How To Adjust Brakes

Learning how to adjust the brakes on your car isn’t too hard. If you take your time and don’t try to rush, you can learn how to adjust your brakes and save yourself a little money, too. Your car's brakes are of critical importance to your safety while driving, so be sure to take good care of them and adjust them when necessary.

To adjust your brakes, you will need:

  • A car jack
  • Two jack stands
  • A lug wrench
  • A brake adjustment spoon or long screwdriver
  • A helper
  1. Jack the back of the car up using the car jack. Raise it high enough that you are able to position the two jack stands underneath the car. With the jack stands under the car frame, lower the car down onto the jack stands. For safety, always put a block of wood or some other wheel chock in front of the front wheels to prevent any accidental forward movement of the car.
  2. In order to reach the brakes to adjust them, you will need to remove the tire and wheel using the lug wrench. Once the tire and wheel have been removed, on the inside about three inches down on the backing plate you will find the access hole for the adjustment screw. If it is covered by a rubber plug, remove the plug.
  3. Using the brake adjustment spoon or long screwdriver in the access hole, feel for the teeth on the star wheel. Use the tip of the brake adjustment spoon or the screwdriver between the teeth of the star wheel and push in to be able to adjust the brakes.
  4. After turning the star wheel to adjust the brakes, check your adjustment by grabbing the brake drum. Move it in the same direction as it would normally turn while the car is moving. Re-adjust the brake pad by turning the star wheel again as needed.
  5. Have your helper get in the car and step down on the brake pedal while applying the parking brake at the same time. This will center the brake shoe. At the same time, it is including the parking brake in the adjustment.
  6. Now have your helper lightly apply pressure to the brake pedal. The pressure needs to be light enough that you can still turn the brake drum. If both rear wheels seem to turn with the same amount of tension, then the brakes are balanced. If not, then you need to adjust them more until they appear to be close to the same tension on both sides.
  7. Replace the rubber plug if you had to remove one and put the wheels back on the car, finger tightening the lug nuts. Using the car jack, raise the car slightly. Remove the jack stands and then lower the car to the ground. Finish tightening the lug nuts with the lug wrench.

This should have your brakes adjusted and back in working order. Having brakes that are in good working order is important for the safety of everyone on the road. Knowing how to adjust them yourself will let you adjust them at the first sign of a problem.

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