These days almost everyone needs to save money and hone their self sufficiency skills – and my house is no different.
When the brakes on my 2005 Ford Ranger started making that tell tale growl I decided I needed to do it myself this time despite the fact that it’s probably been at least 10 years since I did a brake job. Happily it was like riding a bicycle. This repair is very similar to every other set of drum brakes that I’ve ever done, but your mileage may vary.
A shop might charge $2-300 or even more for this repair but the truth is that if you’re fairly mechanically inclined this isn’t an excessively difficult job, and you can do it yourself with about $60 worth of brake shoes, and you won’t need any “special” tools. Chances are that if you do any automotive work at all you already have most or all of the tools that you will need for this job:
- Jack and jack stands or equivalent
- Cross Wrench to remove the lug nuts
- Pry bar
- Medium / large slot screwdriver
- Small / medium “Vise Grip” type locking pliers
- Locking needle nose pliers
- Digital Camera
Expect to take from 30 minutes to 1 hour for each side unless you are already proficient – in which case you probably don’t need this guide. If you get in a hurry and don’t read the directions – or if you run into problems like frozen or broken parts it could take quite a bit longer. Clear your calendar for a few hours just in case. Try to have another vehicle available in case you need to make a parts run.
Brakes aren’t something that you want to foul up, and drum brakes are a lot more aggravating than discs are – so if you don’t have the patience to safely do a good job then you should just shell out the cash and let a professional do it for you.
This information may not be correct, and may cause extensive damage to you or your vehicle, and is only for information / entertainment use only. You must agree that you are responsible for the consequences of any use or misuse.
Never work on any vehicle that is up on a jack – you will almost certainly injure or kill yourself, and damage the car. Use jack stands or a safe equivalent like railroad cross ties or 6x6s. Never work on any vehicle on a soft or unstable surface – concrete is best, asphalt can collapse under jack stands if you put enough weight on it. You are solely responsible for your own safety and that of your car, passengers, other cars, drivers, and pedestrians. If you are not 100% sure that you can safely complete this job then don’t do it.
Here is a valuable tip – do one side at a time. That way if you get confused you can look at the other side to help you get it all together again.
Before you jack up the truck loosen all of the lug nuts while the tire is still on the ground. Then once you have the car safely up and the tire off remove the retaining clips that the factory used to hold the drum on. If the drums have ever been removed there won’t be any retainers so don’t worry about it, but if you have to remove them they will be damaged in the process which is OK, because they no longer serve any purpose – just throw them away.
Then remove the brake drum by gently tapping on it with a hammer to get it started, and then pry it off with a pry bar through the center hole.
Once you have the drums off examine them for deep scratches (like you will have if you wait too long to replace the shoes) or glazing (like you get if you drive like a mad man). If the surface is not in good shape then you need to get the drums turned (7-10 bucks apiece) or replaced if they are too bad to turn. Many parts stores that sell brake shoes also will turn your drums and discs. If you don’t know what you are looking for, or if you aren’t sure, then take them to the parts store or machine shop to be checked.
Here’s what you will see once the drums are off -
Helpful tip #1 – Put a ratchet strap, bungee cord, or giant rubber band around the outside of the brake shoes – this will help to hold it all together while you deconstruct the assembly.
Now remove the top spring from the rearmost brake shoe (the two sides are mirror imaged) by grasping it with a pair of vise grips and prying on them with a screw driver.
Don’t worry about the other top spring yet – it will be easy.
Now remove the spring from the auto adjusting lever by lifting the end of it up and off of the adjuster.
This will free up the adjuster lever which just hooks onto the end of the tensioner spring / cable and rides on the same stud as it’s lever spring
Now grasp both of the shoe hold down spring clips with a pair locking needle nosed pliers and remove it by compressing the spring and rotating it 90 degrees while you hold the retining rod from the back with finger pressure. This is very easy to do with locking needle nose pliers and very hard to do without them. If you don’t hold the rod from the back it will rotate along with the retainer, and make you say bad words.
Now use your locking pliers to grasp the spring that runs between the two brake shoes – stretch it just a little bit and pull the end out of the hole – note that this picture shows me holding the wrong end of the spring – I didn’t get a good shot of holding the correct end (this is on the passenger side). Anyway, one end (the end toward the front of the truck) will come out easily, and the other won’t come out at all without great difficulty and damaging the spring – so don’t force it. Once you have the right end it will come right out with no problem.
Once you have the front end of the spring out just pivot the spring out and the other end will unhook.
Now take off the ratchet strap and the shoes will both come off – the front one will still be hooked to the big spring at the top but it won’t be under any tension and it will come right off.
Several parts will just come loose along with the brake shoes – like the star wheele auto adjuster -
The four brake shoes are all exactly alike except that two of them have this stud and the other two don’t. The shoes with the stud install toward the rear of the vehicle.
The stud goes at the bottom by the way.
The rearmost shoe (with the stud) will still be attached by a soft steel clip to the parking brake lever. You will have to bend apart the legs of the clip to remove it, and then you will have to crimp them back with a pair of pliers to install the new shoe. Go ahead and do that.
One end of the adjuster star wheel assembly is threaded while the other end is not. Turn the treaded end to shorten the adjuster assembly as short as it will go – but leave it loose – don’t screw it in tight and bound up.
Now you are ready to reassemble everything using the new brake shoes.
First rehook the big top spring to the forward shoe (it isn’t under any tension yet) and position both shoes while holding them loosely in place with the ratcheting strap or bungee cord. Check to make sure that the slave cylinder rods, parking brake link, and star wheel adjuster are all in place on both ends – then lightly tighten the ratchet strap.
Replace both shoe hold down springs using the locking needle nosed pliers – push and rotate 90 degrees while holding the retaining rod from the back.
Use your locking pliers and screwdriver to pry the top spring back into place.
Replace the lower spring that goes between the shoes by tilting the rearward end into it’s hole in the rear shoe and stretching the spring with locking pliers to hook the front end into it’s hole in the front shoe.
Now route the adjuster tensioning cable around the shiny sheet metal braket on the rear shoe.
Now install the auto adjuster spring over the stud then hook the adjuster lever to the end of the spring/tensioner cable and install it over the same stud.
Now lift the end of the spring and hook it onto the adjuster lever
Remove the ratchet strap and check everything to make sure that it is all in place – slave cylinder rods on both ends, parking brake link on both ends, star wheel adjuster on both ends. the top of the shoes should be bearing on the anchor pin that the two big springs hook to. Also the adjuster lever should be engaging the teeth of the star wheel – if it isn’t the star wheel adjuster is probably installed backwards. If all that looks good and you don’t have too many left over parts (any would be too many) then you are ready to re install the brake drum and the tire.
The brakes should work just fine, but they will adjust theirselves when you back the car up – so make a point of backing up and pumping the brakes a few times. Drive around especially slowly and carefully untill you have determined that everything feels and sounds right, and the brakes work like they are supposed to.