Welcome to our Site for MG, Triumph and Austin-Healey Car Information.


MG parts spares and accessories are available for MG T Series (TA, MG TB, MG TC, MG TD, MG TF), Magnette, MGA, Twin cam, MGB, MGBGT, MGC, MGC GT, MG Midget, Sprite and other MG models from British car spares company LBCarCo.

MG Midget and Sprite Technical - Handbrake adjustment


Following Haynes, I have the rear off the ground, handbrake off, and have started adjusting the square headed adjustment (screws/bolts?) behind the backplate. Turning clockwise, it seems I have to turn quite a way before the brakes begin to bind, and on one wheel after 2 or so complete 360 deg turns, still nothing. The handbrake was pretty feeble by the by. Shoes and drum are fine.

Is this normal? Incidentally how does turning the screw/bolt adjust the shoes? Is it tapered at the other side? - so the more you turn it in the more it pushes out the mating plates, and thus on the shoes at the base of the drum?

Thanks as always

Disconnect the handbrake at the clevis pins before trying to adjust shoes in this case, if required back off handbrake adjuster nut to get pins out.

Now try adjusting both wheels, no doubt one still won't adjust in which case you need to take the adjuster out and clean it and the rest of the rear brakes.

Check the linkages move very freely behind the backplate and check springs, lever and shoes are fitted correctly.

Check clevis pins and anything thing else for wear.

The adjuster, in my simple and not necessarily accurate description is a the adjusting pin with a couple of wedges that get pushed out - they only go so far so in two complete turns they'e been on an af minimum and full stretch a good few times.
see following for correct layout of assembly -

Nigel Atkins

Even though they might look OK I'd strongly recommend removing shoes, adjuster and link,arms and thoroughly clean all including back plate.

You'll also need to remove the rubber boot to get a proper clean of back plate so clean and lube them nylon/rubber lube spray.

Perhaps put a photo up of offending side.

Don't blow the shoe debris into your race as it can irritate.

t'other side -

Nigel Atkins

I think* L (or 'ell) supplied this photo.

Note position of springs and the spring bend under the lever -

Nigel Atkins

This is from David Smith IIRC, note layout of springs -

Nigel Atkins

The adjusters have a fine thread so 2 full turns is actually very little ramp angle on the tapered end if they are only just engaged on the threaded boss on the backplate.
David Smith

You may also want to check the thread engagement of the adjusters. The fine thread in the backplate can wear or get eaten by rust so that the thread strips and any amount of winding of the adjuster won't achieve anything. In which case you would probably need new backplates (which at one time were NLA.) Or it is possible to fit inserts in the adjuster bushes and re-tap them.

Other possibilities are excessively worn brake shoes, or even excessively worn drums. Your start point is to remove the drums, clean everything up and have a really good close look at it all.

Thanks David I didn't think of that, mine seem to go from full on to full off in less than 90 degrees.

A few more notes-

if one wheel won't adjust up and it's not the fault of the adjuster then perhaps the drums/shoes might be contaminated

if there's the slightest doubt then a full set of shoes is very inexpensive and you're already doing all the preparation work to fit them anyway

do the cable and cable adjuster/balance/compensator look like they've been greased regularly and fairly recently (as per the good book)

all clevis pins, washer and joints need to be clean and rust free and especially those link arms for the handbrake to be at its best

wear on all/some clevis pins (accumulation effect)

often it pays to do the whole job fully instead of concentrating on the small area of the problem, I've spent all day on a small job that has expanded backwards which could have been done in a third of the time if I was allowed to do the job as a whole at the start
Nigel Atkins

Thanks chaps - was not aware of the fine thread. To check it out, I have digital calipers. I'll see if the shoes are moving outwards at the base. Drum is off, it all looks fine, but one can never be certain.

The inner, cone shaped end of the adjuster is in fact 4 sided so as you wind the adjuster inwards it will adjust in distinct steps, 4 per 360 degree revolution of the adjuster. As you wind it in to tighten the adjustment you will feel this as a sort of 'cam' effect. Periodically go and stamp sharply on the foot brake as this will centre the shoes within the drum.

Do all of the adjustment either with the handbrake cable disconnected, or at least with the handbrake fully released. The brakes will begin to lock on. When this happens back them off again 2 or 3 flats so that you can turn the drum by hand although there may still be some light dragging. Do the adjustment with both rear wheels off the ground so that you can judge the final setting on them both so they have the same amount of slight drag.

