Jim Smart
February 27, 2007

Few Mustang subjects are duller than parking brakes. Also called emergency brakes or "e-brakes," they were designed to keep a Mustang secure when parked. The parking brake is also supposed to stop the car if the hydraulic brake system fails. Count on reduced stopping distances and loss of control if that's the only choice.

Right off the assembly line, '65-'68 Mustang parking brakes offered marginal safety. Dash-mounted hand brakes have never been effective, even under the best of circumstances. They aren't as useful as between-the-seat hand brakes either, due to mechanical advantage. To be valuable at all, a dash-mounted hand brake must be in the best possible operational condition. The '69-'73 foot parking brake is more effective, thanks to the leverage and the strength in the left leg.

Early Mustang parking brakes consist of a ratcheting handle and a shaft, a detent, a pulley, and a series of cables connected to the rear brakes.

This is your basic '65-'66 Mustang parking-brake system. Although both model years look the same, they are different, with the '66 having fewer parts. For the '66, there's a single cable joining both rear brakes. Cable anchor points are also different.

Although the '65 and '66 models are basically the same, the amount of hardware and number of cables were reduced to save per-vehicle cost and ease assembly for the '66. Instead of two rear-brake cables, there's one continuous cable joining both rear brakes. For the '67-'68 models, Ford returned to a system using two rear-brake cables joined by a union.

Mustang parking brakes improved in 1969 when Ford switched to a foot-operated system. In 1974, the hand brake was mounted between the bucket seats, a system still used today, although the design has varied from generation to generation. The '74-'78 Mustang IIs use the Pinto's hand brake. The '79-'04 hand brake remained essentially the same during 25 years of production. As can be imagined, the '05-'07 Mustang's hand brake performs the same function but is different by design.

While the '65-'68 Mustangs look great, it's unrealistic to believe the parking brakes will hold the car on a hill, which is why it must be parked carefully, with tires pointed toward the curb. As a rule, Mustang parking brakes don't hold when the car is facing uphill; they hold best when it is pointed downhill.

From '65-'68, Mustang hand brakes were basically the same with the exception of the handle. They all consisted of a toothed shaft, a ratchet assembly (detent), pulley, cable, retaining pins, a housing that attaches to the firewall and dashboard, and a molded-plastic, metal-reinforced handle.

Replacement and MaintenanceAlthough parking-brake cables are made of corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel, they can still suffer from rust, dirt, and the absence of lubrication. That's why we suggest complete cable replacement and fresh lubrication to get them working properly again. To accomplish this, Mustangs Plus offers plastic-coated cables and genuine Scott Drake parts.

The key to proper parking brake operation is clean, well-lubricated, properly-installed parts. When you do a brake job, check the system for proper operation; clean and lubricate as necessary.

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