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Old 08-02-2011, 11:02 AM   #1
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Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

I wasn't sure what forum was best to post a brake question.

I have a 2005 Express van with AWD. Does anyone have experience adjusting the parking brake on these? My Chilton's manual shows an adjuster on the cable that runs along the frame rail but my van has nothing of the sort. I've read that Ford vans have the adjustment at the rear wheel and wonder if Chevy followed suit.

Also, a general brake upgrade question. My brakes feel a little spongy overall so a flush is planned. I'm wondering if stainless brake lines could also help with a more positive feel? I'm wondering if anyone has any experience or source for brake lines. At this time I'm only considering bolt-on upgrades like pads, rotors, lines, fluid, etc.

Thanks!
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Old 08-02-2011, 11:24 AM   #2
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

The spongy feel is typical of that model, so you don't have a problem. Does yours have drum brakes? I can't remember which year they finally switched. If it has drums, then they should adjust automatically, but you have to periodically take the drums off and spray the adjuster with penetrating oil to keep rust away.

If it has rear disc brakes, the pads are not adjustable. But the parking brake shoes are. The star wheel has to be turned with a flat screwdriver, just like adjusting trailer brakes.
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Old 08-02-2011, 12:10 PM   #3
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
The spongy feel is typical of that model, so you don't have a problem. Does yours have drum brakes? I can't remember which year they finally switched. If it has drums, then they should adjust automatically, but you have to periodically take the drums off and spray the adjuster with penetrating oil to keep rust away.

If it has rear disc brakes, the pads are not adjustable. But the parking brake shoes are. The star wheel has to be turned with a flat screwdriver, just like adjusting trailer brakes.
Sorry, I forgot that bit of detail. It does have the 4 wheel disc brakes.

Would stainless brake lines improve the spongy feel or is that just Chevy van brakes?
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:27 PM   #4
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

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Originally Posted by zuren
Sorry, I forgot that bit of detail. It does have the 4 wheel disc brakes.

Would stainless brake lines improve the spongy feel or is that just Chevy van brakes?
In theory, they should. But I don't know anyone who has tried changing any of the brake components on the Express, so I have no idea. Just watch out... there's a lot of low-end imported "Stainless" brake stuff which is probably no better than stock.

So back to your adjustment question.... We're you wondering about the parking brakes, or service brakes? Disc brakes don't need any sort of adjusting. The pads stay barely against the rotor. You just have to top of brake-bluid as the pads wear.

Really, I think the root cause it undersized brakes. There is a lot of aftermarket brake upgrades for the pickups, but nobody seems to know if it will install on the vans.
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Old 08-02-2011, 10:07 PM   #5
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

Also interested in this topic. Have a '06 express awd and the parking brake has never worked properly. Everyone I've talked to has said its a bad design and takes some work to adjust and might still not work properly in the future? Has been on my list for years.
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Old 08-02-2011, 11:01 PM   #6
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

My '08 holds surprisingly well when I use it. It does fell spongy, but it does not affect the performance of mine, it holds like a rock, which is surprising holding back the diesel. Mine has the stock ~13" disc brakes on the rear.
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Old 08-03-2011, 09:04 AM   #7
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
Quote:
Originally Posted by zuren
Sorry, I forgot that bit of detail. It does have the 4 wheel disc brakes.

Would stainless brake lines improve the spongy feel or is that just Chevy van brakes?
In theory, they should. But I don't know anyone who has tried changing any of the brake components on the Express, so I have no idea. Just watch out... there's a lot of low-end imported "Stainless" brake stuff which is probably no better than stock.

So back to your adjustment question.... We're you wondering about the parking brakes, or service brakes? Disc brakes don't need any sort of adjusting. The pads stay barely against the rotor. You just have to top of brake-bluid as the pads wear.

Really, I think the root cause it undersized brakes. There is a lot of aftermarket brake upgrades for the pickups, but nobody seems to know if it will install on the vans.
For the brake lines, I've looked at Russell Brake Lines which is a division of Edelbrock so I would imagine they are a reputable company with a good product but I'm still researching. I won't be looking on ebay for something like this. I've been reading about guys with GM trucks swapping brake lines, pads and rotors and claiming to get decent improvement. Others claim outstanding improvement with aftermarket, multi-piston calipers but at significant cost. Unfortunately no one does know if many of the truck parts will fit the vans so if I can afford it or can return the parts, I've been having to buy hardware and see if it works. I've wondered if 2500 or 3500 calipers would be a near bolt-on improvement but I haven't looked into it.

I'm focused specifically on the parking brakes. I'm looking at installing a 1" body lift since I need a little bit of clearance under the van. The lift should be low enough to avoid many issues but I'm still researching problems that I could possibly see with the fan shroud, steering linkage, and parking brake. The fan shroud can be easily trimmed, the steering linkage should be able to handle 1" of lift and loosening the parking brake should get me the play I need. I got a response on another forum that if there isn't an adjuster on the frame rail, it is most likely a star-nut accessed through the dust cover. I'll have to look tonight.

On the trucks, some guys have disconnected the cable before performing a lift then can't reconnect it. Most have recommended loosening the cable, performing the lift, then readjust. As usual, I can find nothing specific to the vans. Thanks for the responses so far!
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Old 08-03-2011, 10:44 AM   #8
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

Wow. That sounds like a lot of potential complication for a 1" lift. Can't you just adjust the front torsion bars, and maybe add a leaf or block in the rear?
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Old 08-03-2011, 11:32 AM   #9
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Re: Chevy Express van parking brake adjustment and upgrades?

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
Wow. That sounds like a lot of potential complication for a 1" lift. Can't you just adjust the front torsion bars, and maybe add a leaf or block in the rear?
I have a couple reasons:

- My tires rub the mud flaps a little during turns so I just need a little more clearance.

- The #1 reason for this is I need just a bit more clearance between the body and frame for installing seating (space for the bolts to drop through) and components. The frame of the sofa bed I have is lining up perfectly over the frame rails and shock mounts. I've tried left/right, forward/back adjustments. I've considered modifying the sofa frame to have the bolts pass through the floor at different points. I've been staring at this for months and no alternatives that make me happy. For safety, retaining the quick release feature and keeping the floor clear of other supports/bracketry/etc., a body lift satisfies a couple issues at once.

- Many have said, "1 inch? Too much trouble. What's the point?" I only need a small amount of clearance; not interested in anything more. From what I've read on many sites is 1" won't require you to modify much if anything; there is enough play in the cables, etc. to accomodate 1". I may not have to trim the fan shroud. Body-to-bumper gap will be mostly unnoticed. Anything larger than 1" involves larger gaps, cable modifications, new brackets........a lot of stuff I don't want to deal with. There are quite a few people who have done 1" lifts and there are kits out there, just none for vans.

- I'm also researching suspension lifts (as you mention) but there isn't much info available and no kits. What I do know is my state (MA) has lift laws so I want to keep any type of body lift minimal. I have to stay under 4 inches total to remain legal and pass inspection.

All of this being said, a functional parking brake is high on the list and from what I've gathered disconnecting the cable is a bad move. Loosening, lifting, readjusting has been the recommended route for dealing with the cable. Some guys disconnect and leave it that way. I don't want that and it may be a cause to fail inspection.

Thanks!
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