Good, close adjustment of the rear brakes will pay dividends in good front brake performance!

Slight drag will give less 'free' travel of the pedal but will of course, as Guy has previously mentioned, give a bit more rolling resistance for want of a better description (mine not Guy's description) and slightly less mpg.

I'm not disagreeing with Guy as there's more than one way just saying with my car I've tried sharp presses on pedal and not, hitting drum with mallet to centre, raise one wheel at a time, raising both at once, and I've not on my car, to me, noticed any difference in results but I'm not as experienced or knowledgeable as many.

I find it difficult to detect slight drag to none and now set mine to as free as I can, to keep rolling, pedal travel and braking are fine and very good, good tyres help.
Nigel Atkins

I agree with Guy, have them as close to the drum as possible without too much dragging. I think very slight dragging is a better description and in use it will not increase rolling resistance or mpg. Its more a case of any slight high spots just skimming each other. Its the reason I hate self adjusting brakes as they are never close enough for my liking. The one down side to close adjustment that I have found over the years, if you adjust them regularly, is that because the pistons move so little they can be more prone to seizing.

T Mason

Its the usual problem of language and interpretation of the written word. When I said:
<<turn the drum by hand although there may still be some light dragging>> I mean so you can feel the shoes making contact, but still turn the drum by fairly light pressure with one hand. Once the wheel is bolted back on this will equate to negliagble brake resistance felt at the tyre edge. I do both rear brakes at the same time with the car jacked up on the diff so that I can check that the amount of drag is the same on both sides to get the balance right.

I also at this stage start to click the handbrake on, one ratchet notch at a time and check both rear wheels to feel when the handbrake begins to bite. (wheels now fitted; still jacked clear of the ground). By 4 clcks both the wheels should begin to be pretty tight, and to the same degree, though may still turn if pushed hard. By 5 handbrake clicks I like to have both the wheels locked solid.

Set up like this, after a few miles (5 - 10 maybe) the shoes should have become fully centralised and may have scuffed off any lining high spots so the drums will be turning freely with the handbrake fully released.I may even reach under and turn each adjuster in a further flat, but if they continue to drag a bit then either the shoes aren't settling properly on their contact points - which should have been cleaned and had a light dab of copperease, or maybe the drums are old, pitted or distorted?

Guy, your method is exactly the same as mine. I too like the handbrake full on at the same point as you.

T Mason

>>Its the usual problem of language and interpretation of the written word.<< I totally agree and as I often demonstrated mine isnít the best. I think weíre probably all pretty close in the drag just different interpretations and language as said.

I find it very hard to decide where shoe drag and turning resistance of the hub overlap, with the wheel on I like the wheel to spin one revolution with one two hand spin on the tyre before it stops/binds/resists. I also find it difficult to feel if one side is the same as the other hence if the turn one revolution system. Iíve no idea if one revolution might be still too tight/drag(?).

I like the idea of checking the handbrake clicks, Iíve not done that though I too like 5 clicks to handbrake holding well on hills.

I think you could spend all day adjusting and not get it 100% so I accept if itís working well. Provided the rear brakes are in good condition, fairly clean, handbrake previously adjusted then the handbrake work well (on the 1275 at least) and much better than my wifeís previous Vauxhall.

As someone put earlier once the handbrake is set up well then subject to wear and tear it can be left alone.
Nigel Atkins

Nigel, I bet your wife's car had self adjusters and thats one of the reasons I dont like them. You can always get a few clicks out of them manually without them dragging.

T Mason

I don't know Trev I never really touched the Vauxhall at all as dealing with most of the Midget's service and maintenance fills me with sufficient 'joy' that I need look no further.

The Vauxhall handbrake was looked at at 18 months old and found to be working fine they just cleaned the rear brake drums yet at the first MoT 18 months later with the same dealership it failed on the handbrake! It was hopeless it'd creak when you got out of the car on level ground.

The Midget speedo was also more accurate than the Vauxhall.
Nigel Atkins

Guy et al

Many thanks - all very useful. Once each adjuster on the backplates have been adjusted just so, I take it one then adjusts the handbrake cable near the diff with the nut/locknut affair?

