Jeep JK Wrangler Maintenance
Emergency/Parking Hand Brake Adjustment

Are you finding that you are having to pull up on your Jeep JK Wrangler’s emergency/parking hand brake higher and higher in order to get it to work? Or, are you finding that even after pulling it up as high as you can, your JK still tends to roll on an incline? Unfortuantely, it is not uncommon for your JK’s e-brake to lose its effectiveness over time but fortunately, there is a way to make adjustments to it with simple tools and with relative ease. To get your emergency/parking hand brake working like new again, simply follow the write-up below.

What You Will Need

• 18,19mm Wrench
• Torque Wrench
• Brake Spoon
• Small Flathead Screwdriver
• Floor Jack
• Wheel Chocks

Brake Spoon
Can be purchased at most any auto parts store.


1. Chock your front tires, release the parking brake, place a floor jack under the rear differential and then raise the back end of your Jeep JK Wrangler until the tires come off the ground and can rotate freely.
2. While it’s not required to do so, you may find it much easier to remove the wheels and brake calipers in order to get to the rubber access hole plug and make adjustments through it. For the purposes of this write-up, that’s what I did and if you would like information on how to do remove the brake calipers, simply click on the write-up link below:

Jeep JK Wrangler Maintenance
Rear Brake Pad Replacement Write-Up

3. Remove the rubber access hole plug on your Jeep JK Wrangler’s brake backing plate as shown in this pic.
4.Insert a brake spoon into the access hole so that it engages the teeth on the adjuster screw. Then, rotate the adjuster screw up until there is a slight drag when you rotate your Jeep’s wheel.

5. Using a small flat head screwdriver, push and hold the adjuster lever away from the adjuster screw star wheel and then back it off with the brake spoon until it no longer drags when you rotate your Jeep’s wheel. Reinstall the access hole rubber plug and repeat process on the opposite side. Try to get both sides adjusted equally. To help give you a better understanding of what’s going on inside, please refer to the diagram to the left.

1) Star wheel adjuster
2) Adjuster lever
3) Brake shoe
4) Small flathead screwdriver
5) Brake spoon
6) Brake shoe spring

6. Once everything has been adjusted, reinstall your wheels, tighten the lug nuts to 95 ft. lbs. of torque and then lower your Jeep JK Wrangler back on to the ground. Test out your emergency/parking hand brake by pulling up on it and check to see if it keeps your JK from moving. If everything went according to plan, you should find that the brake lever won’t be able to lift up very high anymore and it should have a lot more bite.

And that’s it. Your Jeep JK Wrangler’s emergency/parking hand brake should be working well again. Please let me know if you have any questions.


  1. Thanks for this writeup. My parking brake basically doesn’t work at all. The dealership told me it’s not adjustable and that I probably damaged it. Thanks again!

  2. i guess the question needs to be asked, if it were self adjusting, why take it to the dealer to get it adjusted. in theory, it is self adjusting and only if you know how to get it to self adjust but the reality is, doing this by hand is much easier and more accurate.

  3. Yeah I think they were just didn’t want to do it. There was a bunch of things I was having them look at that day.

  4. Is the brake spoon also called the “star wheel adjuster tool”? I picked one up yesterday and it looks a little different from the on in the picture.

  5. Thanks for the write up I haven’t had a handbrake working since I bought the car nearly 2 years ago.

    I followed your instructions yesterday and now I have a handbrake working…..keep the self help topics coming.

  6. I was able to move the star wheel up but I couldn’t find the adjuster lever. I never noticed any wheel drag as I rotated the wheel. After I did this to the driver side I noticed the parking brake was stiffer and only went up half way. I figured I better do the same thing to the passenger side and when I did the parking brake now seems looser and pulls up very high. Does the passenger side star wheel move in the opposite direction??

  7. the star wheel is attached to a screw of sorts and they turn the same way in and out so yes, i suppose you could say that it would be opposite. if you were to take off your wheels and rotor and look inside what’s going on, you might get a better idea of what to do.

