E Type handbrakes are notorious. Usually the problem relates to inefficiency and comes to light during an MoT test but my tester also always checks the security of the lever on all the cars he tests. He does this by pulling the lever on so that it is held on the ratchet and then he smacks it hard with the palm of his hand. He expects it to remain on but mine didnít. Instead it would let go and fly off. Apparently, this is quite a common fault on E Types.
To be fair, I had known about this for some time as the lever had been a bit troublesome. There is quite a slope down out of my garage and when backing the car out I was never confident in leaving it on the handbrake so I always stopped the engine and put the car into gear. However, the tester was quite adamant in telling me not to bring the car back until I had made the handbrake work properly.
As E Type owners will know, the working part of the handbrake lever is inside the main central console so this has to be removed. To get at this I first took out the seats. This is easy on a Series 2. The front of the runners have forked ends that locate under the heads of mushroom bolts in the floor so all I had to do was to slide the seats forward and remove the pan head screws at the back. The seats then lift out.
Next the radio console has to be removed. That also gave me the opportunity to repair the radio which wasnít working. The rear of the main console is secured by the inner seat belt mountings and the front has two screws. Once these are removed the console can be lifted out. Ha! Thatís the theory but in fact it takes a lot of wriggling and twisting to get it to clear the gear lever and the handbrake lever.
I found it necessary to slacken the handbrake adjustment nut right off to facilitate the removal of the cable from the lever and if I had done this to start with the handbrake lever could have been pulled up more vertically which would have made removing the console a lot easier.
Once access to the lever mountings is obtained the four screws that secure the lever assembly to the transmission tunnel can be removed, as can the bolt that holds the warning light switch. At this point I forgot I was working on an E Type and thought it would just be a matter of taking out the split pin and clevis pin that join the cable end fork to the lever allowing me to work on the lever itself.
This was a very foolish thought. The cable outer locates in a drilling in the lever frame and getting this out held me up for a day prising and pulling. The problem is that if someone has over-tightened the bolt that fixes the warning light switch this also squeezes and distorts the hole the that cable out locates in and makes it impossible to get it out of the frame. What makes it difficult is getting enough grip on the outer of the cable without squashing it. Finally, I had the handbrake lever removed.
Dismantling the Lever
Taking the lever assembly apart is fairly straightforward. The large slotted nut has a split pin that must be removed and the smaller nut is an Aerotight. With the two bolts removed the main parts of the assembly can be separated which leave the lever itself with its operating rod and pawl.
The button is fixed to the operating rod with an orthogonal pin and in my case that was very difficult to remove. You need a good pin punch and a lot of patience. I was prepared to drill it out and replace it with a roll pin but in the end it came out. Once out the spring, rubber washer and two plain washers can be withdrawn.
This step will enable access to the pawl. There is a little cover secured with two tiny screws which when removed allow the operating lever with pawl attached to push through enough to enable the split pin and then the clevis pin to be removed from the fork end of the operating rod. Now the pawl will drop out and then if the operating rod is turned through 180o it too can be removed.
The problem with my handbrake was that the ratchet plate was quite worn and the pawl was badly worn. I did attempt to re-file the teeth but the plate and pawl are really very hard and that didnít work. Some members of the UK E Type forum suggested building up the teeth with blobs of weld and filing to shape and Simon Helmsley also suggested this but I really didnít want to do the repair that way.
Bearing in mind how frequently this fault occurs it was surprisingly difficult to source a new ratchet plate and pawl. I got the pawl from David Manners in the end but I couldnít find a UK source for the ratchet plate and eventually had to buy one from XKs in the US.
I mentioned this to Julian Barratt who responded very positively and for anyone now who wants to do the same job, SNG Barratt offers an overhaul kit containing all the parts needed for £100. If you donít want to go to the bother of rebuilding your own lever they also sell a complete handbrake assembly ready to fit.
The original ratchet plate was slightly different in that it was just a pressing and the large pivot bolt went through two separate, shouldered spacers. On the replacement ratchet plate these spacers were welded to the pressing which was also reinforced on one of the bends with some extra weld. Unfortunately, the alignment of the pre-welded spacers wasnít quite perfect and I had to ream the hole to allow the bolt to pass through.
Re-assembly is really just the reverse of taking the lever apart and adjusting the tightness of the slotted nut so that it just doesnít nip the cheeks of the lever too much and that the lever operates smoothly.
Finally I re-fitted the whole assembly to the car with some new screws and happily the handbrake is now MoT tester proof.
E Type Restoration