Incidentally I took the shoes off to grease the contact points at each end...what a pain to re-assemble with the springs in the correct slots! There must be a knack......

Yes - to handbrake adjustment.
Yes, there's a knack to it!

I do find a large flat bladed screwdriver helps to lever the shoes into position

Having the top return spring on the lever side already slotted through one shoe (particularly on the r/h I think) can help as they're awkward even test fitting on the bench top particularly one side.

You can just get an ordinary spanner inside the bracket to tighten the locknut, I forget the size (5/8"?).
Nigel Atkins

If the adjuster winds right in without making the shoes making contact, it's time for new shoes ... and if that doesn't do it, then new drums.
Paul Walbran

Well, I have now removed the offside drum, and the brake linings on both shoes came off with it! Time for new shoes I feel. May as well replace the brake cylinders whilst everything is off too - cheap enough.

Incidentally what is the consensus on fitting discs at the rear? Given that most of the braking force is up front, FL suspension with uprated calipers and discs, what say you? I don't intent to race the thing - unless I see a Porsche....

Rear discs look nice!

If you are just buying new brake shoes you could go for mini ones. They fit just the same, but have a wider surface to the lining.

Excellent tip Guy - thanks.

If not going on track or racing, don't bother with rear discs. I've built some, needed servo, different master cylinder etc. Unnecessary for road use really. But they are utterly awesome on track.
Rob Armstrong

if you're putting new cylinders on be aware that some come complete with new bleed nipples and E-clips and some don't, wished I known which as they're not always listed as such.

I can thoroughly recommend buying/borrowing a circlip fitting tool, but they are stupidly overpriced new, I'd lend you mine if you were nearer, they make fitting those frustrating E-clips so easy.

I couldn't see why the paper gaskets were there and my mate said they were there as as spacers rather than sealing gasket.
Nigel Atkins

Apologies in advance if I'm talking nonsense...

Unless you know the drums are almost unworn, I'd be tempted to replace those at the same time (they are not expensive). When the drums start to wear, the shoes don't sit inside them well and you will get less of the braking surface in contact (therefore less effective braking and you may have to adjust them more frequently). Furthermore, if you are going for wider shoes from a Mini, unless you buy new drums the shoes will be operating partly on worn drum surface and partly on unworn drum surface, which doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

By the way, something I learnt the hard way about the handbrake adjuster screws is that if you want to remove them completely to either clean the threads or replace them, they unwind out towards the wheel, not towards the axle.
Jonathan Severn

Handy thread this

I was preparing the car to take it out* last Thursday when I noticed that welcome (?) amber line of fluid down the floor under the rear end :-(

All the way down the O/S rear tyre, inside

As it was colder than charity I decided to leave it 'til this week if it gets a bit warmer

I fitted the Mini shoes last time around but I cannot remember whether it was the fronts or rears, can anyone remember the ones we were being advised to use?

Only asking first because I don't imagine stripping this down to get at a leaky cylinder will end without a need for new shoes too

She is about to get a new slave in the offside drum I fear

*I had to 'prepare' because I needed a new battery last week, the Halfords type 063 I fitted before has no way to access the cells for maintenance and it has lost its ability to retain a charge and the new one was not as fully charged as I like
Bill sdgpM

sorry I never got around to finding out which Mini shoes as I put off the job because other and unexpected jobs came up then like you I had an unexpected rear cylinder leak a week before NEC.

Thew normal Spridget shoes I got are 7" x 1.25".

If you're ordering wheel cylinders bear in mind some (better ones?) come complete with bleed nipple and E-clip, not clear with Moss at least.

I bought the very expensive E-clip tool and it's very good, I'd lend you it if you were nearer.

I wish I'd also bought clevis pins for rod to levers too (and probably others too).

After doing the replacement work a nice surprise at the NEC was a leak from a front bleed nipple that was fine before but obviously had a delayed reaction from being moved, perhaps I shouldn't have put that hole in the m/c cap after all.

