The Five-Month Brake Job Part 3&4

25 12 2012

Having twice replaced the brake shoes on my blue Toyota, Clyde,  and the wheel cylinders once, I decided the time had come to look deeper for the cause of the contamination of the brake linings.

If you go to the effort of replacing the axle seals, you ought to replace the rear axle bearings, too, if they are of uncertain vintage.  The usual cause of axle seal failure is axle bearing wear.


If It’s Broke, Replace It
ElFin photo

I ordered new bearings and seals, and kept driving.  Three out of four wheels braking is better than none.  Meatloaf would agree.

Finally the day came when I had a day off, the parts I needed, access to the driveway, and good weather.  It was time.  I drained the gear oil from the differential into a pan.

Side View of

Side View of Bellcrank.

I unhooked the brake hydraulic line from the wheel cylinder.  Next I tried to unhook the emergency brake cable from the emergency brake bell crank.  This should have taken 1-4 minutes, but instead, due to corrosion, took four hours.  Deciding it was impossible, I realized that, like Alexander cutting the knot, I might unbolt the bell crank entire.

Bell Crank- upper leftElFin photo

Bell Crank- upper left
ElFin photo

The shredded cotter pin would still need to be drilled out and replaced.  Probablilities are fine for photography or washing dishes, but braking systems require certainties.  If there is a seemingly redundant safety feature, it has to be functioning properly.

The four wheel-retaining bolts came off without any further resistance, and the axle shaft pulled out from the axle housing with a minimum of fight.


Axle splines would first be engaged with side gears within the differential housing, then C-clipped for security. For all things fourwheeling.

In some axles, you have to remove the differential cover and remove C-clips from the inner end of the axle shafts.


Axle retaining studs fit through the four holes and are then retained by axle retainer nuts.
ElFin photo

I took the axle down to the basement to my homemade hydraulic press.  I fabricated the press so that it had an upper and a lower position.  By lowering the bar, it would accommodate a long piece such as an axle.  The problem was to support the brake backing plate so as to be able to press out the axle from the bearing.

Press in extended mode for tall pieces.ElFin photo

Press in extended mode for tall pieces.
ElFin photo

The bearing itself was first pressed into the backing plate, and then the axle had been pressed through the hub of the bearing, thus locking everything together. It might not have been replaced since 1988, a quarter million miles ago.

In 1988, unlike many of my current friends, who were in high school or waiting to be born, I had been a principal in a construction company, making about what I do now, on days when I can actually drive to work.

Instead of buying 1980s real estate, I spent all my money on kung fu lessons, old cars, and carousing at bars.  The rest I squandered.SalvadorDali-The-Persistence-of-Mem

I was driving a 1966 Plymouth Valiant to work back then, which didn’t always get me there either.

Toyota trucks might seem to be complete cheese-boxes, but in the four-wheel-drive models at least, there is extra beef in areas where it makes a difference.  The axle bearings on my Barracudas were pressed onto the axle, and that was about it.


Lo Tech

In the Toyota, there was a surprisingly hefty bearing, followed by a pressed-on retaining ring, followed by a snap ring.  They were not taking any chances with having a wheel pop off during a Baja endurance race, or while hauling seven insurgents and a mounted machine gun across the desert.

I fashioned a couple of angle irons from a defunct bed frame, and used them to support the backing plate as I tried to press out the axle.  I supported the angle irons on a couple of short pieces of 5/4 mahogany decking, on end, that stood on the lower bar of the press.

Front: Warped BedframeRear: Stalwart Angle Iron

Front: Warped Bedframe
Rear: Stalwart Angle Iron
ElFin photo

As soon as the press pushed down on the splined end of the axle, the bedframe angle iron deformed and warped like par-boiled lasagne.

Trip to the Big Box Store

I owed a friend a favor, and he had called it in by cleaning me out of angle iron, so it was time for a trip to the big box supply store.  I asked one of the orange-clad people in the big box store where the angle iron was.  “You mean like sheets of metal?” he asked.

“No, that is what you call sheet metal,” I said trying not to sound mocking.  “It might be in the same aisle, though, if you know where the sheet metal is.”

He looked blank and went off to ask somebody.  I didn’t wait for him to return, but headed to where I knew the drill bits were.  New drill bits are a real time-saver when you have a lot of holes to drill in ¼” steel.  I also got some more 4” cut-off wheels.  They are a consumable item that is always needed.  I went and grabbed some spray paint before I headed back to where the orange person was looking for me with detailed directions to the location of the angle iron.  I selected two four-foot lengths of ¼” angle iron with 1½” webs. I also picked up a couple of snap rings near to the correct dimension, as corroborated by the digital vernier caliper that I had brought with me for the occasion.

Every Little Bit Helps

Every Little Bit Helps

The new pilot bits went through the steel handily at high speed using my new 18V impact driver, and the ½” bit performed equally well using Power Dave’s ½” Milwaukee drill, that Power Dave used to own when he used to be alive.  I repeated the mahogany assisted rigging from before.  I had inherited a lot of tools from Power Dave, but they were still stacked up in toolboxes in the basement of perdition, forlornly waiting for their master who would return again never.  I was pretending to myself that Dave was in Japan.

I'll see you in Japan, Dave

I’ll see you in Japan, Dave

I pressed down on the axle again with no results, until I realized I hadn’t yet removed the retaining snap ring.  The factory ring didn’t have the holes found in most modern snap rings, but I had the specialty snap ring pliers I had bought to remove the snap rings when I was rebuilding the Doug Nash 5-speed in the Shark Cuda.


winning!” I said to myself.

With the snap ring removed, I used a dremel tool to cut off the retaining ring, and cut into as much of the axle bearing as I could reach without cutting into the axle or brake backing plate.  I re-attached the angle irons using the axle retaining studs and set the axle assembly onto the mahogany supports.  This time when I pressed down onto the splined inner end of the axle, it pressed right out of the bearing.  The bearing pressed right out of the brake backer plate, and I was fully disassembled

Coming ‘soon’: The Five-Month Brake Job, Parts 5&6  TheReassembly.




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