, Salem, MA

December 29, 2012

E-brake won't go down in 2001 Crown Victoria

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Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I just failed a state inspection for my 2001 Ford Crown Victoria. The car failed because the emergency brake would not go down and hold the car in place. This same problem happened just a few years ago also. At that time, I had to replace both of my emergency brake cables. I really don’t want to go through this expense again. Can the existing cables be fixed? How can we prevent this from happening again?

A: Emergency brake problems are usually caused by lack of use. Because the cable has not been used since your last inspection, the cable froze up inside the casing. If you have a regular repair facility, you may want to ask them to put the car up on the lift and spray a rust-breaking penetrant any place the cable goes into the casing. Then work the cable back and forth a few times, and see if it frees up. If that does not work, than you will have to replace the cables. When you do replace the cables, be sure to put a dab of axle grease everywhere the cable goes into the casing. This will keep water out. Also make sure you use the emergency brake a few times a month to keep it from seizing up again. By the way, cables for that car are available in the aftermarket for around half the price at the Ford dealer.

Q: I am a high school student in Marblehead. My father and I always read your column in The Salem News. I was given a 1963 Pontiac Catalina, with a 389 engine. The vehicle does not run, and I am really not good at diagnosing. I replaced the battery, and now the engine cranks over, but it will not start. I have found that there is no spark when we crank the engine. We have poured some gasoline down the carburetor. But the car won’t start. My father says you will know the answer to this problem. Do you have any idea of what might be the cause?

A: You got your hands on a really nice car. Back in the day, Pontiac had quite the lineup of great cars in their showroom. Starting with the Bonneville, 2+2, Catalina, GTO and LeMans. These were all pure GM Iron and GM muscle. First thing I want you to check is for 12 volts at the positive coil wire attached to the coil. If that’s OK, turn off the key and look for cracks on the coil tower wall. If that’s OK, hook up a dwell meter set at 8 cylinder. Have a helper turn the engine over and check the dwell. It should be set for approximately 30 degrees of dwell. Next, remove the distributor cap, and inspect the rotor for cracks. With the ignition disabled, have a helper once again spin the engine over and look for spinning in the distributor. It’s a really safe system, and I have confidence you will be able to restore spark.

Car Care Tip: As we approach the new year, try to make this simple resolution: More patience when driving, do not exercise road rage and, last, step a tad easier on the gas pedal to save fuel. Have a happy and healthy New Year.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to