Basically you take a chance if you don't replace every single part and if you do replace any part you take a chance that it isn't worse than the old part.
Nigel Atkins

ETA: I've had a couple of new batteries not fully charged on arrival so now I always check and charge, if required.
Nigel Atkins

IIRC it's the Mini front shoes which are wider. Mini rears are the same as Spridgets.
Dave O'Neill 2

Thanks Nigel and Dave, I did think it was Mini fronts but I am getting old and forgetful these days

I have the tool that was supposed to make clip fitting easy, I think I broke it one time too

Must look it out and see

Lovely when our little cars remind us they like us doing stuff to them isn't it


I will probably set to in a day or so and report back

Bill sdgpM

Nigel, out of interest who has supplied you with new cylinders without the bleed nipple and clip. Personally I have never had that with cylinders for any car that I have replaced them on.

T Mason

Yes, its Mini front shoes. I fitted them on my '71 car a couple of years ago. So long as the drums aren't worn to the degree that there is a definate step in them, then the wider shoes work fine and very quickly scuff off any surface corrosion without the need to use new drums. When I last checked mine, all evidence of the narrower shoe contact area had long since disappeared.

C clip fitting always comes up as a difficult task. If you are aware of the notch in the end of the axle casting that the closed side of the C clip fits into, and utilise this, then fitting is much easier. I just use two flat bladed screwdrivers to lever the clip on to the cylinder boss. The other essential is a piece of tapered wood used as a wedge tapped in between the cylinder and the inner surface of the hub flange to hold the cylinder hard against the backplate whilst fitting the clip. Its then a 2 minute job, with no blood letting required!

thanks Guy, a handy reminder

Stuff I knew but usually forget when I'm knuckle busting

Bill sdgpM

Hi Trev,
they were included but it didn't say they were, I've had other parts before were sometimes a set is included and sometimes not but they're not described as a set so you never know and I didn't have time or trust not to order the nipples and E-clips, it was a "distress purchase".

I ordered from Moss as they offered a choice of two cylinders at two prices so I hoped that the slightly dearer on might be slightly better made and/or seals last longer.

As always happens, the leak made itself known at an inconvenient time so I had to rush my ordering to get the parts to receive them to in time to check if I'd ordered right and enough, that I'd been sent what I'd ordered and they weren't wrong/damaged/piss-poor and delivered in time to return/re-order more.

The E-clips I didn't need came from another branch, picked and packed separately and might have been the last of that stock.
Nigel Atkins

you might already know, I didn't, the rear bleed nipples are now 7mm - a size of spanner I don't posses,
Nigel Atkins

did you clean off the rust edges of the shoes track inside the drum before fitting or just leave the new wider shoes to do the work, I was wondering if you didn't if you'd get "audible brake warning" from them.

My eyes aren't good enough to focus behind the backplate, the expensive tool is just a matter of screwing on and tightening up, doesn't even need two hands.
Nigel Atkins

Nigel, I cleaned out the drums as I would for any brake shoe replacement, using a brake cleaning fluid. I then lightly scuffed the surface of the drum with a medium course W & D paper, probably a 400 grit paper, though I cannot really remember what I used.


Yes indeed to the C-clips. Forgot about those further very handy tips of yours. I knew there was reason why I hadn't fitted them yet... Mini spares have Mintex rear shoes and the cylinders for very reasonable prices......with clips and nipples Nigel

Thanks Guy I assumed that would be the case but thought it best written out for the sake of future clarity.

Oggers, the images in Mini Spares makes it clearer than Moss and others as to what's included, had I not needed other Spridget specific parts and weren't in a rush I've had ordered from them and tried the 1.5" shoes. That was my intention for next spring but my car decided otherwise at a very inconvenient time. Only consolation is that I didn't previously get the fluid changed as I intended at the service a couple of months ago to have to redo it months later as happened at the last change of rear cylinders and shoes 5 years ago.
Nigel Atkins

I would always recommend Mini spares for common parts.....

As long as Mini Spares tell you when you've ordered and paid for something that's no longer available to them, despite it still being advertised, without you having to chase them up. A one time incident but generally I don't know that they're that much above the usual suspects.

But generally parts from Mini suppliers, including Mini Spares, are worth looking at and in person they all tend to be very helpful and friendly.
Nigel Atkins

Today I felt moderately ready to begin this task, I find I need to be in the mood these days, so I began the strip down to investigate the leakiness.

