Push the brake pedal on an old Thunderbird and you activate a hydraulic cylinder at each wheel that presses the brake pad against the drum. In my case, for the last few weeks, I’ve been running around with three good ones and one that just leaked fluid when the brake was applied.
I pulled off the front left wheel and drum; found fluid pooled up inside. The more I dug, the more fluid I found.
You have to dig deep to get the old wheel cylinder out, starting with the drum (held on by the wheel bearings); the brake shoes, springs and accouterments; the rubber brake line; and the backing plate.
Most of this came apart pretty easily, nothing broke and I didn’t walk away with bloody knuckles this time. The four nuts holding the backing plate are pretty hefty and were torqued down pretty good. I had to get the big tools out to get them moving. One of them stripped, or nearly so, and will need to be replaced.
This is a job that needed doing. What fluid there was left in the cylinder was a watery, rusty mess. New wheel cylinders, available locally: $32 each. New rubber lines: $22 each. Being able to stop: priceless.
I’ve posted a photo journal of the removal process, too.