1997 Dodge Stratus

I have two questions

1) The rear drum brakes are always adjusted so tight that the wheel will not turn when jacked up. Since changing the factory installed set, I can only get about 6 months wear from that side. The other side wears normally. I have had three mechanics check them and can find nothing wrong. I just changed them again 5/2/09 and replaced the shoes, all new springs and new self adjuster. Same problem. Anyone have anything similar happen to them, if so what was the fix?

2) About sixmonths ago, the ABS light started coming on. It would come on after about 10 seconds of travel time and stay on. The mechanic said that it would be expensive to repair and suggested that I not do it (The car has 200,000 miles on it). Three weeks ago, before the ABS light would come on, (after an extended period of time - app 10 minutes) every time I hit my brakes, there was a grinding sound from the front of the car (appears to be near the center of the front ) and my brakes would fade. Any suggestions?

Regarding your first question, there are a few things you may need to check. Make sure your wheel cylinders are not sticking and that there is not a restriction in the brake hoses. These can cause the brakes to drag and wear rapidly. Also, do you have problems getting the drums to go on over the shoes? The self adjusters on those cars can be a real pain to deal with. Make sure they are well lubricated and installed properly. Make sure you adjust them all the way loose before installing the drum. Also check the drum thickness if you have replaced them. I once had a similar problem on a customer’s car and found out the drums I had installed were not cut right. They were .100" from nominal thickness! Once I turned them to the proper nominal thickness, everything was fine.

I almost forgot about your second question. Have you had your front brakes inspected? The grinding could be excessively worn brake pads or badly pitted brake rotors. This could allow a buildup of metal on the tone rings and wheel speed sensors, causing your abs light to come on. Has the abs light been scanned to determine what the codes are? ABS problems can be expensive to repair, but in a lot of cases they are not terribly difficult to diagnose or repair, for a competent mechanic. Also, just because a car has 200,000 miles on it does not mean it is a heap. I have worked on some very well maintained vehicles that had 300,000 or more miles, and the owners were still putting money into them to keep them on the road because they knew they were good cars. I even worked on a 2001 Chevy Suburban with 489,000 miles on it that looked like it just came off the showroom floor. Not a scratch or dent could be found on the body, not a loose thread on any of the upholstery, and certainly no warning lights on in the dash. The owner had me do $900 worth of maintenance and brake work to the truck. When I asked about the mileage and service history, she said she doesn’t want to get rid of it, fixes what needs to be fixed, and maintains it, and it has never let her down. That truck was the farthest thing from a heap, despite the mileage.

The rubber brake line has one clamp that crimps around the rubber brake line. Make sure that clamp has not crimped the line closed do to possible rust build up between the clamp and the hose.

That sounds like something I would say, americar!!! I have mentioned that in other posts, but for some reason left it out of this, maybe thinking it was getting too redundant. Excellent point though.

The rear drum brakes are always adjusted so tight that the wheel will not turn when jacked up. Since changing the factory installed set, I can only get about 6 months wear from that side.

As you well know if you looked at the brake adjuster mechanism, that’s impossible. It simply can’t adjust itself that tight if it is working properly. But since it is happening, you need to look carefully at that brake setup. One possibility is that the shoes are somehow floating – in one position when the brakes are applied and are adjusting and in another place where they are dragging on the wheel when the shoes are supposed to be retracted. Another would be that the brake adjuster is somehow tightening when it is supposed to be loosening and vice versa. Or maybe the wheel isn’t round, allowing the brakes to adjust to a width that causes drag when the wheel turns so that the narrower part is over the shoes. … Or maybe … I dunno. But there is clearly something unlikely wrong with that wheel/backplate, etc. All you have to do is figure out what. Good luck.

Grinding. Obviously you have tools and some skills. I assume you have front disk brakes. If it isn’t a whole lot of grief, lift the calipers off and examine the pads. My guess is that one of them is seated improperly and has worn through the pad material on one side or end. But it could be something else. Odds are that looking at either the rotors or the pads will give you a pretty good idea where the problem is.

ABS? Not my department.

Another thing to check is whether or not you have different size shoes. I can’t remember if your car has this, but many cars do. You could have two “tall” shoes on one side, or have the “tall” and “short” shoes reversed. When I refer to a “tall” brake shoe, I mean the one with more friction material on it. Generally, the short shoe goes on the side closest to the front of the car. Many novice or backyard mechanics make this mistake, or it could have been a brain fart.