My guess is the handle on the side adjust the tension on a brake band or something similar... and either the band is slipping, from dirt, grease, etc.. or the band is broken. Opening up the beast will tell you either way, and it might be a relatively simple fix—like cleaning and adjusting the inner bits...
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.