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Sticking Emergency Brake FAQ

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This FAQ applies to all 99 and first generation 900 models manufactured between model years 1975 through 1987.

Maintained by Thor Carlson (


Emergency brake doesn't release properly

Front brakes drag


This behavior is common on cars with front wheel emergency brake assemblies. The bushing where the handbrake lever enters the indirect piston can become corroded, preventing the brake from releasing properly.


The emergency brake is activated by cables (not shown) running from the passenger compartment to the front brake calipers. Each cable is attached to a handbrake lever (4). The handbrake lever fits into the indirect piston (2). When the cable is pulled, the handbrake lever is moved toward the yoke (1), activating the brake. When the cable is released, the spring (yellow) causes the handbrake lever (4) to return to its rest position, releasing the handbrake.


You can make this check with the car on the ground. Release the emergency brake from inside the car. Turn the front wheels hard right to check the right brake and hard left for the left brake. You should be able to move the handbrake lever towards the yoke with your hand.* When you release it, the lever should return by itself to the rest (outter) position. If you cannot move the lever, or, if you must manually pull out the lever to release the brake, you're probably a candidate for a bushing kit.

* This assumes the lever is not being bound by the brake cable itself, a topic not covered here.


Many mail order houses sell the bushing kit (around $15-$20) to repair the emergency brake. See the Sponsors Listing for vendors.

You need to remove the front brake caliper and yoke (1) to extract the handbrake lever (4) and its bushings. Click here for a 32kb exploded view of the lever (13) spring (12) and bushing (20). First timers with a decent set of tools can accomplish this in around one hour per side.

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