I don't really know of any brakes that aren't self adjusting. That would not be a safe condition to not have self adjusting brakes. Disc brakes are expanded with the hydralic piston pushing the pad against the rotor. The piston does not retract but when the pedal is released the pressure on the pad relaxes but it rides along touching the rotor and so is always tightening.
The drum brakes use hydraulics to push two directions and expand shoes using a lever action to push against the drum. When enough space is present from wear there is another simple mechanism that rachets an expanding, threaded spreader which keeps the springs from pulling the shoes too far away from the drums.
If the rachet assembly sticks and fails to move the brakes do not adjust. They can be adjusted manually with nothing more than a screwdriver however this is not advisable. Fix the problem so the car self adjusts properly. You want the car to stop uniformly on the pavement.
Monday, December 18th, 2006 AT 9:19 AM