Have you noticed that your SAAB 9-5 parking brake doesn’t hold as it used to? Is your handbrake lever all the way up, but the car still isn’t fully secured? If this is the case, there’s a decent chance that your parking brake needs an adjustment.
Fortunately, making the necessary adjustments isn’t too big of a deal on most SAAB 9-5s out there. We’ll run you through the procedure that should make your car stay planted on any incline.
Article updated on 09/14/21. Original publishing date 08/10/17
When Is a SAAB 9-5 Parking Brake Adjustment Necessary?
Adjusting and repairing parking brakes is usually at the bottom of the vehicle maintenance list and therefore, one of the most delayed adjustments. The parking brake prevents your vehicle from moving when it is parked, and it is an important safety system.
The working mechanism of the handbrake in your cabin is quite simple. It consists of a lever, a cable that is attached to the rear brake shoes, and an adjustment screw. It’s such a simple system that you can repair many faults yourself, including replacing the cable.
Your parking brake is a completely separate system from your hydraulic brakes. Instead of fluid pushing against the piston to keep the car from moving, you’re using mechanical force through a set of steel cables. Over time, these cables tend to stretch.
The problem is that you only have so much travel in your handbrake, meaning that you eventually no longer have enough leverage to put tension on the parking brake cable, thus failing to fully activate the brakes.
The moment you notice that your handbrake has to travel across more teeth to kick in, you should start thinking about a cable adjustment job.
Brake Disc or a Brake Drum?
Your SAAB 9-5 is equipped with discs as the primary brake system and drums for your parking brake. This means you are using your disks when you are braking and your parking brake uses the drums when you are parked. Although seemingly redundant, this system is pretty neat from a safety point of view.
SAAB used drum brakes as the primary braking system in their models from 1950 to 1975. From then until 1994 SAAB switched to using disc brakes for both primary and parking brakes.
When GM took over the Saab brand they decided to add a drum-style parking brake.
There are several reasons for Saab to use these two systems together instead of just a parking brake incorporated disc caliper.
In the earlier models, the parking brake arm could seize and damage the calipers. GM wanted to get rid of that problem when creating these brakes on the SAAB 9-5 and preferred a cheaper method. It’s also cheaper to maintain for the drivers because the brakes don’t easily fade if not used constantly.
Drum style brakes make much better parking brakes because of the clamping action. In this system, if the wheel is forced to turn when the parking brake is engaged, it makes the shoes clamp harder. Think of it like a door stopper wedged under a door.
How to Perform the SAAB 9-5 Parking Brake Adjustment
There are actually 2 different ways to adjust your parking brake. If you follow our step-by-step instructions, you’ll find that one of these two methods is most likely going to solve the issue for you. You can use this guide for both SAAB 9-5 and SAAB 9-3.
Step 1 — Center Console Adjustment
Locate the rubber liner at the bottom of your center console. When you remove the liner you will see an adjustment bolt through the hole. You can use this bolt to adjust your parking brake cable. Lower your parking brake lever and tighten the nut a bit. Pull the lever back up and check the tension.
If you can see 10 or more threads exposed in the barrel adjuster, do not tighten it anymore and keep reading this guide to adjust your drum brakes.
Step 2 — Jack Up Your Car & Remove the Wheel
Park on a level surface and jack the rear of your car. Place it on a jack stand for safety and remove your wheel. Slide the wheel halfway under your car so if your jack stand fails it will be a secondary safety measure. Don’t forget to use chocks on your front wheels.
Step 3 — Locate the Drum Adjuster
Turn your rotor and look inside the lug nut holes with a flashlight. You should be able to find your drum adjuster nut.
Step 4 — Tighten the Adjuster Nut
Pull your hand brake lever two clicks. Using a flat head screwdriver, tighten the nut all the way. You are going to need to adjust both sides as the brake shoes usually wear out at the same rate and time.
It’s not an easy procedure to push this nut through this angle, but it can make your job easier if you can do it this way. Otherwise, you are going to need to take off your rotor to adjust this nut, and if you do that you might as well check your parking brake shoes and replace them if it is needed.
Step 5 — Remove the Caliper & Rotor
Remove your caliper by taking off the two E20 Torx bolts from the top and the bottom. Locate the fastening screw of your brake disc and remove it with a Torx T30 ratchet wrench. You should be able to slide out your rotor, and now you can tune your parking brake shoes with the same adjuster nut.
If your brake disc doesn’t come out easily do not force it as your worn brake pads might be stuck and forcing it off will cause a mess by making the springs and washers come out flying. If this is the case, you are going to need a brake shoe replacement. Use the drum adjuster nut and release the tension.
Step 6 — Remove the Brake Shoes
There are 5 points you need to disconnect to pull out the brake shoes. Those are the two compression springs, two lateral tension springs, and the barrel adjuster at the top center. Take them off and your brake pads are loose.
Step 7 — Install the New Brake Shoes
Put your new brake shoes in their places and connect the barrel adjuster back. Install the two compression springs and two lateral springs. Turn the barrel adjuster as hard as you can with your hand while the hand brake lever is pulled 2 clicks.
Step 8 — Install the Rotor & Caliper
Place the rotor and install the fastening screw. After that, put your caliper back in place and bolt it from the top and the bottom.
Step 9 — Replace the Wheel & Lower Your Car
Install your wheel and tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern. Do the same procedure for the other side and replace the brake shoes. Jack it up a little bit, remove your jack stand, and lower your car.
Step 10 — Center Console Adjustment
Adjust your parking brake cable through the center console again and make sure less than 10 threads are exposed. Now you can safely use your parking brakes.
Get Quality SAAB 9-5 Parking Brake Components
If your SAAB 9-5 parking brake feels loose, you can use this guide to find out the problem and take care of it. SAAB 9-5 and 9-3 have similar systems, so this guide can also be helpful on a SAAB 9-3. You won’t need any spare parts to adjust your SAAB 9-5 parking brake, but you might want to change your brake shoes while you’re in there.
To find quality brake shoes for your SAAB, head over to our store, choose your car’s make and model from the drop-down, and you’ll get a complete list of products that match your vehicle. Always remember to use genuine or OEM quality parts on your SAAB 9-5 and do not use your parking brakes while your vehicle is in motion.