What is it with later Rovers and their damn handbrakes? The 6/800 series had notoriously poor handbrakes which sometimes barely stopped them rolling away on a billiard-table smooth and level road while certain HHR or R8 models with rear discs weren’t much better either. At best with the aforementioned cars, the park brake would be only just adequate to hold the car and pass the required MoT standard, bearing in mind the required standard to gain a pass is pitifully low when you break down the figures. The Rover 75 in all fairness, has a very good and efficient braking system that under normal, everyday usage gives little cause for concern or known serious problems – in fact, my own front and rear discs have seemingly lasted an impressive 91.000 miles.
After changing the life-expired front discs and pads very recently, the view through the eighteen inch Hairpin alloys made the rears look a bit weather worn and shabby in comparison, so armed with some canny weather and a little time on my hands, I rang my parts man once again and dragged the tool chest onto the drive. To be fair, the rear discs were getting a little scored and rusty but would most definitely have seen the spring and most of summer through. With Ken Bruce prattling away from the audio system everything dismantled with no fuss or aggro – which is a god send on a car these days, but more by luck than judgement and in true AROnline fashion, I got the sniff that something was not quite right.
Well… when I say sniff, I mean exactly thus. As those with grubby mitts will know, when you replace pads and discs together it requires the removal of both the brake calliper and respective carrier. Being a staunch supporter of double productivity of time and preventative maintenance I used this as a golden opportunity to check the handbrake adjustment with the discs still in situ. While the carrier/calliper are both removed, there is no bind to the disc from the pads making it perfect for checking the park brake. So with an LED torch in one hand and a small flat screwdriver in t’other I started to tickle the little cog that adjusts the tiny shoes that work against the surface of the inside of the disc.
After about 5 or 6 flicks of the cog, very little resistance was felt as I turned the disc/hub. A very close look through the hole where the wheel bolt fits found a fair bit of soot in view and my heart sank. What the eye saw was then confirmed with my nose and what my neighbour must have thought as he pottered around his front garden at the sight of me *sniffing my back brakes. Sounds odd, huh? Well, don’t surprised too much, the old hooter is one of the best diagnostic tools around – not only does it confirm from the front room that your crumpets are on fire in the kitchen, it also helps diagnose poorly cars. Think of it as being an analogue OBD fault scanner.
* – Remember kids… don’t try this at home and make sure you are supervised by a responsible grown up at all times!
That quick sniff brought a familiar smell of cooked metal flowing through my nostrils, so I backed off the adjuster inside the hub, attacked the locating screw with a T50 bit and pulled off the disc. It was not a pretty sight – lots of lining dust and blue scoring on both the handbrake shoes and inside the disc and I found this hard to fathom out as it was only a few days before the last MoT when I replaced the aforementioned handbrake shoes and the previous ones were as old as the car. I’m more than certain the previous owner Neil hadn’t touched them but, rather than look for a point of blame, I had to call the factors again for some replacements and by now I was racing against the setting Sussex sun.
I managed to get one complete side assembled but, at the point, I was working by Braille and then the umpire called end of play owing to bad light by demanding I come inside, get in the bath and have my tea. Next day, it was the offside’s turn and it was the same story there when the disc was pulled off the hub, but when I stopped for a cuppa and to listen to pop-master, I recalled a passing remark from the MoT guy last summer. When I collected the car, his young mechanic handed the keys over, told me I had a water leak (the pump decided to fail on the ramp) and quipped that he had “nipped up the handbrake” so before I did the final check over, I pulled the gaiter from the lever to check the cable inside the car.
When you look at the handbrake ratchet on the 75 with the gaiter removed or pulled back, you can clearly see a threaded rod with a nylock nut. This is NOT the point of adjustment for the handbrake as many people (garages included) think it often is. You only adjust the nut if the cable has stretched and even then its wise to check the condition of the cable compensator linkage – very prone to bending out of shape if the lever is abused by Mr Muscle. My MoT station had adjusted the nut to the point where it was almost at the end of the thread and, while that had provided a pass on the rollers, out on the road, all it had done is burn out the handbrake shoes – easy to do as they are only small little things and no bigger than you’d find on a mid-sized motorbike.
Anyway, after winding back the nut on the lever to the point of just taking out the slack of the cable, I pulled on the handbrake by two clicks and went back to the rear adjusters and tickled the cog until the rear discs refused to turn with both hands – the correct procedure. In fact, it’s the same process as a BMW 3 Series (same rear brakes in fact) and some Vauxhall Vectras built up to 2002. Once again, it’s the old saga of a quick lash rather than a tiny bit of effort and extra time to get the job done. Once it’s all re-assembled, you run the car for a couple of days to bed the shoe to disc interface and, if need be, check the adjustment one more time and it’s job done.
The task itself is very DIY possible, the only part that could be regarded as a “chew on” as we Northerners would say, is having to pull off the hub/wheel bearing to gain access. To conclude, it’s yet another shining example of how even garages take the short cut to get to the end of the job and if they had charged me hard cash for the handbrake adjustment on top of the M0T, I’d have probably gone back to give someone a punch up the conk by now. Instead, I’ll just put it down to experience and leave you with a quote that will never see you wrong…
Trust no-one but yourself and you’ll be seldom disappointed!