OK. If you only want to know how to adjust your rear brakes you can skip this part.

If you want to know WHY you should adjust your brakes at every oil change read on.

Back when I owned a Caravan I had trouble with the front brakes wearing out too fast. At the time I was buying my parts at a brake house, all they sold was brakes. While bemoaning the short life of my brakes the counter man asked me about my rear brakes. I told him they had plenty of meat left. He said ¨no, Are the shoes still soft?¨ I asked him what he meant.

He told me that when I was done with the front, I should take the rears apart and scratch the rear shoes with a screwdriver. If the screwdriver leaves a mark, the shoes are still good and I should just adjust them. If however the shoes are ¨Glazed¨, the srewdriver will not leave a mark and the shoes should be replaced.

Shure enough, when I tried to score the shoes they were glazed. They were so bad in fact that when I went back to get the new shoes the counter guy looked at the and said, ¨oh yea, these are gone.¨ at which point he took one of the shoes and put in on the (concrete) floor and rubbed it back and forth a few times with his foot¸ then showed it to me. NOT A SCRATCH IN 'EM!

After this is when he advised me to adjust my rear brakes at every oil change. The reason they glazed over like they did was because the automatic adjusters do not do there job well (they may have back when both front AND rear brakes were drums) and after a time the shoes only make enough contact to heat themselves up and not put any real braking force on the drum so no material is scrubbed away. This then forces the front disc brakes to do all of the stopping¸ heating them up and wearing them out faster. With the added heat, the front calipers can sometimes go bad needing replacement before normal. This is what happened to my Caravan.

This was then further proved to me by my neighbors car. They had a Ford Windstar that they bought new. They had taken to the dealer 4 times in a year and a half for new brakes. The fronts were wearing out while the rears were OK (still have pleanty left on the shoes) . When I checked the rears of course, the shoes were as hard as mine had been. The front calipers had also overheated and locked up, that is to say the piston would move out to apply force to stop the car, but then would not retract, keepin pressure on the disk all of the time and wearing out the pads (and sometimes the rotors) early.

I replaced the shoes and pads for them as well as put new calipers on for them. The brakes then lasted for three years, which was longer than they did even new from the factory, because I ajusted the rear shoes for them every time they had thier oil changed.

Think about that when you look at the bigger tires you are trying to stop with those small stock rear brakes. Don't you need all the stopping you can get? Now read on and see how you can make all four of your brakes do the most that they can.

Below is the actual procedure for those of you who skipped the BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Before we get into the procedure some saftey.
You need to have your car in neutral and the parking brakes OFF so you can spin the rear wheels. You will also be under the car when you do this, so before you jack up the rear, block the front wheels front and rear so they will not roll either way.
You may also need to remember¸ if you have a locker that you will need both rear wheels off of the ground at the same time.
Once you have done this a few times¸ it only adds ten minutes to your oil change drill.

The first thing you need to know is where the adjuster is on your car. So off comes the wheel and drum so you can have a look. If you have done this before you can just skip ahead and remove the plug and start adjusting¸ BUT WAIT. The adjuster on my XJ works backwards from any other adjuster I have seen. It moves the little star wheel UP to tighten the brake shoes to the drum.
I tried to get a good picture of the adjuster¸ this is the best I got. In the red circle is the adjuster (the litle finger that looks like it would pull up on the star wheel) and the star wheel (that thingy with the ridges all around the outside of it). The adjuster finger is supposed to be pulled by the little wire you will see in there when the shoes are forced into the drum. If it moves far enough it will move the little star wheel one notch and move the shoes out against the drum.
Take a close look at yours and see which way the star is turned by the adjustment finger¸ that will be the tighten direction. NOW remember that you will be working on the other side¸ so think which way you will move the adjuster from under your car.
OK¸ now put the drum and tire back on. You will need the tire on to spin the drum against the shoes.
Under the car you will find this rubber plug in the adjuster hole. If you have no plug when you are done with adjusting your brakes run down to the local auto parts store and buy one. They keep the mud and stuff out of there which keeps the works from gumming up and not working.
Well¸ Maybe we need to back up a few steps. This is a brake spoon. These are still made and are a lot easier to use to move the adjuster than trying to use a screwdriver. So I'll wait while you run out and get yourself one ;-).

Are you back already? Good! Now onto the procedure.

We are now under the car on our back (at least that's how I do it) looking into the hole you just pulled the rubber plug out of. (You did get new plugs to replace this missing one while you were getting the brake spoon¸ right?)

Find which end of the brake spoon allows you to feel the adjustment wheel AND move it in the correct direction to tighten the shoes against the drums. If you haven't adjusted your brakes before you will probably need to move the adjuster quite a bit before you feel the shoes rub against the drums.

When you turn the adjustment wheel you will hear a ¨click¨. This is the star wheel turning against the spring that holds the shoes together¸ You should have seen this earlier when you had the drum off (boy I wish this guy would get all of these steps in the right order!!).

Move the adjuster a few clicks and the spin the rear wheel. While the wheel is spinning listen for the sound of the brake shoes rubbing against the drums. When they first start to rub it will only be for a short little ¨Tick¨¸ this is because the drum is not perfectly round and the shoes will hit the high spots first. Keep adjusting until the shoes hit for most of one revolution of the rear wheel. Be carefull not to go too far. Push the wheel hard and it should turn a few inches before stopping. It you make 'em too tight¸ when you drive the car they will overheat and lock up. If you pay attention though¸ and the wheel moves just a little before it stops¸ you will be OK.

Your rear brake shoes will wear out faster this way¸ but your fronts will last a little longer. The best part is all four wheels are now stopping to the best of thier ability¸ which is what we want with those big meats on our little XJ's.

Now done.. Replace your brake fluid once a year!

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