The emergency brake is a mechanism that locks the rear brakes down and keeps the vehicle from moving when parked. There are three different types of systems, and the emergency brake replacement costs and procedures vary significantly depending on which system is used.
The two main types use a system that applies the rear brake pads or shoes themselves. A third kind has its own independent set of brake shoes, essentially a small drum brake inside the rotor of a rear disc brake system.
One thing the systems have in common is the cable system that operates them; each has a set of e-brake cables. The e-brake cables are a steel cable in a heavy housing, which tend to be positioned low in the rear bodywork and are subject to both weather damage and physical damage from road debris.
If there is water intrusion into the housing the cable can bind or seize internally. If a cable catches something in the road it can get pulled and kinked (or worse), which can also cause a cable to bind or seize. The exception is newer electric e-brake systems, which have ordinary rear brake calipers but with a motor that applies the rear brake pads as an e-brake.
Let’s consider the costs related to the three types of systems individually:
1. Rear Drum Brake E-brake Systems
This is a common system that’s been around for a long time. The e-brake cable attaches to a lever which pushes the secondary brake shoe against the brake drum to lock the drum in place.
The cost to replace the e-brake system on a vehicle with this kind of system is the same as the cost to replace the rear brakes. On average, that cost is about $200. Sometimes a non-functioning e-brake can be remedied by a simple adjustment, which costs about $50, or about a half hour of labor, on most vehicles.
The drum brakes have a self-adjuster that is supposed to keep the shoes in proper clearance so that both the brakes and the e-brakes work. Assuming the brakes are in acceptable condition, the things that can go wrong with the e-brake system are limited to e-brake cable problems. Others are issues with the star adjusting mechanism and hardware.
Using $100 an hour as a labor rate, some specific examples of the replacement costs on some common vehicles with rear drum brakes incorporating the e-brake system are as follows:
- For a 2004 Toyota Tacoma with a 3.4-liter engine
The e-brake mechanism is part of the rear drum brakes. The labor time to replace the e-brake adjusting hardware and lever is around 1.7 hours, and the cost of a Raybestoes hardware kit is about $17. This makes the emergency brake repair cost about $187.
To replace an e-brake cable on the Tacoma, there is a front cable and left and right rear cable. There is a variety of possible rear cables depending on body-style and bed length. The labor time to replace the front e-brake cable is estimated at 1.3 hours. A factory cable costs $76 and a Raybestos cable costs about $17. The total cost to complete the job would be about $206 using factory parts and about $147 using aftermarket parts.
To replace a rear cable, the labor time is around 1.1 hours, and the cost of a factory cable is about $141. The cost range for aftermarket cables is about $17 to $34. This makes the job to replace a rear cable cost about $251 using OE parts, and from about $127 to $143 using aftermarket parts.
- For a 2005 Honda Civic with rear drum brakes
The labor time to replace the e-brake hardware is estimated at 1.3 hours. A Wagner hardware kit for both sides costs about $29, which makes the job cost around $159 to complete.
To replace the emergency brake cables on this vehicle, there is a left and right side and the labor time for each side is around 1.5 hours. A factory e-brake cable costs about $33 and a Dorman cable costs about $27. The total cost to complete the job would be about $183 to replace an e-brake cable using factory parts, or about $177 using aftermarket parts.
2. Rear Caliper Emergency Brake Systems
This is used on some vehicles that have a rear disc brake. The e-brake cable operates a lever on the rear brake caliper, and a screw mechanism in the rear caliper is applied to engage the brakes.
Other than the e-brake cable, the main things that can go wrong with the e-brake system are internal to the rear brake calipers. They have an internal self-adjuster. Sometimes, on caliper replacement, the clearance needs an initial manual adjustment, and sometimes, it will set itself. Either way, if the rear e-brake doesn’t continue to work after that, then, the caliper should be replaced. In most cases, the recommendation is to replace the calipers in matched pairs.
On some newer vehicles, there is no brake cable. However, the e-brake system is an electric motor that operates the screw mechanism in the caliper, rather than a lever. On these, if the e-brake doesn’t work and the cause isn’t a wiring issue, then, it is usually necessary to replace the caliper. It’s because there are no service parts or procedures for repairing internal parts that are generally available.
The average cost to replace the main components (the calipers) in this kind of system is about $400.
For a couple of specific examples of the replacement costs of a rear caliper emergency brake system on some common vehicles using the labor rate of $100 an hour:
- For a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze with a 1.4-liter engine
The e-brake mechanism is mechanical and built into the rear caliper. To replace the two rear calipers, the labor time is estimated at 1.4 hours. Factory calipers cost about $224 each, and Cardone replacements cost around $108 each. That would make the job to replace the rear calipers to cost around $588 using OE parts, or about $356 using aftermarket parts.
