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My 2003 dodge ram emergency brake is not working. I push the pedal down and there is zero resistance. I release the pedal and it doesn't spring back to starting position, I have to grab the pedal and pull it up to get the light to go off. I can drive the truck without a problem with the emergency brake on, no sounds/resistance.

What troubleshooting steps should I take to figure out where the problem is?

  • Hi and welcome, Mike. You wrote that you are driving with the "emergency brake on". While that may be factual, how are you certain it's on? Anyway, in my experience, the emergency brake cables often get bound up and indeed, once the pedal is depressed, the emergency brakes ARE engaged and will only free up when the brakes and cable are repaired. – mike65535 Nov 27 '18 at 17:55
  • When I say it's on, I mean I depress the pedal and the light in the dash comes on. – Mike Marseglia Nov 28 '18 at 12:44
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The parking brake system is made of of:

  • Brake pedal (or handle in a car)
  • Front cable that goes from the pedal or handle to an equalizer
  • A cable for each side that goes from the equalizer to the brakes
  • The rear brake (drum, caliper, or drum inside a rotor)

I would inspect each of these items. As @mike65535 said, there is likely something seized up, or broken. I would have someone press the pedal in the cab, and watch down below to see what parts are moving and what ones aren't. You can find cables on RockAuto. I would go for the OEM (Mopar) ones, as OEM parts tend to fit better and last longer.

I found a guide for adjusting your vehicle's parking brake here: https://www.autozone.com/repairguides/Ram-B1500-B2500-B3500-1999-2003/Parking-Brake/Cables/_/P-0996b43f802e3687 This should give you a good idea of the location of the individual parts.

EDIT: The light is usually triggered by the pedal. It tells you if the pedal is up or down, not necessarily whether the brake is on or off.

  • Good point: The light is usually triggered by the pedal – mike65535 Nov 28 '18 at 17:43
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As I wrote in my comment, the cable is very likely bound up. Contaminants (e.g., dirt) get inside and the cable won't return. When you release it, the system gives just enough so that the emergency brakes are not fully engaged, so that's consistent with your being able to drive it.

But it could also be the brake assembly itself - on one side or even both.

I would plan on removing one (or both) of the rear wheels and brake drum/rotors and inspecting.

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