ABS on an old non POS

ABS light has appeared and has been on off and on for 2 years. 3 months ago, it came and and has stayed on. Since then, rear brakes (shoes) squeak and “grab” forcefully when I use the brakes within the first minute of running the car.

I am assuming that I need to change the shoes on the drums (170K miles and I don’t think that it has ever been done). Here is the issue: I have never done shoes, and I am quite intimidated by them. I am assuming that I will need to take a car to the shop, but is the ABS light related to my problem with the shoes? I would hate to pour a bunch of money into this car (ABS modulators aren’t cheap, though I may go to Pull A Part to find one) and shoes cost a lot of money…

Any thoughts?

Brake shoes are cheap and typically easy to replace. First try pulling off the drums and look at the innards. You can even try removing and replacing one of the shoes for practice. Then you can determine if you want to do this as a DIY project.

But the catch is that you almost certainly need to have the drums resurfaced. This is a shop job, no way around it. And you need to get it done. Don’t cheap out when it comes to brakes. Check the newspaper ads for shop specials.

As for the ABS, ignore it. Replacing the shoes and resurfacing the drums will not cure the ABS problem. ABS repairs are typically expensive and generally not worth it on an old car. Get a standard brake job and you will still have normal braking, which is plenty adequate.

Thanks…though I have a follow up question that some may know…
I am moving back to Pennsylvania, and their vehicle inspection standards are tough (though not the toughest)…would the car pass with the ABS light on?

Here is the link to PA DMV requirements. I didn’t read it; but, I’m fairly sure any safety item warning light will fail the state safety inspection: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/inspections/safety.shtml

If you’ve gone 170K miles on the rear brakes I’m guessing that youv’ve never flushed out the old brake fluid and replaced it with new fresh brake fluid. On cars with ABS these brake fluid changes are recommended every 3 years (no mileage requirement, strictly on time). Brake fluid absorbs moisture and this can harm ABS components.

Rear brake drums aren’t that hard to do. The shoes have a front and back shoe for each wheel. As you do your work do one wheel at a time, that way you can look at the undone wheel as you replace the parts on the other one. Make sure you get the proper front and back shoes in the correct position. If any hardware is bent or badly corroded it can be replaced. Pay attention to the the parking brake hardware too. You can take the drums to a NAPA store or other places and pay them to resurface the drums.

When is all back together that is a good time to flush out the brake fluid as you will have to bleed the back brakes anyway. While you can change disk brakes without disconnecting the calipers, not so with rear drum brakes. You’ll need to get rebuild kits for the hydralic cylinders for each wheel and a honing tool to clean out the ridges that will be inside the cylinders. The job is easy but sounds more complicated than it is. Check that the bleeder valves are frozen with rust, many times they are rusted beyond use in old cars.

If all this sounds like too much for you, rear brake jobs are easy and most shops do them pretty cheap, check around and you may find a price that is OK with you.

After you have done the brake job and have flushed the brake fluid in the process, then see if the ABS light is still coming on. I live in PA and I know they pull the brakes to check each wheel for pad and or shoe wear. I’ve never had an ABS light but my guess is most shops will not pass you with an ABS light on.