How to Adjust an E36 Parking Brake

Written by adam paul
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The BMW E36 designation is comprised of the entire BMW 3 series line-up from 1992 through 1998. Like all cars, E36s are equipped with a number of required safety devices including the emergency brake. The emergency brake system is controlled by a brake lever located between the seats that operates an individual brake on each of the rear wheels. The emergency brake is necessary when parking on steep grades to prevent rolling, as well as a backup should your primary brakes fail while driving.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • 12-mm wrench

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  1. 1

    Locate the emergency brake lever between the seats and separate the leather boot from the centre console by firmly pulling the boot up and over the lever to expose the inner workings. You will see two nuts on opposite sides of the bottom of the brake lever facing rearward; these are the adjustment nuts. The left nut adjusts the left wheel brake; the right nut adjusts the right wheel.

  2. 2

    Lift the parking brake lever and take note of where it stops. It should not exceed a 45-degree angle.

  3. 3

    Adjust both nuts equally using a 12-mm wrench until the lever tightens at about 25 or 30 degrees. This adjustment point will prevent you from over- or under-adjusting the emergency brake. There should be little or no tension for the first 15 degrees of pull, then a gradually increasing resistance as you approach the 25 to 30 degree mark.

Tips and warnings

  • If one wheel brake is out of adjustment more than the other, further adjust the corresponding nut to account for the difference. To verify the possibility of one brake being out of adjustment, lift the wheels off the ground and hand rotate them to see which side is engaging first. Generally the brakes wear equally, but there is always the possibility of one wearing quicker.
  • Emergency brakes are a safety system -- adjust them at your own risk. An out of adjustment emergency brake system may be due to worn out pads or a more serious failure of the system.

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