  8. Great write-up; with over 40,000 miles I’m DEFINITELY going to have to do this myslef (I haven’t had a working parking brake since I don’t know when!). My dealer did it the first time a long time ago…cleared out a TON of debris from wheelin’ and adjusted it and it was great. But wheelin’ accelerates the brake losing its grab A LOT. This will be a GREAT way to keep everything in check without leaving your driveway! JOB WELL DONE!

  9. Thanks for the write up.
    My e-brake stopped working after about 10000 miles, with the lever pulling right up to the top.
    Now at 16000 miles I finally decided to fix it and when I got the wheel off I saw that the disc pads were 2/3 gone as well.
    So put the wheel back on and got some new pads and did the lot. Easy job.
    Next thing is finding out why my e-brake lever jumps/slips if I pull it up real hard. This has been happening from new. Any ideas ?
    Cheers from across the pond.

  10. I had mine JK 07 serviced from the dealer and i had asked them to fix the same emergency brake problem. they did a good job by readjusting it not i just have to pull a few clicks and it transforms into a stome. cheers

  11. thanks for the information if it were not for this i probably would have had to go to a speciality shop and had to spend a lot of money to get this done… but now i can do it myself and save money…. so thank you

  12. Haha. Ron, it sounds like you need to get a horse and buggy my friend!

    My e-brake has been making a popping sound like something is binding, but it’s also loose. I’m going to try this and see what happens with the noise i’m hearing. Anyway, nice writeup!

  13. Edge back very slowly in reverse. Pull up on your parking brake lever to tighten it up. This utilizes the auto-adjustment lever properly and turns the star adjuster to tighten it.

  14. Fantastic- two years of back and forth, self adjusting BS from the dealer.Worked a treat and feel confident. The wife almost sunk the Rubicon in the creek yesterday.

    Thanks WB

  15. just implemented the method plac described on april 1st 2010 for “self adjustment” and it seems to have worked perfectly. Bravo and thankyou.

  16. Just did this (after dealer wouldn’t under warranty!) and found out that if you do pull the wheel and caliper you can also easily pull the rotor to get to the star adjuster. The rotor will pull right off and then you can see and get to the adjuster easily. You can also see the em. brake drums moving so after a few tests of putting the rotor back on you can get it just right. Rotated mine out to just barely touching the rotor and now the ebrake picks up after just a few clicks of the handle.

    Thanks for the write-up — saved me $120 from the dealer!!

  17. I’ve just finished the parking brake replacement and adjustment. My brake needed to be pulled up all the way and then the ferule on the cable that connects around the pulley on the brake lever snapped. I ordered a new parking brake model 52059887AB. I was able to install it without removing the entire center console. I removed just the storage compartment and was able to use a couple different length ratchets and extensions to remove the old and install the new one without too much trouble. Adjusting the brakes was worse than I’d hoped but still wasn’t that bad. I do not believe there is anyway to adjust the star without pulling off the wheel and brake. My brake spoon just couldn’t make contact and still have room to rotate the star. I pulled off the rotors so I could see how much (and whether) I was moving the star. The wheel don’t spin very easily before adjusting the brake but I turned the star until the wheel noticeably dragged and then backed it off. (This meant I had to put the rotor back on to test.) When I pull the handle I get about 6 clicks until it is good and tight. Could it be tighter? Probably, but it’s been so bad for so long I’ll take what I can get. Thank you to all the people who’ve posted information on this topic. You saved me a couple hundred bucks.

  18. My parking brake stiffens earlier than it should. Lately about half of what it normally did. Also getting a burning smell from driver side rear tire well, especially after drives home fro work, which is mostly hiway. Rarely get smell driving shorter local drives. Could these related? Thanks.

  19. Thanks for the write up, just like some of you I was also told by the dealer that there was nothing they could do about the e-brake. So the day came to do the rear brakes, easy install and when I grabbed the brake spoon my cousin said, “what are you doing.” I told him,” adjusting the e-brake,” he laughed and removed the disc completely off, choosing to adjust the star with his fingers. Guess i’ll return the brake spoon, Lol. love the write ups keep up the good work.

  20. Have done mine a few times now, but now as part of a post wheeling clean that included deep mud puddles, I remove the rotors as others have mentioned and hose out the mud and sand. I have found that this mud dries and acts like sandpaper on the shoes wearing them rapidly.

