Frustrating Festiva Brake Problem

I’m having a problem with the rear brakes on a 1988 Ford Festiva. This past summer I replaced the wheel cylinders, brake hardware, shoes, and drums on the rear of the car. Last week the car’s owner said that the brakes weren’t stopping as well as they should. It felt as if just the front brakes were doing all the work. I replaced the master cylinder with a new one (bench bled it before installing). It didn’t seem to make a difference. I then bled the rear brakes. The passenger side had some air in it, so I bled it until it was clear. The driver’s side had lots of air in it. The more I bled it, the more air came out of it. It was like I couldn’t get all the air out. I tightened the bleeder and tried the car and the brakes felt MUCH better. What’s going on? Is it possible I have a bad wheel cylinder and it’s letting in air? Before I changed the old master cylinder, I checked the fluid level and it was OK. If there was a leak in a line or a bad wheel cylinder, the level would be down. Any ideas out there?

When you originally replaced the rear wheel cylinders you didn’t do a good job of bleeding the brakes so there was air left in the lines which is why the fronts were doing all the work. You let more air in when you replaced the master cyl and then you had to bleed a lot of air out. If you had a wheel cylinder that was leaking air ,it would also be leaking fluid.

That makes sense. I’ve done brake bleeding before, but for some reason this one is giving me problems. Looks like it’s time to buy a pressure bleeder. Thanks for the response.

Did you adjust the rear brakes after you replaced the shoes? And did you make sure the adjusters were functional and or replace them. If they are functional, you need to adjust the shoes out after you’ve installed new ones, especially if you did replace the drums and only had them turned (which makes the distance the shoes have to travel greater). Otherwise, pressing on the brake pedal will not move the shoes out far enough to contact the drum. You can buy a break spoon tool at your local parts store to make the adjustment. There is usually a small rubber grommet on the backing plate that can be removed so that with everything reassembled, you can reach the adjuster through the slot in the backing plate. Turn the adjuster until the shoes contact the drum (ie there is drag when spinning the wheel). Then back them off a touch so the wheel spins freely. And of course, make sure all 4 brakes are property bled.

The Festiva doesn’t have the common adjusters. It has a lever adjuster that automatically adjusts the brake shoes. I cleaned and lubricated the old adjusters because replacement adjusters are no longer available. If pressure bleeding doesn’t fix the problem, I’ll pull the drums and make sure the adjusters are doing their thing. I was just trying to avoid pulling the drums because once you do, you have to go to the dealer and replace the special nuts that hold them on (they have to be crimped and can’t be reused).