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What's wrong with my truck's brakes?

I have a 2001 Ford Ranger xlt 2wd w/ 3.0L v6. The problem is this: my rear passenger-side brake (my rear brakes are indeed drum brakes) locks up when I go forward at slow speeds. There is no resistance in reverse. I had the problem get so bad that the wheel locked up completely and I had to have it towed to a shop (b/c I couldn’t get the drum off-it was siezed on the axle hub) where they replaced the rear brakes and rear axle seals on both sides (apparently they were leaking). This seemed to fix the problem for a couple months, but then the symptoms came back. I have the same problem with the brake locking up after using the Parking Brake, and often (despite disengaging the brake) the brake light will remain lit for several minutes. I’ve researched this and have found that I’m not the only one to have this problem with a Ranger. I’ve bled the brake lines, replaced the shoes and rotors, and the problem keeps coming back. I can’t afford to keep fixing it, so is there anything I can do to fix it short of getting a new vehicle?

If it’s two wheels or more, I’d suspect a bad master cylinder. But since it’s only one, I’d suspcect a bad wheel brake cylinder. Since your problem seems to be connected to the parking brake, it could be that the drum brakes are assembled improperly. You could also have a bad master cylinder combined with a bad proportioning valve, but I’d start with looking at the way the brakes are assembled. Especially how the emergency brake is attached, and the springs and other hardware. Only after you’re confident that it is assembled correctly, the wheel cylinders are not too much $$, I’d replace it. One of them could have a rolled or damaged piston seal.

Thanks! I’ll give it a try, but getting the drum rotor off is darn near impossible. Any recommendations shy of a sledgehammer or torch?

Brakes incorrectly assembled…
Shoes incorrectly positioned…
Self-adjuster parts incorrectly assembled…
Drums worn past service limits, which allows self-adjusters to over-adjust the brake shoes…

If it’s the SHOES that are holding the drum on, there should be a rubber plug at the bottom of the backing plate, opposite the self-adjuster link, where you can get in with a small screw driver (to push the link off the star wheel) and then using a brake spoon, loosen the adjuster link allowing the drum to slip off. Failing that, destructive force might be necessary to remove the drum…