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'02 Rear brake/drum issues

My parents own a 2002 Mercury Sable. This car has had it’s share of issues (transmission problems, etc.), but the newest one involves a seemingly easy fix. We are trying to replace the rear brake shoes and can’t get the drum off because of wear. There is a groove that has been created, and the drum refuses to get past the groove (even after hours of trying). Both my dad and I have been trying to think of ways that we can still do this ourselves, but are coming up short. Any suggestions would be very appreciated!

Look on the backside of the hub and see if there is a slot on the lower end of the backing plate. It may have a rubber cap inserted in the slot. Using a brake “spoon” in the slot you can back off the automatic brake adjuster by turning the star wheel and gain the clearance needed to remove the brake drum.

These cars should have an oblong stamped slot on the bottom of each brake shoe backing plate.
You will need to take a hammer and small chisel and knock the insert out. (this will fall into the brake assembly)

Once the plug is out the brakes can be adjusted to loosen them up and the drum should come right off.
Auto parts houses sell the rubber inserts to plug the insert hole after everything is back together and adjusted properly.

I guess I should have been more specific… we did try to loosen the brake using the star wheel, but first we saw that there were two slots (not just one, and neither of them are on the bottom, one is on the top and one is to the side), and second, even after we found what we thought was the correct area it seemed like the star was stuck (most likely from rust). The last time these rear tires had anything done to them was about two years ago (working on the brakes again), and neither of us remember it being this difficult.

You need a screwdriver to push the lever off the star adjuster because it sometimes keeps it from turning. You have to move the teeth downward to back the adjuster off. Make sure the parking brake is not engaged.

Often, there is a spring loaded metal plate that latches the star wheel to keep it from loosening on its own and disabling the brake. To loosen the star wheel, you need to use two screwdrivers (or whatever) – one to hold the latch open and the other to turn the star wheel. Figuring out how this works while looking through those two tiny holes may not be easy. You may have to find a picture on-line or at the library.

The reason it was easier two years ago was probably that the drum wasn’t quite so worn and the drum was able to clear the brake shoes and slide off.

If all else fails, brute force in the form of a three arm wheel puller will almost certainly get the drum off. The brake mechanism may come out in pieces along with the drum, but most likely it will not be severely damaged.

The good news: We got the drum off, got the new shoes on, and the car can be driven again.

The bad news: We still have to do the other side…

The metal plate had been bent somehow (possibly the prying and hammering that dad did in frustration trying to get the drum off), but regardless of that the star was pretty rusted and wasn’t turning freely. We had to take the piece apart and slather it in an anti-binding agent to get it moving again.

All said and done it was a good learning experience, and seeing what everything looks like taken apart may help us both with the other side (or so we can hope).

I should mention that we listen to Car Talk every week, and 9 out of 10 times my dad can diagnose the problem before he hears the answer given by Tom and Ray. We were just both trying too hard, and taking a step back for a day or two can really help. I realized that we had been trying to pull primarily from one side, when we should really try taking it off evenly (so it wasn’t cockeyed). With the help of a few screwdrivers, a wrench, and some grunting and straining the thing finally popped off.

SUCCESS!! Thanks everyone!!

“Thankfully dad also has a grinder in his garage, so we were able to reduce the effect of the lip that had been created and get the drum back on with the new shoes.”

This is why amateur “mechanics” should not be sold ANY brake parts. Talk about a BUTCHER job…I’ll bet even money the new shows are NOT assembled on the car correctly…

I actually talked to our local mechanic about the grinding practice and he said that’s what they would do in the shop to save on the cost of having to buy a new drum, so…

Also, the SHOES are back on correctly according to the pictures we took after getting the drum off but before touching the shoes or anything else, and according to diagrams we found. Say what you want about it, but everything is back where it should be and running smoothly.

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I hope you let a pro inspect your work as too much is riding on brakes, and no using some type of hand grinder is not how the lip on a brake drum should be dealt with, no matter how Goober does it (there I compared your mechanic to Goober from Mayberry, not an infamous dictator so I am probably in the clear) really brake work has set polices and practices attached too it and they should be carefully followed.