I’ve decided to start learning how to work on old cars. One of the first things I’ve done is to figure out how drum brakes work. Drum brakes, in my opinion, have several very flawed design features. The first thing I discovered when I realized that my left rear drum was seized up. Something happened internally that caused the drum pads to expand and lock into the drums themselves. Rolling the car caused terrific squeaking. Unfortunately, the only way to disassemble drum brakes is to take the drums off. This is impossible if they are seized. Just to clarify: if your drum brakes are seized (i..e broken), you can’t take them apart to fix them.
Of course there is a fix, but it is a hell of a fix. There is a tiny little hole in the backing plate of the brake. You can poke a little screwdriver in there, and manipulate the internals of the brakes in order to loosen them up so you can take the drum off. This is almost impossible to do. I spent about two hours lying on the ground, contorted, sticking a screwdriver in a hole that I couldn’t actually see, poking at a thing that I wasn’t entirely sure was the right thing. The thing you poke is a wheel that has to go around a certain number of times before the brakes loosen. Unfortunately you can’t really tell if it’s loosening as you do it. So, I spent about 2 hours not knowing if what I was doing was having any impact at all on the problem. Luckily it eventually opened up.
That is a poor design. So, how to fix it? Couldn’t the hole be a little bigger? Just big enough to shine a light in while my screwdriver is also there? Couldn’t the wheel have little notches of some sort on them that can catch the screwdriver a bit better than what is already there?
I guess it is too late for these design fixes anyway. Drum brakes have been largely replaced by disc brakes anyway.
Next project: Fuel line.