Generation III Chrysler Mini-Van Rear Drum Brake Inspection
and Cylinder and Return Spring Replacement


Symptoms

I have a 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with about 185,000 miles. I (and a young single mother who I lent it to last year) have driven it about 75,000. I replaced the disc brake pads in front about a year ago and lost most of the 'pedal.' I replaced the master cylinder and still couldn't get much pedal so I took it to a mechanic. It put it though the anti-lock brake system bleeding process and got some good brakes. About a year later - the same problem. Same mechanic did the same thing; then had to do it a second time. Good brakes again.

Now I have the vehicle back and noticed a slight grinding in the right rear. It got worse and then in a parking lot I heard a clunk and the right rear wheel seemed to hang up a little. I backed up and then forward - decided to drive the mile back home and did O.K.

Pulled the wheel, but can't pull the drum. Used penetrating oil, five-pound hammer, and a home-made puller I saw on the web. Still couldn't budge it.

Decided to check the other side. Tugged and tapped and the drum came off the way they usually do. This side has good brake linings, but the cylinder is leaking. Here's what I think; someone was going to do a brake job, but couldn't get the right drum off and just did the left brake. (Now that I've completed the replacement of leaky cylinders on both sides, I'm not so sure that the previous repair didn't include both sides.)

I took some photos because these brakes are different from the Chysler drums brakes from the second half of the 20th century.

This is the upper part of the back shoe. It shows a very thick lining and it looks like rivets holding the lining on. The anti-rattle spring is at lower right. (Maybe it's called a brake shoe hold-down spring.) The return spring and automatice adjusting rod are at the top. I applied penetrating oil to the wheel studs and the hub and it seems to have penetrated.
Upper Rear Brake Quadrant

I use a small socket and an extension to compress the anti-rattle spring. Reach behind the backing plate and rotate the 'pin' 90 degrees with your fingertip as you compress the spring.
Anti-Rattle Spring Tool

This is the top of the brake assembly showing the leaky cylinder, the return spring and the automatic adjustor. The adjustors are at the front, so you can tell that this is the left side of the vehicle.
Cylinder and Return Spring at Top

This shows the return springs at the bottom of the brake. There is a fixed anchor at the bottom which must have the same function as the anchor at the top of older style brakes.
Anchor and Springs at Bottom

This photo of the upper front brake shoe shows the leaky cylinder at the top, the front end of the return spring, and the automatic adjustor. Note how the adjustor is anchored at the top and the spring attachment at the bottom is in the emergency brake bracket that isn't visible in this photo. The adjustor slides just a tiny amount on that little foot at the bottom. Brake Adjustor

This tube of Mopar Door Ease wax lube is at least 40 years old. In addition to use on the door latches on my '66 Barracuda, it's also good for and recommended for the brake shoe pads on the brake backing plate. There is about a third of the lube left in the tube. I used some to coat the hub where the drum fits on. I think that will make it easier to pull off at the future date when I replace the cylinder.
Door Ease Lube

This photo shows the homemade puller I used to break the drum loose and then slip it over the brake shoes. I saw the puller design on YouTube. The three-arm gear/wheel puller came from Harbor Freight for $20. The 2x4 is 14" long with 1" holes at the center and then about 6" either side. The bolts wouldn't have bent if I had drilled through for them instead of running them across the surface as you see in the photo. I had to brace the 2x4 with that piece of metal conduit to keep it from flopping over. Legs could be added to the sides of the 2x4 to brace against the drum to hold the puller straight.

I first applied penetrating oil and used a five-pound hammer. Then I made and tried the puller with blows from the hammer. I also used a propane torch to heat the drum around the hub area until I could see vapor coming out at the top edge of the drum. I finally tightend the puller and hit the drum with several good blows with that ten-pound hammer. A little more turning on that puller and the drum slipped past the shoes. Drum Pulling Rig

This is the top of the brake assembly showing the leaky cylinder, the broken return spring and the automatic adjustor. The right side also had a leaky cylinder, but it looks like the main problem was a broken return spring. The shoes don't seem to be worn too much, but there is a scored ring around the drum brake surface - perhaps from a loose part? It turns out that the 'loose' part was a small clip that came loose when the return spring broke.
Cylinder and Broken Return Spring at Top

Drum Braking Surface

This video shows the steps involved in swapping out the cylinder and return spring. In the video I refer to Vice-Grip brand locking pliers; actually the needle-nose locking pliers that I used were not Vice-Grip brand. They are not as good as Vice-Grip locking pliers, and I've never found other locking pliers that are as good as Vice-Grips.

Here are more still photos that give a better look at the drum brake parts.

This photo provides a more detailed view of the return spring anchor area and the automatic brake adjustor.
Cylinder and Broken Return Spring at Top

This photo provides a wider view of the brake parts. The automatic adjustors are on the front, so on the right side of the vehicle the adjustor is on the right of the view; on the left side, the adjustor is on the left side of the view.
Wider View

This is the other end of the cylinder and the broken end of the return spring. The marks made by the coil of the return spring are visible on the brake shoe. That shows where the return spring is supposed to attach.
Left, Upper View

This shows the new 'hold down' springs on the shoes and the retaining springs at the bottom.
Bottom Half of Brake

Damage to rear shoe apparently caused by the little clip that normally goes between the adjustor and the return spring. I don't notice a difference in braking as a result of that damage.
Damaged Brake Shoe

I found the clip (and there wasn't a new one in the spring package that I bought) and saw that it had been worn flat on one side. I re-used it anyway.
The Clip

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9/20/13
Updated on 10/8/13