Replace parking brake cables on a Dodge Dakota.
Brake Repairs:

Replacing Parking Brake Cables On A
1996 Dodge Dakota Sport 2WD

Fixing Stuck Parking (Or Emergency) Brakes


In This Article:

The rear brake shoes are removed. The tensioner nut is removed to create slack in the cable. The rusted rear parking brake cable is cut from the brake backing plate, and the cable is disconnected from the truck frame. New rear and intermediate cables are installed and the tensioner adjusted.

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Skill Level: 3 (Intermediate) Time Taken: About 5 Hours

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor


This parking brake repair was done in conjunction with replacing the rear brake shoes. To see how the brake shoes are removed, click here.

This is the left rear parking brake cable.

After 13 years, this cable had rusted so bad that the parking brake no longer retracted when I released the parking brake.

Dodge Dakota with rear wheel and brake shoes removed.


Parking brake cable where it enters the rear brake backing plate. The cable enters the drum brake backing plate and continues across to the parking brake lever.


Terminology -
Parking Brake Or Emergency Brake:

Many people call the cable-actuated brake an emergency brake. While this brake may sometimes be useful in an emergency, it's intended purpose is to hold the vehicle while parked.

Every automotive service manual and technical book I have read calls this device a parking brake. The automotive industry calls it a parking brake. The proper term is parking brake, whether it is activated by a handle between the seats, or a foot pedal below the dash.

Some people call it an "E-Brake". That name might be correct... but I doubt the "E" means "emergency". The "E" means "Eeeeeeeee... this brake isn't stopping my car!"


Relieving The Tension:

Before the parking brake cables can be removed, the tension must be relieved in the cables.

This is the parking brake equalizer/tensioner.

This is under the middle of the truck, just behind the catalytic converter.

Loosening the tensioner nut (red arrow) will reduce the tension in the cable, allowing the cables to be removed.

Parking brake cable tensioner / equalizer, Dodge truck.

I tried to remove the tensioner nut with my impact wrench, but the nut just got rounded off, so I had to try something else.


Cutting off stuck nut with Dremel Moto-Tool. I used a Dremel moto-tool to make a cut in the nut.


This is a Craftsman nut-splitter. There is a sharp wedge that is supposed to slice through a nut, but I'd rather give the tool a little help by pre-cutting the nut. Craftsman nut splitter.


Removing stuck nut with nut splitter.

Oops... One problem.

I couldn't fit the nut-splitter into the tight space and place the wedge over the cut I made in the bottom of the nut, so I made another cut in the upper-right side of the nut.

Then I placed the splitter on the nut and tightened it with a 3/4" wrench.


The nut didn't exactly fall off after I tightened the nut splitter all the way.

So I held the rod with one pair of Vise-Grips and turned the nut with another pair. If this hadn't worked, I would've used a small pipe wrench to turn the nut, since the hex was rounded off.

Removing stuck nut with pliers.

I backed off the nut until it was almost at the end of the rod. I need a lot of slack in the cables to be able to remove the cable from the brake backing plate.


Disconnecting The Rear End Of The Parking Brake Cable:

New parking brake rear cable, Dodge truck. This is the new rear parking brake cable.


Notice the prongs at the end that goes through the brake backing plate. End of rear parking brake cable, showing prongs.


Old parking brake cable just inside brake backing plate. I could barely even see the prongs in the original cable (red arrows)... it's just a big blob of rust.

The Dakota service manual says to wrap a small hose clamp around the prongs to compress them. I'm not even sure if that's worth trying on something this rusty.


I used the Dremel tool to cut off two of the three prongs. After applying some penetrating oil, I just pushed on the connector with a big screwdriver, and it pushed back through the backing plate.

Then I removed the parking brake lever from the cable, which is normally not an easy task because the spring is so tight. Since the cable was stuck with the parking brake "on", the spring couldn't compress any more, so I just cut off the end of the cable with the Dremel tool.

Cutting metal prongs on parking brake cable.


Cutting cable with bolt cutters.

On the other side, I couldn't pull the spring back any further to allow the cable end to slide out of the parking brake lever.

Instead of using the Dremel tool (which is kinda slow) I just cut off the end of the cable with a small pair of bolt cutters.


