Emergency brake not working - '98 Chev 1500 - Help please!

Discussion in 'Chevy Silverado Forum (GMC Sierra)' started by Texas Kid, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Texas Kid

    Texas Kid New Member

    I think I posted this in the wrong section earlier today, sorry! My '98 Chev 1500 Silverdo failed safety inspection the other day - the emergency brake does not work - at all. Puzzled, I came home, got underneath the driver's side between the driver's door and back left wheel, and adjusted the cable as far as it will go. Then, tested the e-brake and it is as if it doesn't even exist: I can push the pedal to the floor (no resistance), put it in Drive, and it takes off like there is no brake at all. Then I jacked up the rear end, took off the back wheels, and looked at the brakes. Everything seems to look normal... there was a little brake dust, brake shoes look like they haven't even been used, drums are nice and smoothe. I had my wife engage the e-brake pedal and I looked at movement of brake parts on both sides each time. Movement looks "normal" to me - but it could be that the brake shows could expand farther. I'm not real sure about this. I'm wondering if something is going on back there which is causing the e-brake to not be functional. It just doesn't seem possible that, all of a sudden, the e-brake would not work (or the OTHER place I've been getting inspections at all these years has been overlooking this item). At this point, I'm wondering, if there is more adjustment needed somewhere else, like on each rear brake. I would like to confirm that the rear brakes are working properly before I keep looking for an adjustment. As far as I understand, e-brake operation and function is completely seperate from the regular braking system because it is all about cable linkage and a maybe a few springs. My gut feeling tells me that I should be getting some improvement from just tightening up the e-brake cable, but since I did not, there is something else going on inside the rear drums. By the way, I have done a lot of basic brake jobs on all my vehicles over the years and consider myself to be a pretty good weekend mechanic - I don't think I have ever not put something back together the right way. Anyone have any suggestions or advice on how to proceed or figure out if the shows are actually moving far enough? I hope it's a simple adjustment that I can make because I didn't replace something right the last time I did a brake job. Thanks GM Truck Club members, I appreciate your help!
  2. Texas Kid

    Texas Kid New Member

    Looks like I figured this out on my own, and fixed it. If anyone needs any pointers about adjusting rear drum brakes, let me know.
  3. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    I have a 1998 Suburban- drum brakes also-probably just like yours.
    My buddy tells me that I should adjust some star adjuster on the rear drums "every once in a while" or my brakes will be poor.
    Somewhere else I read that I should put it in REVERSE?? drive a little and jam on the brakes 30 or 40 times to get them to self adjust??

    Just what did you do to "fix" your problem?I would expect it to be in my future
    Also what is the story on this self adjusting by putting it in R and braking-30-40 times?? that just seems "odd" but who knows?
  4. Texas Kid

    Texas Kid New Member

    I'm not a mechanic, but I doubt driving in reverse and jamming on the brakes is going to do anything useful.

    Are you asking about the regular service brakes or the emergency brake? Regarding the emergency brake: From what I can tell, by design, IF everything is working properly in the drum, the brakes will self adjust when you engage the emergency brake. There is a small sprocket or gear looking thing that is (supposed to be) adjusted everytime you engage the emergency brake. To check, take off a drum, simulate cable pull on the emergency brake with your fingers, and watch to see if this little gear is engaged by anything. You will be able to tell how it turns that gear if the self-adjust is working. I used a slot screw driver and turned it 4 or 5 turns. I knew right away I had adjusted it because I almost couldn't get the drum back on. Regarding the service brakes: I may be wrong, but I believe that pressure in the hydraulic line is not strong enough, by itself, to keep the shoes expanded enough to always be in the right position "at rest." But, regularly setting the e-brake will adjust the brake shoes.

    I have also learned to be careful about what others say about how to fix anything - especially the guys working at Auto Zone, O'Reilly's, etc. I cannot tell you how many times I've been picking up a part and I'll ask someone about a repair and someone tells me something completely incorrect. Did your buddy tell you HOW to make that adjustment? Does he really know or it is something someone told him?

    I hope this helps, good luck with it. If you need to get more specific with questions, I'll help however I can.
  5. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Texas Kid
    Thanks-it cleared up-I think-what my buddy was telling me.
    He- buddy is a very experienced pro mechanic- never known him to be wrong
    But he was telling me this over the phone-and it just isn't the same as reading it or seeing it in person.
    What I suspect he was actually telling me was to put on the E brake because that is supposed to self adjust the shoe for "real" braking.
    His point-I think- was that many folks don't use the E brake- or that it just doesn't always work to self adj the shoe/drum position-so your rear brakes-over time- will get "weak".
    That is why he suggested I hand adjust what he called the Star Adjuster (the thing you call a small sprocket gear-he calls a star adjuster).
    I think on another GM I had to use a long screw driver to turn it.
    Yeah I think his point was for some reason the rear drum brakes just don't self adjust-despite using the E BRAKE-and you have to do it by hand.
    Maybe he was suggesting to get it to self adj I should put the E brake on and R a tiny bit- repeat repeat etc- to get the self adj feature to work.
    He strongly suggested I do it by hand-screwdriver-that setting E brake backing up 30 times wouldn't work as well.

    How dId you actually fix YOUR PROBLEM- E brake not working DESPITE cable appearing to move the shoe etc? I'm most curious about that because it sounds like what is probably a common problem.Did you fix it by adjusting the star adjuster sprocket gear thing?? If so that what what he was telling me to do to "fix" my regular brakes on another GM- a drum brake Prizm-2001-it had crummy brakes-adj the star helped.

  6. billnorman

    billnorman Rockstar 100 Posts

    Ask any experienced mechanic. "Self adjusting" brakes seldom self adjust. Your brake pedal height is determined by the adjustment of your rear brakes once the front calipers are full. Adjust them so the wheel coasts just a little maybe 1/2 to 1 turn when you spin it after you adjust it. I hit the backing plate with a hammer after I think the wheel is adjusted to allow the brake shoes to settle on the plates because when you turn that star wheel, sometimes they stick somewhat. Then I check it again.
  7. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Billnorman, that is what my buddy said-they just don't self adjust well-even though they are designed to self adjust
    The brake on- back up- brake off- brake on-back up was supposed to help the self adjust- but he suggested turning that star was the better way to do it.
  8. Texas Kid

    Texas Kid New Member

    Glad we got some feedback going here! What did I actually do to fix mine? I turned the star wheel thingy with a screw driver and just lucked out and got it right. When I could'nt get the drum back on, I adjusted it back the other way.

    You can tell from looking at the brakes and the star wheel that it probably is not a going to work that well when it comes to self-adjusting. One side of mine didn't work at all and the other about half the time, I think. Bottom line, I figured out how to adjust my e-brake.

Share This Page

Newest Gallery Photos