I had used the much (a few years ago)lauded bolt it to the back-plate method which has allowed the cylinder to flibble about inside the drum area

bad move

I found that after cleaning several years worth of rubble and slime the rubber covers had been worn away at the top on each side

After wrestling the shoes out and getting started cleaning up I went behind the back-plate to seek the cut out that Guy mentions where the E/C clip gets an assist onto the slave

I must need to clean it up some more, I canny find the cut out, must be on a different part of the axle end plate

I am definitely not going to reattach the cylinder with the small screw, I think that is a non-starter

More tomorrow, I had somewhere to go this afternoon

Far nicer than the concrete floor of my little hovel/garage


pic in a bit
Bill sdgpM


Bill sdgpM

I too used to fix the brake cylinders to the backplate with a screw, but later abandoned that seemingly nice engineering solution and reverted to the C clip. The screw fastening was too secure and didn't give that bit of movement in the cylinder and shoes that allows them to self-centre correctly in the rotating drum.

But l have modified (that is, l drilled two, 1/16" holes) in each backplate and use those spring and spires through the shoes to add a little extra alignment support, as was done on minis and many later cars using similar Lockheed brakes.

I need to build up a level of tolerance just to think about tackling any jobs on the car but the bloody thing won't let me!

Some more advice/warning for you from my very recent (bitter) experience -

. note bleed nipples can now have a different spanner size, 7mm rear (instead of 1/4"?) and 10mm front (instead of 7/16") so have a selection of spanners/sockets handy

. if you fit new nipples check them for tightness each day over the next week regardless of mileage (I didn't and had semi-hidden fluid loss)

. buy plenty of good quality fluid to allow for a good flush out and unexpected nipple weep/flood

. if you have an E-clip tool find it and save even the reduced hassle, why have a dog and bark yourself!

I was very pleased with my one-man-and-a-jar-bleeding system and result, if there hadn't been so much air in the caliper from someone previously rounding off the bleed nipple so it needed replacing and the threads or it leaking I'd have happily left it to gravity bleed instead of a few short pumps on the pedal.

Oh, and check your reservoir cap vent hole is there (and clean and open).

Enjoy(!?). :)
Nigel Atkins

Sounds like good 'sound' advice Nigel, ta

I'm fine for the 7mm spanners too, a previous employer didn't want everything back :)

I may let it run out to drip some of its air but I am generally happy with my Eezibleed's performance


Someone else, different planet, I fear
Bill sdgpM

Yeah I'm usually at a point of loathing before, during and even after most jobs, especially if new parts have been fitted.

After the joy of completing the rear cylinder replacement, and all the associated parts required, some thought of others not, and test drives and 200+ miles for Friday and Saturday's NEC I was surprised to find a leak on the Sunday morning from the rounded bleed nipple.

I was even more surprised to find this morning a leak from a loose new nipple on the replacement rear cylinder, same side as the previous cylinder too to add insult to injury.

It looks like corrosion is the only thing that holds new threads together so I'll have to check for a while longer!
Nigel Atkins


I cant find no stinking notch


I can find fifty odd years of crusted rust round the stinking axle end

I fail at 'happy' this morning

:( :( :(

I'm back down to create a stinking notch with my trusty six inch half round second cut now

I may be some time...
Bill sdgpM

I know this is a poo poo meathod... but ive done it with still no issues

Wrap the bleed nipples in plumber PTFE tape a few winds and it will seal right back up as if it was rust

Simple easy and cheap red neck hillbilly fix (watch this)


1 Paper

I seem to recall threading a 1mm .08mm ??? Thread on some part of the caliper and just threading it on and saying screw those E clips ... as that's how others where doing it here on the bobs back in the day ... and there was even a good write up on how to do it on a popular midget website at the time

It's in thw archives ... maybe 15 years ago +/~ , maybe try E clip replacement... look for David lieb and myself and Bill young

1 Paper

Well I found it

buried deep inside all that crud but no matter how I tried I couldnt get both tangs opened enough to fix the cylinder

Aha I thought, use the tool, try it again in case you were just unlucky

I broke the e clip, so I need to go back to the shop...

Bellville washers and circlips, that is how they should be fixed but that was sixty years ago

Now we have clips

I cant be beggared to go shopping today so it's to be another day



I had the old one screwed to the backplate, it is the reason the cylinder failed

The cylinder needs to float a bit so it can stay centred

Mine allowed the half shaft to ruin the rubbers and cause the leak
Bill sdgpM

I'm vague today... now that you mentioned circlips I do recall that

I wish I could remember ... I just remember it was threaded to a metric size and circlips were added to fill in the gap but it was still loose as was needed.

