The handbrake on my VW Passat Estate B5 has suddenly become slack.

  • With the handbrake on, the faulty side wheel is free to turn by hand. Foot brake works as normal
  • Lifting the center console, I can see from the equalizer that one-side is slack
  • Looking at the "slack" caliper, the lever connected to the cable is in the fully-on position and does not retract when the brake is released
    • Note: When the brake is released, the cable does become slack at the caliper end, so the cable does not appear to be binding

Last time I had some work done on the brakes (replace brake light switch), the handbrake did have a springier feel than before and could be pulled much higher.

I suspect some kind of cam on the wet side of the piston has gone past the point of no return.

Any ideas?

4 Answers 4


Visual Inspection


You can follow the brake cable back to the rear of the car.

I'm not sure if it goes to the right or left rear.

In so doing you can see if it has any damage. A bad kink in it, torn cable housing (if you can see the actual cable in the housing due to damage....that's not good)

Parking Break Mechanism

The cable will lead to that. You've probably seen it by now. The arm the cable is typically attached to has a worm screw mechanism to push a caliper piston in when it is actuated. So the transfer of power is through the housing and on the cable to the arm, though the worm screw, through the piston to the pad and against the disc.

At the point where the housing is terminated on the arm there is a clip that can be removed. This will allow you to disconnect the cable. You will want to inspect it and lube it. Ensure the cable moves freely in the housing, if bound, replace it. Lube the cable with a graphite lubricant.

Image of Passat Caliper with Parking Brake

enter image description here

If it's not the cable that's giving you the issue then now your leaning to the caliper mechanism that has an issue.

You would need to remove your wheel and the caliper in order to inspect it and verify that it is operating properly.

If that's your issue in particular you can post a question regarding it specifically. It get's a little too involved breaking down the various things necessary for that.

In the end, this should give you a path to start with.

Parts Explosion of a Similar Caliper

I put this in here to simply give you an idea of what the system looks like. This is not for your car specifically.

enter image description here


Sounds like the the parking brake mechanism that pushes against the parking brake pads has seized, probably due to wear/corrosion/brakedust. I would take it apart and apply a very thin amount of high temp anti-seize to the joints.

If this is the case you might also feel the brake shudder at certain speeds too because it should be the same as driving around with the parking brake on.

  • Thanks for the suggestion. The wheel is actually free to spin and the brake pads not engaged. This VW caliper seems to have much of the handbrake mechanism on the wet side of the piston (the adjuster is actaully inside the piston cup). I will update when this issue is finally fixed. May 6, 2015 at 9:58

Seems the internal mechanism had failed (The cam inside the caliper, I think).

In my case, I had the caliper replaced by the dealer (they have proven themselves trusted, competent and pragmatic in the past).


Is the cable jacketed? If it is it may be broken inside the jacket.

  • Yes, jacketed, but the cable is completely intact and still operates as expected. The problem appears to be with the actuator inside the caliper. P.s. Looks like you got downvoted for creating an answer when you should instead of added a comment to the question. May 7, 2015 at 9:00
  • Thanks for the heads up... can you get under there with some PB Blaster and spray the lever?
    – mreinsmith
    May 7, 2015 at 12:28

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