Monday, June 2, 2014

How to rebuild the rear brakes on a Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Chrysler Town and Country

    After completing another repair on my 2000 Dodge Caravan, during which the parking brakes were applied, the rear wheels remained locked up. The van wasn't coming out of the garage.
I made sure all tension was removed from the parking brake cable. Pull the cable toward the rear of the van and lock it against a bracket with locking pliers. Still, the drum was seized. The brakes were locked up, the shoes seemingly fused right to the drums. To remove the drums in a case like this, it will be necessary to back off the brake adjuster a few turns.

To remove a stuck brake drum:
    Under most conditions the brake drum will pull right off. But if ridges are worn in the shoes or the parking brake mechanism is seized up or both, it will be necessary to back off the adjuster wheel.
1) Remove the rubber cover on the back side of the backing plate.
2) Back of the automatic emergency brake adjuster. Locate the star wheel  locking lever (use a flashlight) and  using a long thin screwdriver push it outward, away from the star wheel. Now with another small flat blade screwdriver, though not as long, rotate the star wheel upward (right rear-downward on left) several revolutions. Check the drum and see if it is loosening. Continue until the drum can be removed.

Lift up the lever with a longer screwdriver and use a shorter one to turn the star wheel upward several turns. 

Removing the leading shoe

1) Clean the parts with a can of brake parts cleaner. Wear a dust mask while doing this and throughout this tear down procedure. Brake dust is potentially harmful.
2) Remove the upper return spring using a brake spring pliers.
3) Unhook the adjuster locking lever spring
4)  Remove the small clip between the automatic adjuster and the upper return spring.
5) Remove the spring between the leading shoe and the adjuster locking lever.
6) Remove the adjuster locking lever
7) Unhook the two lower return springs
8) Remove the leading shoe hold down spring pressing the cap inward and turning 90 degrees until the wider notch (in the nail-like pin) lines up with the slot. Mine were rusted together, making this process more "interesting." A special tool, quite inexpensive, will make this job easier.
9) Remove the leading shoe.
10) Remove the lower strut, the one between the two shoes.
11) Remove the upper adjusting strut, the one with the star wheel attached.

Removing the trailing shoe

1) Remove the trailing shoe's hold down spring.
2) Separate the cable lever from the shoe. there is a nipple on the lever that seats in a lower hole in the trailing shoe. They were rusted together on my van, the reason brakes had locked up.
3) Remove the trailing shoe. The lever can (and should) stay on the cable.  This lever fits over the brake cable, which has a spring around it and a crimped on stop, wider in diameter on the end. Normally it will stay on the end of the cable. However, if it comes off, to re-fit it, it will be necessary to relieve some tension from the cable by pulling it toward the brake from under left side of the van and place a vice grip pliers against the last bracket before the brake to hold it. Now you should be able to pull back on the spring to expose the cable underneath and fit the lever over it.
4) Clean the backing plate and lube where the shoe contacts the plate. Also clean and lube the threads of the star wheel.


1) Install the hold down for the trailing shoe.  Put the hold-down pin through the backing plate and the small hole in the middle of the new trailing shoe. Don’t worry about the hole on the actuating lever seating in the hole on the shoe at this time. Put the spring over the pin and the cap over the spring. Either use a seating tool or your fingers to seat and turn the spring cover till it is 90 degrees from the original install position.
2) Install the lower strut, into the lower slot on the trailing shoe. This will require seating the actuating lever nipple in it’s hole in the trailing shoe.

Installing the lower strut in the training shoe (left side shoe)

3)Transfer the plate from the leading shoe to the replacement lead shoe. Remove the clip and attach to the same location on the new shoe. Use a screwdriver to remove the clip and then remove the plate.
tap out the bushing. Clean and lube the parts and install them on the new shoe.

4) Install the cleaned and lubricated adjuster with the star gear to the far right. The slot on the leading end of the adjuster will point outward to receive the brake adjustment lever.

When installing adjuster note position of the slot for the lock lever

5) Install the hold-down for the leading shoe.
6) Install the upper return spring. I find cinching up a nylon strap around both shoes stabilizes them and aids in  seating this higher tension spring. I used brake spring pliers, which use the brake shoe as a press point.

Use a brake spring pliers to install the upper return spring

7) Install the little clip between the star wheel and the upper return spring.
8) Install the adjuster star wheel lock lever and spring.

Installing the lock lever spring
9) Install the larger lower return spring . A vice grip pliers does this job well.

Install this spring using vice-grip pliers (fingers are not enough)
10) Install the lowest return spring . I used needle nose vice grip pliers. Installation complete.
12) Install the  brake drum. It likely will not fit over the shoes as the automatic adjuster is set for the old worn shoes. If installed, remove the pliers holding off tension from the parking brake cables. Then free the star wheel for adjustment. Move the locking lever out of the way by jamming the backplate post ( or something else) between the lever and the top of the hub. Turn the star wheel upward several turns and try to put the drum back on. Repeat until the drum seats on the shoes and can turn freely. Now turn the star wheel downward and try to seat the drum. When the drum seat on the shoes and the turns with light resistance back the star wheel off just a bit more. Done.

Complete and test the brakes

1) Install the wheels and test. Set the parking brake several times to adjust the star wheel and check to make sure the the brakes are on and also that they release when off.
2) Set the van down and torque the lug nuts in stages and opposite to 100 ft lbs.


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