The big Repair Week I had in August didn't include worrying about the parking brake. I pulled the rear drums off, inspected the shoes and the drums, and put them back on. Subsequent work revealed that the non-functioning parking brake had nothing to do with the cables.
Today I finally got around to tearing into the rear brakes, and I discovered that the combination parking brake and adjuster assembly was rusted on both sides.
The rear brakes use a relatively simple lever to adjust the brakes. The adjusting quadrant has an eccentric cam which is designed to self-adjust whenever the car is moving backwards and the brakes are applied. It is a quick and effective system. The adjuster also has the parking brake actuator built-in; and this is the weak point.
The actuator is a lever, pivoting around a fulcrum on the adjuster. When operated it forces the trailing brake shoe to press against the inside of the brake drum; and the reaction against the fulcrum makes the leading shoe also press against the drum.
The lever protrudes through the backing plate of the brake assembly and has a rubber boot around it to keep moisture and other contaminants out. Unfortunately it is not perfect and the parking brake actuator can rust to its pivot, rendering it utterly immobile. If this happens, the parking brake won't work. You can yank on the handle as hard as you like but if the lever doesn't pivot, the braking authority--if there is any at all--is extremely limited.
I had this type of failure on the green car, years ago, and replaced the failed adjuster. Today I checked over the cables first, thinking it a cable problem; and then I remembered the rusted adjuster on the green car--might this be a similar problem?
I tore apart the left side brake and--sure enough!--the adjuster was frozen solid. The actual adjusting quadrant worked fine, but the parking brake lever was stuck. I could move it by mounting it in a vise and hitting it with a hammer, but this mode of operation was less than ideal for use in the car.
I disassembled both sides, and went for new shoes; and when I got back, I tore the adjusters out of the green car. (I didn't even bother to put the rear brakes back together on that car. Why bother? It's going to the junk yard. I just bolted the drums and tires back on.) I cleaned them up on the bench grinder's wire wheel, lubed them a bit, and stuck them into the red car.
My first test was to let the car roll down the driveway and then try it, and--yay!--the parking brake stopped the car. Then I drove it a bit, and confirmed that the brakes were 100%. They were a bit mushy until I backed up and let them self-adjust, but once that was done they were just fine.
And it sure is nice to have a working parking brake again.
Brake shoes: $13
Shop materials: $2
Time: 3 hours
Fixing your own car with your own two hands and giggling like a schoolgirl every time you use the now-working parking brake: priceless
* * *
Besides the parking brake, I found the source of the grunting sound the car makes when I go over bumps. It's been there since the car hit the road in August, but it never really bothered me all that much. You expect a few odd noises from a jalopy. Whatever it was didn't seem to be a serious threat, so I figured I would worry about it when I had time.
Today I looked over the rear strut assemblies, and found that the springs--or at least the one on the right side--are broken.
This is a common failure with this generation of Escort. The factory springs tend to break, losing about one coil. It doesn't seem to affect the handling or the safety of the car at all, either; this one is tight as can be even with one spring (or both) broken.
This is why I took the rear strut assemblies from the green car. I put new struts and springs on that car in 2002, and they can't have much more than about 20,000 miles on them at the most; why send them to a junk yard? I figured it was possible that this car would need new rear springs, after all.
So when I saw the broken spring, I said, "Yep, it's broken. Well, there it is."
Later I used one of my favorite lines from all anime. It's from Otaku no Video; it's from a scene in which the main characters Tanaka and Kubo--having lost their first animation and model company to a hostile takeover--are talking about creating another company and driving the first one out of business. Kubo gets interested in the idea and Tanaka gives him a sly look.
"Anticipating this," Tanaka grins, "I contacted an old friend."
Since seeing that show I have always wanted to use "Anticipating this...." in a real conversation. (Yes, I have no life. Shut up.) And the opportunity presented itself today.
When I told my parents about the broken springs, I added, "However, anticipating this, I removed the rear strut assemblies from the green car...."
* * *
The next step is to replace the radiator. With Thanksgiving a bare 11 days away--and me being a retail grunt--my liesure time is about to take a serious kick in the tender spot. Now is the time for me to do a few 11-hour days per week in order to bring home some serious bacon.
But once again the car guy's dilemma strikes: you can either have time or money to work on your car; not both. Not at the same time. (This is what makes it a real dilemma. These days "dilemma" is incorrectly used as a fancy word meaning "problem", but a dilemma is a specific type of problem. It is when you have two mutually-exclusive choices; hence the old phrase "on the horns of a dilemma".) I need over $100 of spare cash for the radiator; the process of earning the money for the repair will prevent me from actually performing the repair, unless I squeeze in a quick replacement job somewhere.
On the plus side, I can work very hard this holiday season; after January the store will cut hours and I'll have more free time than I'll know what to do with. I am planning to take a trip to the Philippines to see my sweetie sometime in March but that won't take all my time.
I guess I'd better invest in some energy drinks and antacids, though. It's going to be a long eight weeks.