Our Cars : Mike’s Rover 75 – how I hate shoe shopping!

Mike Humble

Nothing like doing a job again thanks to a bodge up is there?
Nothing like doing a job again thanks to a bodge up is there?

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.

It looks and is a little fiddly but its really simple to adjust the handbrake on a 75. The silver adjuster cog can be seen at the top of the backplate and is operated by poking and flicking a slim flat screwdriver through a stud hole with the disc in situ.
It looks, and is, a little fiddly but it’s really simple to adjust the handbrake on a 75. The silver adjuster cog can be seen at the top of the backplate and is operated by poking and flicking a slim flat screwdriver through a stud hole with the disc in situ

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.

The old shoes (left) had not even lasted a year and ate all the lining and chewed the inside of the disc thanks to my MOT garage incorrectly adjusting the handbrake. It added another £20 and an hour onto the job along with the removal of the rear hub / wheel bearing assembly.
The old shoes (left) had not even lasted a year and ate all the lining while destroying the inside of the disc thanks to my MoT garage incorrectly adjusting the handbrake. It added another £20 and an hour onto the job along with the removal of the rear hub/wheel bearing assembly

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.

New brakes all round - And maybe they will last a little longer now.
New brakes all round – and maybe they will last a little longer now…

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!

Mike Humble


  1. I have one you will love.. My Disco had an ABS issue, caused by a clearly visible bit of corrosion on the modulator earth which has now been cleaned up and sorted. However that was only after I found all the 3 lights on (HDC, TC and ABS) while investigating the reason the ‘bulbs’ in the dash did not appear to work. In the cars past rather than investigate the fault someone had taken the instrument pack out and put insulation tape on the back of the dials face plate thus blanking off the lights. I know for a fact it took me less time to fix the real issue than it did for them to ‘fix it’!

  2. I have to do my rear discs soon. Not looking forward to as it looks like corrosion and some overzealous numpty with a windy gun has rounded off at least one of the bolts securing the caliper to the hub.
    Oh the joys!

  3. I always thought the handbrake was a bit weak, but never got round to having a look.
    It seems my thought on letting garages do jobs was right, if you want the job doing right and be certain its correct then do it yourself.
    But at least now you have no fear if rolling away on a 1℅ slope.

  4. Anyone ever been ripped off by a garage over brake discs? I can remember taking my car in for an MOT six years ago and the car had only done 26,000 miles, when I was told that the car needed new discs, even though they looked immaculate. I was told, ” a lot of discs are poor Chinese rubbish and yours are near the end of their life”. I do recall forking out £ 200 for work that wasn’t needed, as a mechanic friend told me a few weeks later that Nissan brake discs usually lasted 80,000 miles.

  5. Rover 75s always seem to have crap handbrakes even when adjusted properly, it must be like you said, people pulling the handbrake too hard bending things. The Mg6 has the same shoes/disks/pads as the 75 but the handbrakes are usually much better, mine is 2 clicks. I always adjust them to the same method as you state every service.

  6. Mike, There is no need to remove the hub assy to do this regardless of what the book says.

    After studying the hand brake mechanism on one stinking hot summer day a couple of years ago, I discovered that the whole handbrake mechanism can be completely dismantled and rebuilt without removing the bearing and hub assembly.

    Having failed the MOT on insufficient parking brake effort, I chose to replace the rear discs and pads (they were the original s I think) so I could justify the removal of the old discs (car is 2001 Rover 75 V6 Conn SE saloon).

    I found that I needed three hands to hold everything in place and thought there must be a better way.

    By slightly altering the order of assembly to the book and judicial use of a large screwdriver to tension the large spring sufficiently to locate it in position. I found there was sufficient clearance without removing the hub assembly.

    • Its much much much easier with the hub moved out of the way though.

      A dustcap and a 32mm nut and its off inside of 2 minutes. Giving all the visibility needed for the handbrake assy.

      AND providing a tip top opportunity to re-pack the bearings with grease too as its a sealed unit and known for the grease to go “dry”

  7. Each to their own eh! Agreed it would give maximum access to the handbrake.

    I can’t remember whether I just didn’t want to disturb the bearing or I didn’t have the correct size socket on a Sunday afternoon. Whichever, I didn’t fancy it and got away with it!

    Thanks also for the comment on the bearing grease. One to look at when the weather improves, as I don’t suppose mine have ssen the light of day since they were put on the car at Longbridge.

  8. Note what you said about certain Honda-based Rovers having inadequate parking brakes, as it is true of Honda’s also.

    I had a ’91 Honda Aerodeck (5 door Accord estate) which I parked in what I thought was a level car park by my Mum’s place. It wasn’t, and when I came back I found that it had decided to roll back, and had collided with a Skoda. The Skoda owner and the Police were in attendance, who had assumed that I had parked it that way and abandoned it (effectively blocking the Skoda in), but luckily the owner was a reasonable chap, and allowed me to pay for the bumper replacement without going through the insurance. Probably would have done less damage had my car not been fitted with a tow bar.

    • This was traced to the brake discs shrinking as they cooled down. The discs would then become less thick where the pads were gripping. Citroen partly fixed this by removing he first two teeth from the handbrake ratchet meaning you had to pull it on harder. The unofficial fix was to leave the car in gear.

  9. Sorry to ask, but why would anyone leave a parked car without also leaving it in gear ?

    I’ve never known a gearbox to fail on a parked car.

  10. I’ve heard of people using their gearbox as an extra bit of safety when parking on a hill, but it’s then remembering to put into nutral before starting, unless you always do it with the clutch in, as some Japanese & Korean cars can only be started this way.

  11. Any advice on which is the best brand of rear discs I need to purchase for my Rover 75 (2004), please

  12. I need a replacement handbrake compensator for my Rover 75 (2004) Where’s can I purchase a new or modified compensator please. Rimmer bros out of stock:-(
    Thanks Rick

  13. The mini r53 compensator works best for the 75 replace both the cable to the handbrake along with the compensator then adjust correctly at handbrake nut and wheels and it will never fail again.

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