Like Jigsaw Puzzles? Change Your Ford Truck Brake Shoes!

About 20 years ago I did a job that I promised myself I’d never, ever do again. I got it done last Wednesday evening. I know, I know, but I learned some things, so the time and aggravation wasn’t totally wasted. One of the first things I learned, I confess, was that my patience level isn’t as much improved as I thought it was. It’s better than it was 2 decades back, but I’m definitely not “there” yet.

Anyway, I’m referring to replacing the rear brake shoes on a Ford truck, this one the 2000 E150 van with which I ran daily service calls back when I still did that. This time I actually had the right tool for the job, which always makes life better.

Knowing my 10-minute memory, I thought it wise to take a few digital photos of the jigsaw puzzle of springs, links, and cables before tearing it all apart, and I also left the opposite wheel assembled for a reference if needed. Turned out I did need one of the pictures to clear up one detail, and it was nice to have them availble.

It was still a nasty job that took half a day, mostly due to my re-learning the following fact the hard way: The front and rear shoes on each wheel are NOT the same. They look identical at first glance, while resting in the box, and with no notes or instructions of any kind included in the box to remind me of the fact, of course I didn’t remember that they are indeed different.

So, just in case you love jigsaw puzzles and ever feel a need to tackle this job yourself, be aware that the lining on the rear brake shoe is longer than the front one. In this case, the rears were about 11″ long, the fronts about 8″-9″. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they’ll fit just fine reversed; they won’t work right. 

Another word to the wise: If you don’t already own one, when you buy the brake shoes, also buy one of the special pliers made for removing and installing the springs. I couldn’t remember whether I had one or not, so I bought (a second) one. That turned out well, though, because they differed just enough to make one more handy for removing the upper springs, and the other better for reinstalling them. Oh, and pickup a can of brake cleaner spray. Wash the whole area down with the stuff, then walk away for a few minutes while it dries. Makes the job a little less of a mess – and a lot less dangerous to your lungs than blowing all that asbestos dust around with compressed air (NEED I SAY IT? PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!)

They also sell a special tool to lock and unlock the shoe retainer springs from their pins, but it’s not necessary for the small springs on this 1/2 ton truck. Just compress the springs with a nutdriver – 3/8″ will work – then reach around behind the backing plate and turn the spring retainer pin 90 degrees with your fingers when it goes into the slot in the spring cap. That works well for me.

Anyway, that’s what I learned this week. Actually last week, but it was too traumatic to talk about back then ;-). The whole thing reminded me of that old James Bond movie title, “Never Say Never Again” (With the only GENUINE Bond, of course, Sean Connery)

So before my ADD gets any worse and I start to ramble too far out on the ridge, I’ll leave you for now. Hope that’s of some use.

God bless you and yours,

Dave Harnish

Acts 4:12

About Dave Harnish

I've been an appliance repair tech since 1972, with interests in most everything, including Bible study (I'm one of those KJV-only geezers), old Sunbeam Mixmasters, Maytag wringer washers, the outdoors, birds, hunting, metalworking, firewood cutting, and most anything going on outside on our mountain here in N. PA's 'Endless Mountains'.
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