It worked for me as that was easily 15 years ago and NO e clips were used ... tried to but failed each time for seversl days
1 Paper

I always take the backplate off to do this. I know it seems the long way to do it but I have found that it is infact the quickest (and less painful) way to do it.

With the brake cylinder nipped up in the vice and the backplate placed over the sticky out bit, I bend the C clip so that one end goes up and the other down. The down one goes in the groove as best it can. I use a screwdriver as a lever to persuade the other end to just grip below the chamfer on the side opposite. Then I use a suitable socket and a wide jaw welding clamp with one jaw on top of the hole in the socket, the other jaw bearing on the brake cylinder from underneath.

So far it has worked every time with no breakages.

MG Moneypit

I found the special tool useless - made of cheese !

There is something in a recent Mascot about filing a 'lead' on the E clip legs so as to make them slid a bit better - they are the work of the devil.I wear protective glasses fitting them as they have flown around the garage in the past.

The old belville and circlips was a well engineered solution, the E clip is a further (cheaper ?) solution to a problem that did not exist !

richard b

Just done mine....Wedge of wood as Guy suggests to force the cylinder hard against the backplate - excellent tip - base of clip in the notch, ensure base tang is located in groove of cylinder locating boss. Large driver onto one end, push the end hard and into the groove....ahem.... Same other side, perhaps using another driver as a lever to twist the clip slightly as you push with the other driver. Not easy as access is a swine, but patience helps.

Arthritic hands doesn't

my local shops have a shortage of replacement clips


Fortunately I have one located at PBW so I will collect it from Paul and have six months worth of chat too

Been a while, see you in the morning Paul
Bill sdgpM

For an easy life the tool works and seem sturdy enough -

Nigel Atkins

if you just need one e-clip I've got a spare I could post to you first class, just let me know.
Nigel Atkins

Cheers Nigel, very kind

Tonight I used a cut down 19mm socket instead of the useless early version of that tool, using the two new E clips I picked up at PBW

Paul warned me they were cheap crap "monkey metal" was the phrase used but they were becoming impossible to locate new

The first one,used with my old tool, bent one arm and decrinkled but after cutting some of the square drive end back the 19 mm socket did the trick instead

But it is a little thin and I might need to call on your generous offer, first off though I'll just give it a test run and see

If I need to take you up on it I'll send you an email

Thank you

Shoes on tomorrow


Bill sdgpM

I have the fitting tool and it has worked well, although I did have one clip that spread on fitting, but didn't spring back into position.

It seems there are clips of varying quality, just like everything else. Some are black, some are passivated.
Dave O'Neill 2

Did your/does your fitting tool have a slot part way round?

Mine did but the first time I used it the little piece of the circumference below the slot just broke away and let the clip bend out of control

The butchered 19mm socket seems to work OK though, so I may save some money by not buying a replacement

Myclips have all been shiny slightly yellowed metal colour, is that passivated I wonder?

Bill sdgpM

For those without patience/enjoyment/ability/want-an-easy-life the special tool works and seems sturdy enough -
Nigel Atkins

I've no idea why the last post of mine at 6:53:38 came from or delayed from.

sorry to say the spare E-clip I have is the same as the ones you got but I could post the (very expensive Moss) tool to you to borrow as it worked well on the other yellow E-clip I tested it with a good number of times until I trusted that clip no more.

The tool and other bits were a very rushed purchase at a very inconvenient time so I paid through the nose as I didn't have time to shop around but I still think the tool was well worth having.

My mate said that the paper gasket was to take up the unintentional slack between rear cylinder and plate whilst still allowing for movement with previous washer and circlip.

I'm still sorting out my rear brakes between commitments, getting the parts and tools, how my knees feel, the weather, and when I can be ar*ed with it, the last being a big hurdle. We can de-motivate each other. :)
Nigel Atkins

Forgot photo of expensive Moss tool -

Nigel Atkins

This thread was discussed between 07/11/2017 and 26/11/2017

MG Midget and Sprite Technical index

This thread is from the archives. Join the live MG Midget and Sprite Technical BBS now