Taurus Drum Brakes Again

Time has come again to attempt work on the Tau­rus brakes.  My wife phoned from her work park­ing lot to say that there was an unusu­al squeal and she had also been com­plain­ing about some mys­te­ri­ous grind­ing.  This is not to say that it is nec­es­sar­i­ly the brakes, but the back brakes had been loom­ing as an issue ever since the front brakes had been replaced ear­li­er in the sum­mer and we ran out of time to spend get­ting into the rear brakes.

The main issue here is that the our 2002 Ford Tau­rus SEL sedan has rear drum brakes.  It must be near the cur­rent size and weight lim­it for a car with rear drum brakes as the “wag­on” mod­el with iden­ti­cal engine and fea­tures gets disc brakes.  I real­ize that much larg­er vehi­cles had drum brakes in the past and that they even had them on the front — but it seems pret­ty clear from the equip­ment lists of major vehi­cles that disc brakes are supe­ri­or in almost every way, save cost for low­er end light vehi­cles.

Ford Taurus Drum Brake Access Hole

Ford Tau­rus Drum Brake Access Hole

In par­tic­u­lar, these rear drum brakes don’t like to be removed.  They resist it with all their abil­i­ty.  Most lit­er­a­ture on the sub­ject (both Haynes and All­Da­ta) advise you loosen the ten­sion­er through a very tiny hole in the back­ing plate.  I don’t have a hoist yet, so my wife has tried get­ting in there with a dentist’s mir­ror and a screw­driv­er both times we’ve done this repair suc­cess­ful­ly — and basi­cal­ly failed both times.  The pre­vi­ous iter­a­tion failed because all the com­po­nents inside the drum had turned to com­post.  She failed this time because the wheel itself (exam­in­ing it after hav­ing removed the drum) is very dif­fi­cult to turn and thus near­ly impos­si­ble to turn from the per­spec­tive of the tiny hole in the back­ing plate.  Keep in mind that this pic­ture is at an odd angle; this hole is dev­il­ish­ly hard to access and anoth­er point for auto­mo­tive engi­neers hav­ing to work on their own vehi­cles.  The axle shaft is to the left of the hole in the left of cen­ter top of the pho­to.  This plac­ing  of the hole makes it exceed­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to get both eyes and tools any­where near the hole.

Ford Taurus Drum Brake Auto Adjust Mechanism

Ford Tau­rus Drum Brake Auto Adjust Mech­a­nism

Just for ref­er­ence here, I’m post­ing the pic­ture of the toothed wheel on the left here.  This pic­ture is from the side with the drum removed.  The wheel we’re talk­ing about is part of the auto­mat­ic adjust­ment mech­a­nism.  The lever in front of it (from the camera’s per­spec­tive) is pushed up near the lim­it of the brake pedal’s trav­el; thus if the lever man­ages to push up an entire “click,” the dri­ver has pushed hard enough on the brakes and far enough on the brakes to indi­cate that they need to be tight­ened by one notch.  Know­ing how things work is not always com­fort­ing and in this case, I real­ly won­der how reli­able such a thing is.

Ford Taurus Emergency Brake Tensioner

Ford Tau­rus Emer­gency Brake Ten­sion­er

This wasn’t my first plan of attack, how­ev­er.  I had read some­where (and I no longer have the ref­er­ence) that releas­ing the emer­gency brake cable can make the repair eas­i­er.  I attempt­ed this, but the result is pic­tured here to the right.  This “turn­buck­le” thing is found run­ning down a chan­nel near the out­side of the car on the dri­vers side.  The emer­gency brake pass­es through the floor under the dri­vers door sill plate and then runs back from there (branch­ing near the driver’s side rear axel).  This piece is where the sec­tion from the ped­al (on the right) is joined to the sec­tion from the rear (on the left).  I put “turn­buck­le” in quotes because although it looks like one, it is not.  The nut on the bolt shaft is turned to loosen it (while hold­ing the shaft).  The “buck­le” only serves to cou­ple this to the rear sec­tion (which starts with a sol­dered end).  In this case, I broke the shaft despite my lib­er­al appli­ca­tion of pen­e­trat­ing oil… I sup­pose I should expect as much since the whole assem­bly was out in the ele­ments for almost 10 years at this point.

Removing a Ford Taurus Brake Drum

Remov­ing a Ford Tau­rus Brake Drum

In the end, brute force won the day.  To the left here you can see the drum (bot­tom of pic­ture) being removed from the back­ing plate (top of pic­ture).  I’ve seen quite a few back­ing plates that are not too strong and couldn’t take the pun­ish­ment, but these on the Tau­rus seem to take it.  I pried first with a small screw­driv­er, then with a larg­er one and then with the claw of a fram­ing ham­mer.  There is sprung “give” in the shoes which are what is large­ly stop­ping the removal; so just tug­ging at the drum on alter­nate sides doesn’t work.  I found that I had to pry at each step — which is why the wide claw of the fram­ing ham­mer was used in the last step: turn­ing the claw was effec­tive while pulling was not.

At any rate, the drums are off now.  I’ll get the new shoes from the parts store in the morn­ing.  I would have got them today, but the store cut it’s hours with­out post­ing this on their web­site — so we missed them today.  The drums are in good shape and the mis­cel­la­neous springs are in rel­a­tive­ly good shape — but we’ll prob­a­bly replace the springs as they’re col­lec­tive­ly cheap.  Giv­en the mate­r­i­al left on these shoes, it would have prob­a­bly been fine for the win­ter, but now that I have it apart, it’s going to be replaced.

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