Our wiggly Dodge Ram

While visiting family in the Midwest this winter, it went from 54 to 10 degress (-10 with the wind) overnight. We had engaged the parking brake before the drop and our cable froze. We didn’t know until after we had driven with a shuddering truck for 40 odd miles and starting to smell hot brakes. We found a carwash with hot water to thaw out the cable, and were on our way. It was Christmas and we had to get to the second of three families we had to visit within two days - all about 200 miles apart. It ran fine and we thought we got away with it. However, our truck occasionally still acts like it has the brake stuck, even though we check the cable and it is fine. It still mimics that shuddering. It only happens every now and again, and I can’t seem to find a pattern. We are back in the west now and it is always dry and hot. Any ideas what we did? What happened? Thank you!

Possibly the parking brake assembly was damaged by the long drive and excessive heat when you drove with it on. Take it somewhere and have the rear wheels pulled and the parking brake checked. Or there could be something else going on there.

You may also have a fractured brake drum. You thermal-shocked the brake at the car wash and it could have cracked.

There are a few ways to test for this.

  1. dye penetrant. A kit is cheap and easy. And you end up with a blacklight left over.
  2. magnetic resonance… Needs a trained tech.
  3. audibly. Once removed, a good drum will ring if tapped. A fractured one will give off a dull thud.

Bottom line: you need to take it apart and see what’s going on.

If the parking brake is your problem, you have rear drums and brake shoes, not rear disk brakes and pads. If so, then you have in the rear brakes an automatic adjustment that tightens up the rear brakes every time you brake in reverse, especially if you brake suddenly in reverse, or brake in reverse on a hill. This would cause problems if in fact you have a damaged brake drum. I would expect that a drum is a little deformed, and after you have braked sharply in reverse you notice the shuddering while driving. Try it out.

If you have disk brakes, likely your problem has nothing to do with your parking brake. You might have just warped the rotor(s) and are feeling it while braking. I doubt you would notice anything while driving.

First thought is the brake cables are toast, probably towards the rear, and suffering intermittent sticking, replace it would be where I would start.

“If the parking brake is your problem, you have rear drums and brake shoes, not rear disk brakes and pads.”

–Not necessarily. Cars with disc brakes on the rear have a set of parking brake shoes and a drum just for that “added on” to the assembly.