With my dad's 156 the 'Alfa specialist' (official dealer
) tried adjusting the hand/parkingbrake after a pad change; as a result you needed arms like the Hulk to pull the hand/parkingbrake lever up 3 notches -and the thing still wouldn't apply the brakes!
On the calipers you could see the hand/parking brake cable lever was tightened fully, it could only move marginally until it could not move at all -hence you couldn't get the lever up more than 3 notches.
The 156 rear brake setup is identical as the 916's: the rear calipers pistons can rotate. With the piston rotating (it only rotates if it is not tight against the pad) it moves outwards and compensates for slack due to (mostly) pad-wear (or when installing new pads and the pistons have been manually rotated back).
According to the workshop manual the way to adjust the handbrake (after installing new pads for instance, but just do it with your brakes now):
- loosen the handbrake cable fully (small bolt under the lever itself)
- with handbrake cable fully loosened, according to the service manual; 'operate the brake pedal forcefully at least ten times'
. This should give the pistons enough workout to 'rotate' the slack away.
- Set the handbrake lever to the third notch/click and tighten the handbrake cable until the wheels are braked.
Did above adjustment, now my dads (156) handbrake works fine.
During the next days it'll get better as the piston can rotate a bit more. Nice thing; you don't need to remove any wheels!