwise, you
risk damaging the chassis. I have seen jacks go through floorboards on
cars before. Also be sure to support the car on jack stands. NEVER rely on
a jack to keep the car up in the air.
Once jacked up, put the car in neutral, release the handbrake and
pump the brakes a few times to seat the pads. Remove the rubber boot
around the handbrake. You will now see two nuts in front of the lever.
These nuts are used to adjust the parking brake. Slowly pull up on the
handbrake until it clicks five times. Once it clicks five times, it is in
the correct position to be adjusted.
Now have a helper turn the rear wheels. The idea here is to turn
the adjusting nuts until the rear wheels just stop turning. Be sure use
turn each nut in equal turns until both wheels begin to drag and stop.
Once they stop turning, release the handbrake and check that the wheels
Once they spin freely, Spray a little WD-40 over the parking brake
mechanism. This will keep things nice and lubricated. Now re-install the
rubber boot around the assembly and lower the car.
And that’s it,
Well, there you have it - it's
really not too difficult at all. If you would like to see
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