Disconnecting The Front End
Of The Rear Parking Brake Cable:

Front end of rear parking brake cable, Dodge truck.

Note the end of the cable that mounts to the bracket on the truck frame.

There is a metal clip that slides into the groove in the end fitting.


This is the bracket where the rear parking brake cable attaches to the truck frame.

I applied some penetrating oil where the old cable attached to the bracket.

The clip (red arrow) that holds this end to the bracket can barely be seen through all the rust.

Front mounting point of rear parking brake cable, Dodge truck.


Removing clip on bracket for parking brake cable.

After heating the clip (red arrow) with a propane torch, I let it cool for a few minutes and applied some rust penetrant. Then I was able to rotate the clip a quarter-turn.

I used a hammer and a "beatin' screwdriver" (a screwdriver with a shaft that goes all the way through the handle to a metal cap on the end) to work this clip loose.


Then I was able to tap it out of the groove in the metal end of the cable. Rear cable for parking brake system, Dodge truck.


Intermediate cable for parking brake, Dodge.

This is the intermediate cable that runs along the frame rail.

There is a loop of metal (red arrow) that holds the cable to the frame rail. Farther down, there is a connector where the intermediate cable attaches to the rear cable.


I removed the loop bracket by bending the "legs" inward and pushing it through the slot in the frame.

This may not be necessary! I removed this metal loop so I could get the cable connector down to ground level and work on disconnecting the rear cable from the intermediate cable. I later decided to replace the intermediate cable... had I known that earlier, I could have simply cut the intermediate cable instead of bending this loop bracket.

Removing metal loop bracket.


Cable connector between rear and intermediate cables.

This is the connector between the intermediate and rear cables.

Removing this while it's up against the frame seemed very difficult... I used a pair of bolt cutters to cut the rear cable downstream of the connector.

Then I pulled the cable back so I had some room to work on the cable connector. Having removed that metal loop earlier, I was able to place the connector on the floor.

Cutting old cable to make removal easier.


Removing cable end from connector.

While working on the floor, I was able to remove the end of the rear cable from the connector.

First I heated up the connector with a propane torch, then I let it cool for a minute and sprayed some rust penetrant on it. (It seems that when metal parts cool down, the rust penetrant gets sucked into the tiny gaps between the parts.)

Then I held the front end of the connector in a pair of Vise-Grip pliers and used a screwdriver and hammer to drive the rear cable end forward. To my surprise, it came out without much effort.


Preparing The New Rear Parking Brake Cable:

Before installing the new rear cable, I wanted to lubricate the inner cable as much as possible. First I sprayed some WD-40 into the end shown here. Then I applied some Syl-Glyde brake lubricant to the wire and worked the cable back-and-forth so the grease would get inside the outer jacket. I'm not sure how much lube actually got inside the cable assembly, but it's got to be better than nothing.

Lubricating new parking brake cable with silicone brake grease.


Installing The New Rear Parking Brake Cable:

New rear parking brake cable installed in backing plate.

I inserted the rear end of the cable through the hole in the brake backing plate and it clicked in place.

Note: Before doing this I scraped the rust from around the hole, on both sides of the plate.


I inserted the front end of the cable into the hole in the bracket that is attached to the frame.

Then I pushed the retainer clip upwards into the grooves on the cable end.

Replacing the U-clip on front end of rear parking brake cable.

Note on retainer clips: A sales rep at a local auto parts store told me that these clips are just a standard brake hose retainer clip, and they should be easy to find if a replacement is needed.

New parking brake cable after installation.

The retainer clip after installation.

I applied some brake grease (Syl-Glyde) to the back of the clip before installing it. I also scraped the rust from the bracket so the cable end would fit properly.


I slipped the rubber boot over the end of the inner cable and installed it on the end of the outer sheath.

To make this easier, I put a big dab of brake grease inside the boot before sliding it over the lug on the end of the inner cable. I used a small pick tool to help get the rubber over any edges it encountered.

Rubber boot pulled over end of new cable, Dodge truck.


Parking Brake Cable Hardware:

These components are small pieces of hardware that are used in the Dakota parking brake cable system. None of these pieces were included with the rear cable or intermediate cable that I purchased.

