A broken handbrake can be a drag, literally, so here's a handy guide to replacing handbrake cables on a VW T4 Transporter
The handbrake on the T4 is operated via two separate cables at the rear. These connect the main part of the hand brake with the two brake callipers at the rear of the Van. They sit under the rear load floor area and as such are open to the elements, which means over time they can seize up. The most common symptoms are a handbrake that refuses to disengage fully. You will feel this through either a lack of power as the rear brakes are dragging or that the rear wheels are much hotter than the fronts.
The cables themselves are easy enough to remove from your Van so before you go buying new ones you could remove the current ones and check that it is them that are sticking and not the calipers themselves. Once removed you could also try lubricating them rather than replacing them as a good application of WD40 or similar may well free off the cables saving you a few pounds in the process.
As you will be working under the rear of your Van remember to support it properly on some suitable axle stands, ensuring the Van is on firm, solid, level ground to start with. New cables, if required can be bought from most good parts suppliers or any of the online suppliers and should only cost you around a tenner per cable.
Once done remember to double check and test the brakes fully before the vehicle is taken back on the road but if you are at all unsure of your abilities then please have a professional either check your work or let them carry out the job for you. Brakes are one area that you must never cut corners on so always seek professional advice if you are unsure.
Replacing handbrake cables: Need to know
- TOOLS USED
Jack, axle stands, wheel brace, screwdriver, copper grease
- SKILL LEVEL
- TIME TAKEN
- COST DIY
Approx. £10 per side
- COST PRO
£70 for both sides, parts and labour
New handbrake cables are easily obtained from most good parts suppliers or even online, we found these cables for a few pence over £20 including the postage to our door. It’s a lazy way to shop but often cheaper than going out and buying them in person!
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 1
Before you start you will need to jack the rear of your Van up and place axle stands under it so you can safely work on it safely. We were lucky enough to have access to a lift so once the Van was in the air the rear wheels were removed to allow access to the brake calliper.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 2
With the wheel removed you can then see the rear brake caliper and the handbrake cable. First job is to use a screwdriver or similar to prise off the clip that secures the cable to the calliper.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 3
Next, use the same screwdriver to push down the handbrake actuating lever allowing you to release the ball end of the cable. You may need another screwdriver or possibly pliers to release the cable.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 4
The outer cable can now be pulled free from the cable stop bracket releasing the end of the cable completely – allowing you to pull it away from the calliper itself.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 5
Follow the handbrake cable over the rear suspension arm and you should find another clip, again use a screwdriver to prise this off and then pull the cable out of the bracket.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 6
Moving further along to the centre of the Van you will find the cable stop bracket where the outer portion of the handbrake cable is fixed in place. Pull the outer cable towards the rear of the Van to release it.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 7
The last part of removing the old handbrake cable is to un-hook the ends which fit into the metal rods that connect the rear cable to the rest of the handbrake system.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 8
If you are changing both cables it’s easier to do one at a time and use the other side as a reference tool. So, with the old cable now removed it time to install its replacement. Start by threading the kinked end through the actuating rod from underneath.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 9
When fitting the outer cable into the bracket on the underside of the floor of the Van we found it easier to pull the rubber grommet off the end of the cable so that it could pass through the bracket without damaging it.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 10
Once the outer cable has been pushed through the bracket the rubber sealing grommet is then moved back down the cable and fitted into position. This is designed to stop dirt and water getting into the outer cable. Allowing it to do so will result in a much shorter life span of your new cable.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 11
Pass the outer cable over the rear suspension arm then locate the rubber section on the outer cable that clips into the first bracket. This should be a tight fit so ensure that it is pushed in fully.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 12
Once it is properly fitted the metal clip that holds it in position can also be pushed onto the cable and the bracket. Make sure it is pushed firmly on to avoid it dropping off later.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 13
Moving to the end of the cable by the caliper, use a screwdriver or similar to lever the handbrake mechanism round so that the ball end of the handbrake cable can be slotted into position.
Replacing handbrake cables: Step 14
Having pushed the end of the cable into place you can then release the mechanism,trapping the ball end of the cable into position. You can then repeat the process on the other side if necessary and then test the handbrake before lowering the Van back onto its wheels and taking it for a test drive to ensure everything has been done correctly.
For more technical guides on fixing problems or making modifications to your Volkswagen T4 or T5 Transporter, have a gander at our: VW Transporter technical guides