Car Rear Brakes Locks Up

brake shoesI have a Ford Ranger pick up 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 brake 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.



Hey Linda,

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:

  •  Are the rear brakes adjusted too tight?
  •  Does the rear brake drum need to be “turned” or cut to better fit the brake shoes?
  •  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?
  •  Is there a broken return spring in the rear brakes?
  •  Are the brake shoes installed backwards – unbelievably this can happen.

Here is a close up picture of what the rear brakes look like.

rear brakes lock up
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.

Please share this with your friends,
Austin Davis

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.


Hello again Linda,

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.

Please share this with your friends,
Austin Davis

Posted in: Brakes

4 Comments on "Car Rear Brakes Locks Up"

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  1. leighanne says:

    I have a 1996 Ford ranger I was hit in the rear while stopped at a red light.
    At first my brakes were just grinding & now I was going at a slow rate I hit the brake pedal & nothing then all of sudden my brakes locked up then it happened 5 more times because I had to get. the 10 blocks home however it as. well was smoking from front & back what could b the problem

    • Austin Davis says:

      I would remove all 4 wheels and inspect the brakes for wear and fluid leaks. I would assume you have rear drum brakes, and it could be possible that either a wheel cylinder is leaking brake fluid onto the brake shoes, or there is an axle leak which is leaking grease on the brake shoes. Do not continue to drive in this situation.

  2. Brie says:

    You need an ABS Wheel sensor. Email me and ill tell you why and how it works.

    This same thing happened to my friends truck

  3. greg says:


    I am the proud owner of a 98 ford ranger also, And I do my own brakes, due to the fact that I cannot find a qualified mechanic that knows how to do a proper brake job without charging me the rights to my estate, and my first born child.

    If your rear brakes only lock up after you’ve applied and released your emergemcy brake, then your problem lies in the emergency brake assembly.
    my lock up problem was in the emergency brake cable, on the passenger side, once repaired/replaced I have not had the problem since.

    Also you might want to check to see if the tensioner/adjuster
    for your rear brakes on the affected side was put in backwards.

    My suggestion, go to your nearest vocational school and stop in the mechanics garage, tell the your dilema and ask for help.

    Or find the nearest muscle car show and ask around to seeif the guys there can do your brakes for you.

    the price will be more reasonableand it’ll work the first time without any problems.

    Good luck

    P.S. if you lived near kenosha, id tell you to bring it over.

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