The U-shaped clip is needed to hold the rear cable at the bracket mounted to the frame. I'm told this is a standard clip used to secure brake hoses.

The rubber boot (top) fastens over the front end of the rear cable and keeps water and dirt out of the rear cable.

The connector (bottom) is used to join the rear cables with the intermediate cable.

Parking brake cable hardware, Dodge or Chrysler.

A closer view of the cable connector.

Parking brake cable connector, Dodge.

A closer view of the U-clip.

U-clip for automotive brake systems.


Connecting parking brake to lever at rear brake area, Dodge truck.

After the rear cables had been installed, I connected the end to the parking brake lever on each side.

There is a spring wrapped around the cable at this end. With no tension on the cable, this spring just slides back so the cable end can be inserted into the hook in the parking brake lever.


Installing A New Intermediate Parking Brake Cable:

New and old intermediate parking brake cables.

This is the new intermediate cable. I bought this cable for about $13.

NOTE: There are 3 different lengths of intermediate cable available for the Dodge Dakota, depending on the body style (short box, long box, extended cab, etc.)


I placed the end of the rear cable in the connector and pulled it tight. Then I put the end of the intermediate cable in the connector.

Before doing this, I applied some brake grease to the ends to help them slide into place better. The grease should also help prevent rust.

New intermediate cable connected to new rear parking brake cable, Dodge Dakota, 1996.


Intermediate cable threaded through metal loop on frame rail, Dodge. I threaded the new intermediate cable through the metal loops in the frame rails.


I set the intermediate cable in the bracket on the end of the front cable.

The front cable attaches to the parking brake pedal in the cab of the truck.

Intermediate cable placed in bracket at end of front parking brake cable, Dodge.


Intermediate parking brake cable mounted in tensioner, Dodge.

Then I threaded the intermediate cable through the tensioner bracket before placing the bracket on the threaded rod and starting the nut. I applied some brake grease to prevent the nut from galling.

Since I destroyed the original nut, I used a new nut and washer. The tensioner rod has a 5/16" - 18 thread, which is as common as dirt.

I used a stainless steel 5/16" nut, but for the washer I used a 1/4" stainless washer. Often a 1/4" washer will fit (tightly) over a 5/16" bolt, and I wanted to keep the washer small so it would be a closer reproduction of the original nut (which had that "built-in washer" on one side).


The Dakota service manual says to make a mark about 1/8 inch from the end of the metal bracket that connects the threaded tensioner rod to the hook that connects to the passenger-side frame rail.

When the tensioner nut is tightened, this mark is supposed to be aligned with the edge of that square part. (It didn't work that way for me...)

Dodge parking brake cable tension adjustment.


Tensioner hooks into frame of truck, Dodge. I placed the hook in the hole in the frame rail.


Then I tightened the tensioner nut until the bracket was close to the original position.

Since I slathered brake grease all over the rod, I should be able to tighten this nut later when I need to adjust the tensioner again.

(Trust me... this will need more adjusting. After using the parking brake a few times, I could feel the pedal getting lower. This is caused by all the connections that are "getting seated" into their final positions... plus the cables stretch a bit.)

Parking brake equalizer/tensioner after tightening, Dodge.

After I replaced the brake shoes, I tested the parking brake to make sure the pedal didn't get too low when the parking brake was applied. If the pedal is too low it may "bottom out", and the parking brake may not be fully applied. If this happens, the tensioner nut needs to be tightened a few more turns.


Read our Disclaimer about brake repairs


More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Dremel Moto-Tool
  • Nut Splitter
  • Sockets: 1/2" Deep,
  • Wrenches: 3/4", 1/2"
  • Channel-Lock Pliers
  • Vise-Grip Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Flat Screwdriver
  • Pointed Pick Tool
  • Propane Torch
  • Jack Stands
  • Floor Jack

Materials Used:

  • Rear Parking Brake Cables (2), NAPA Part No. 93625
  • Parking Brake Intermediate Cable, Wagner Brake Products Part No. F129216
  • Rust Penetrant
  • Syl-Glyde Brake Grease

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Written June 8, 2009