Brakes. It.

Hello everyone, the date coincided with a well known event, so today’s post had to be about brakes. There is not much humour writing a weekly post about maintaining a vehicle!

As we start the 2019 season in the UK, you need to think about the important things for your vehicle. Engine, fuel, ventilation, warmth, power, torque. They are all irrelevant – if you cannot STOP, that’s the only important thing you need to ensure is working!

Today’s post is about the REAR original brakes on a split screen, Bay window and T25. These are drum brakes and the principle is similar across all manufacturers and we are going to look only at the shoes in this article.

Tools required

A jack to lift the vehicle
Axle stands – good sturdy ones, for a change they do not need to be enormous
Hubcap removal tool if you have standard steel wheels. You can improvise with a thick wire coat hanger!
Pliers
Sockets – 11mm, 17mm (early Bay), 19mm (late Bay)

Taking it apart

Put the vehicle in gear and let the clutch out so that the vehicle isn’t going anywhere and the wheels will not turn. Remove the rear hub caps using the removal tool or a coat hanger suitably shaped to fit into the two little holes on the side. As you yank, keep your feet against the tyre as a hubcap catching device otherwise you will scratch the expensive and shiny cap!

I find either gloves or a screwdriver to go around the removal tool makes the job much easier, so I am pulling the screwdriver not the thin bit of metal.

Loosen the wheel nuts on the two rear wheels by half a turn as it makes things far easier. Then jack up the back of the vehicle using the rear beam (the big thick tube between the rear wheels) high enough to get axle stands under that beam. Let the vehicle down onto the axle stands slowly and safely. Ensure that nothing is loose, about to fall over or anything else that could impact your safety.

Now remove all of the wheel nuts and put the two rear wheels somewhere safe. Under the vehicle is usually a popular place.

Crawl underneath the FRONT of the vehicle and start heading backwards. Towards the rear of the cab section you will see the handbrake cable coming from the front and there is a mechanism that has a cable from there to each of the rear wheels. Slacken off the bolts here to loosen the handbrake cables – you will need to adjust the handbrake anyway and the handbrake if often the reason you cannot continue and get the hub off. the bolts that you need are square and 11mm but could have rusted, take options on the tools required!

Now sit in front of one of the rear drums. There is a backing plate, understandably at the back of the circular drum. At the back of that are the adjustment screws – loosen them with a screwdriver once you expose them by carefully removing the rubber bungs. Get those bungs out, inspect them for damage and put them somewhere safe. If you pried them out, look for damage as they harden with age and may need replacing. If you got the bung out and there is no screw behind it, you took out the optional lining inspection bung. Two bungs – adjustment, four bungs – only remove the bottom two.

The screws go ANTI clockwise to loosen. They rust, so be prepared for both swearing and replacement.

Now that you have removed the bulk of the tension from the parts inside the drum, let us have the first attempt at removing the drum. There are 2 11mm bolts, they may also be rather stiff but a decent socket will normally get them off. Once those two are off, the only thing holding the drum on is rust and anything inside that should have moved and did not.

Grab the drum firmly and pull. Heave. Have another go. Wiggle it, wobble it but keep it at the same parallel angle or you can jam it. If it does not move, and if it hasn’t been off in years that is likely, hit it with a hammer – either a “dead blow” hammer or a piece of wood and a big hammer. A mallet just isn’t enough. If you still cannot remove, start adding penetrating oil and more of the hammer until it all gives.

With the drum off, review the state of your knuckles and measure the inside of the drum circle with a tape measure. As you move around, if it exceeds 253mm diameter, replace the drum. Also check it is consistent as a variation here is what causes the shuddering braking where it is on/off which is inefficient, dangerous and disconcerting.

Now look at the “shoes”, the curved pieces on either side of the middle. The outside of the curve is the brake pad, there should be 6mm on a new pad and 2.5mm is the minimum point where you need to change them.

Replacing your shoes

Remove the handbrake cable, remove the spring holding the shoes together, pull the shoes apart and remove them – you WILL get dirty. If you have anything else in there like springs, separating bars or anything else, get a picture before, during and after to be safe. With everything disassembled, clean it all and replace anything worn to the limit or rusty.

You can buy the drum kit (no, not annoyingly noisy music gear) quite cheaply from a motor factor or your chosen VW stockist and some of the parts in the kit may not be needed, don’t worry about leftovers!

Doing more brake work

If you want to tackle more, don’t reassemble things, read next week’s article.

Reassembly

Understandably, reassembling is the opposite exactly. Put the new or cleaned parts back in reverse order. Tighten the bolts and adjusters down so that the shoe just about touches the drum.

Make sure that from the original you have nothing left over, everything has been copper greased on all bolts and that no grease is on the shoe or drum. I quite like to sand the outside of the drum and paint it but it is never seen and not overly expensive to replace, but everyone is different.

Once the drum is back together fully and adjusted in situ, tighten the handbrake cable such that you can turn the drum with no handbrake but you have minimal travel on the handbrake lever to stop the wheels turning. That can take a few goes!

Jack the vehicle up, get the wheels on, add the wheel nuts, tighten them, let the vehicle down and torque up the nuts.

Test the brakes fully and feel proud. You did that.