If an e-brake cable on the Cruze needs to be replaced, there is a left and a right. Each has a labor time of an hour to replace. A factory e-brake cable costs about $30, and a Dorman cable costs about $24. The total cost to replace an e-brake cable would be about $130 using OE parts, or about $124 using aftermarket parts.
- For a 2016 Jeep Renegade
The rear e-brake is electric and built into the rear caliper. The labor time to replace a rear caliper is around 1.2 hours. A factory set of calipers costs about $507, and there are no aftermarket sources. This makes the job to replace the rear calipers cost about $627.
3. Rear Disc-Brake Inside-Rotor E-brake Systems
This is basically a drum brake that operates inside of the brake rotor. As with the e-brake system that operates with a rear drum brake system, there is an adjuster to set the clearance of the shoes to the drum.
The assembly isn’t subject to wear in normal use, where the e-brake would only be applied when the vehicle is stationary. But if the e-brake is left on while driving, it can wear rapidly. Adjustment is done with a star wheel, which is sometimes accessible without removing the rotor and sometimes not.
The springs and adjuster and shoes are subject to moisture problems sometimes, and rust can cause enough problems that the whole assembly needs to be replaced. Wear can also be an issue if the e-brake is left on while driving the vehicle.
On average, it costs about $250 to replace the main components of this kind of system.
For specific examples on some common vehicles, the replacement costs of a rear drum e-brake system inside a brake rotor, supposing that $100 an hour was used as a labor rate, are as follows:
- For a 2011 Ford F-150
The labor time to replace the rear e-brake shoes is estimated at 1.6 hours. A set of factory shoes cost about $122, and Bendix shoes cost about $40. A hardware kit adds about $18 to the cost. The total cost to complete the job of replacing the rear e-brake shoe assembly would be about $304 using factory parts, or about $218 using aftermarket parts.
To replace the e-brake cables on the Ford, there is a front cable and a variety of other cable options for the left or right rear cable, depending on cab and bed length. The labor time for the front cable is one hour. A factory cable costs about $70, and Raybestos cable costs about $27. The total cost to complete the job for the front cable would be about $170 using OE parts, and about $127 using aftermarket parts.
For the left or right rear cables, the labor time is estimated at 0.5 of an hour and the range of prices for factory cables is about $46 to $113. Aftermarket rear emergency brake cables range from about $19 to $62 in cost. Expect to spend around $96 to $163 to complete the job using factory parts, or about $69 to $112 using aftermarket parts, depending on which cable is needed and which body-style the vehicle has.
- For a 2006 Kia Optima
The labor time to replace the rear e-brake shoes is around 1.3 hours. A factory e-brake shoe set costs about $67, and a set of Wagner shoes costs about $29. Hardware costs about $32. The total cost to complete the job would be about $229 using factory parts, and about $181 using aftermarket parts.
For this vehicle, there is a left and right e-brake cable. The labor time to replace either is around 1.3 hours. A factory cable costs about $72 for the right side and $56 for the left side. Aftermarket cables are about $29 each. The total cost to complete the job would be around $192 to replace the right side rear e-brake cable using factory parts, and about $186 for the left side. Using aftermarket parts, the job would cost around $159 for either side.
Other Things That Can Be Involved
The most common thing is the brakes themselves, regardless of the type of system. In a system that uses the brake pad or shoes themselves to apply the e-brake, a brake job would be done if the brake pads or shoes are needed to be replaced. Any parts necessary for the e-brake system would be supplementary to that.
Replacing the e-brake hardware in a drum brake system is generally a part of a drum brake service, if necessary. On a brake job for a disc brake system, replacing the calipers is usually about 0.2 of an hour as additional labor cost to the brake job; mostly accounting for having to bleed the system.
In a system with an e-brake inside the drum of a disc brake system, if the disc brakes needed to be replaced, then, most of the labor to service the e-brakes would be overlapped by the main brake work.
In a drum brake system, if the brakes themselves needed to be replaced, all of the labor to replace the e-brake hardware would be included in the labor related to the brake work. Only the parts cost of the e-brake hardware kit would be an addition, as detailed in the above section.
Most of the time you can feel the e-brake engage when pulling the lever or pushing the pedal. A way to be sure is to park on a slope, put the vehicle in neutral, engage the e-brake, and see if it holds.
It’s essential on a vehicle with a manual transmission. On an automatic, it’s still better to rely on the e-brake to hold the vehicle on a slope rather than the transmission.
It’s a good habit to always use the e-brake. It causes no wear, and offers some protection to the vehicle and the transmission. The exception is in very cold snowy weather, where it’s recommended to not set the e-brake, as the cables and mechanism can freeze in the applied position.