Reader Question: Dear Austin,
I have a 1998 Ford Ranger and rear brakes are locking up even at very slow speeds. 3 Weeks ago the brake cylinders were replaced and problem seemed solved but is back now.
When going same slow speed in reverse there is not an issue. Rear Rotors were replaced about 6 months ago. Midas thinks it is only occurring in the passenger rear and does not know why at this point but does believe it is mechanical and says that the cylinders they put in are operating correctly.
Any help you can provide is appreciated and the faster the better as the car is still at the shop!
Thanks in advance for your help.
I would look very hard at the rear brakes for any type of fluid leak that might be getting onto the rear brake material. I am assuming you have rear DRUM brakes, and that they replaced the rear brake wheel cylinders 3 weeks ago and the rear brake DRUMS were replaced 6 months ago. Is that correct?
There could be a small brake fluid leak or an axle seal leak that is allowing brake fluid or axle grease to get onto the brake shoes. If this happens the opposite side brake, which in this case is the passenger rear brake will over compensate and lock up. Therefore, have them triple check the driver side brake for any type of fluid leak.
A few other things I would look at would be:
1. Are the rear brakes adjusted too tight?
2. Does the rear brake drum need to be “turned” or cut to better fit the brake shoes?
3. Is this an anti lock brake problem? Is there a problem with the rear anti lock brake sensor causing the rear brakes to be too sensitive?
4. Is there a broken return spring in the rear brakes?
5. Are the brake shoes installed backwards – unbelievably this can happen.
You can also check to see if the brakes are adjusted too tight by touching all four metal wheels after a few miles of driving at freeway speeds. If one wheel is obviously hotter than the others are, it is probably the culprit of the lock up problem.
Caution: Do not burn yourself the all the wheels will be HOT, but you want to know if one is MUCH hotter than the others are.
Reader Updates: Dear Austin,
Yes, they are Drums (not Rotors) and the Drums were replaced 6 months ago (which leads me to believe it should not be caused by the drums being out-of-round).
I have 2-wheel ABS but they do not think it is that “system” because as I forgot to mention to you that this locking occurs by utilizing the emergency brake too (not the brake pedal).
I called Midas and went through your list and he definitely said there is no fluid leak–not brake fluid or axle grease. He seems to believe they have checked everything on your list here too and are just baffled. He said he has never been so baffled by such a “simple problem” before.
So, by mentioning that it happens by using the emergency brake also, does it give you any other clue?
Thanks for your help.
My gut feeling is there is still something wrong with the items I mentioned they should double check. I think, at this point you should get a second opinion from another shop. Midas is not one of the shops on my recommendation list for brake work; they are wonderful at mufflers and exhaust work but maybe not at brakes.
You might ask this shop if they can call another Midas store in your area, for a second opinion at no cost to you.
If that is not an option, I would get a second opinion from a trustworthy general repair shop (preferably a mom and pop independent shop not a national franchise chain) or visit your local Ford dealership.
This is a simple and very standard brake system, so I cannot imagine there would be something drastic going on.
I am betting it is something simple they are overlooking.