    Only takes a few minutes each side and keep the parking brake working like it should 🙂

    Cheers, Dave.

  21. Thanks for the write up, big help and push to get out in the garage to do it myself. Would like to add the followig for a 08 JKU Auto:
    -the star adjust wheels do not have a hold down clip, so no second screwdriver needed, just brake spoon.
    -the starwheel on the drivers side adjust CLOCKWISE to tighten shoes, the passanger side you need to adjust COUNTER CLOCKWISE to tighten.
    -for both sides, the starwheel is vertical, not horizontal….this will help those know what to look for that don’t remove the rotor.

  22. Being a bit lazy, I thought about not having to have to back the star adjuster off after getting it tight. I pulled the parking brake lever up 2 clicks, then adjusted each side until it started to drag. One more click on the lever and one side was locked (turning the hub by hand) but the other I could still turn. So back to the loose one and soon they were at the same point.

    Good write up, I could not even find the adjustment port before looking at this write up.

  23. well im gonna try this tommarrow i need mine adjusted its from taking console out of 09 jk hope it works ill keep you updated

  24. It’s been so long since I adjusted the E-brake that I forgot how to do it. This write-up is a great refresher. Got this completed this afternoon. Thanks

  25. I adjusted as described, with slight resistance on each wheel, but it still won’t hold. Any other suggestions? The hand brake feels like it has resistance too, but push the clutch in and it will roll freely.

  26. Thanks for the write up. Info for all: JK parking brakes are not self adjusting. There is not a starwheel cam action lever installed. Additionally, if you don’t occasionally adjust the parking brakes and you just pull harder on the brake handle, the clutch spring will fail. This happened to me, requiring a new parking brake assembly costing 100 bucks.

  27. I was wondering if this is the maintenance that is in our maintenance guide. I ONLY bring the JKU to the dlr for oil changes and i like doing all the maintenance on my own. Please confirm. Thank you.

  28. Awesome!! Thanks for the write up!! I also cheated a little, being lazy :). Couldn’t have done it without the info though. Greatly appreciated!!

  29. I wonder how is the thickness of the spoon…. It´s not easy to find this tool here in france 🙁

  30. Just tackling my 2010 JK Rubicons brakes. Having a hell of a time getting the RR drum off. Everything is disconnected, loosened, removed and the drum will not budge. Two pound hard mallet, no luck. Looking through the hole (plug removed and there is no sign of any adjuster wheel anywhere. Looking at your photos, you don’t show any adjuster wheels either. Do they really exist?

  31. On the “access plug” for the “adjuster wheel,” There is one access plug only. To the rear of the dust cover accessing an electrical part inside. NO ADJUSTER WHEEL IN SIGHT! Looking at a diagram on 4WD Parts catalog, they show an adjuster wheel at the bottom of the dust cover which accesses a star wheel adjuster. So, I’m assuming there are two different types. One you can access, the other you cuss a bunch first and then take it to the dealer. Have an appointment on Friday unless I can find out how to get the damned thing off. Haven’t bothered trying the other side yet, perhaps I’ll give that a try and see if it makes things easier to figure out.

  32. I adjusted the e-brake rotating each adjust star 4 teeths. On the driver side clockwise and on the passenger side counterclockwise. As I rotated the wheel by hand there was some drag. Afterwards the e-brake was unchanged. How many teeths should I move?

  33. Ignacio, on my 2010 Ruby I ended up turning each wheel one entire 360 degree rotation, plus 2.5 teeth until it finally gave resistance…in other words, each case is different.

  34. I have a 2012 Wrangler sport. Emergency break comes all the way up to the top and barely holds. It only has little over 35,000 miles. Needed a inspection this month, took it to the dealer where I bought it and they wanted $130 to adjust the E brake. I said no and they put a rejection sticker on my vehicle. I told him I would do it myself. I have adjusted many of breaks own various vehicles I have owned. I did exactly like the posting of April 1, 2010 suggested. Backing up slowly and pulling up on the brake lever. Bingo, The brake lever comes up only half way now, about five clicks and holds. Thank you for your posting. It save me at least $130. Thanks again!!!

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