Braking Strain

Yesterday morning I took Herman out for a quick spin to pick up some vital supplies [ie. stacks of booze] for a visit to my old mate Baz in Anglesey two days hence. With the impeccable timing that has been a feature of my ownership of Herman, he suddenly decided to start making an alarming grinding sound, every time I hit the brakes, while driving home. Luckily it was only a couple of miles to the shops so, by dint of cautious driving and plenty of engine braking,  I was able to get back home without too much application of brake pedal.

When I got home, I ‘got out out and got under’ and found that the handbrake cable on the rear driver’s side was flopping loosely, where it goes into the rear of the wheel. I surmised the end of it had snapped off inside the wheel drum and was probably doing its best to grind the inside of the wheel to dust.

I got out my jack and wheelbrace and set to work to get the rear wheel off and check out the damage and there then followed the most fuck-bollocksedly frustrating day of my entire life: Four of the wheel nuts came of with the usual flexing of my mighty thews, but the last one refused to budge.

I spent about an hour or two, alternately wrenching at it with an extender bar on the wheelbrace, heating it with a blowtorch, soaking it in WD40, but that fecker just wouldnae shift by even a milimetre. In fact all I ended up doing was bending my wheelbrace like it was made of chocolate. It didnae help that the wheelbrace seemed to be not quite the right size for the wheel nuts either, as there was a tiny bit of free-play and it kept sliding off the nut. As well as tying my wheelbrace in knots, I was in danger of rounding off the wheel nut.

I ended up by giving up for the night and texting my mate to say I’d probably have to cancel my visit. Ironically, only the week before I’d ordered a beefy 1 metre long breaker bar, for dealing with just such recalcitrant fasteners but, when I emailed the company earlier this week to find out why its supposed next day delivery still hadnae materialised, I was told it was out of stock.

So, fast forward to this morning and I have a forlorn hoke around in the bottom of my junk ‘things which might come in handy’ cupboard and find, buried under a load of other crap, a heavy duty looking wheelbrace.   Armed with this new wheelbrace, I attacked the stubborn wheel nut again and, after a bit of a wrestle with the extender bar, it suddenly came undone, with an anguished squeak. The new wheelbrace was a tighter fit on the nut and had the further advantage of not being made out of plasticene painted to look like metal. So, at last I was ready to try and get to the bottom of the grinding noise.

If only this photo could convey the pain and suffering I underwent to get this feckin' wheel off!
If only this photo could convey the pain and suffering I underwent to get this feckin' wheel off!
Pressing the drum off with the old 'three bolts' trick
Pressing the drum off with the old 'three bolts' trick

Once the drum popped off, I found these wee devils lying inside the wheel. My guess was right. the end of the handbrake cable had come adrift

That ain't supposed to be there!
That ain't supposed to be there!

I inspected the brake mechanism for damage. Luckily things were not as bad as the grinding noises had led me to fear. The broken off end of the cable had obviously wedged between the brake shoe and drum and made a nasty racket when I stepped on the brake. However, the drum was unscored and there was only a slight chipping along the edge of one of the brake shoes. This photo actually makes it look worse than it was.

The source of the grinding noise
The source of the grinding noise

I removed the various bits of brake cable debris and used some fine grit sandpaper to smooth off the corner of the brake shoe where it had been chipped a bit. Luckily the rest of it was fine. Then I brushed all the dust [and a couple of spiders webs!] out of the inside of the wheel and put everything back together again. I didnae have a working handbrake anymore, so I wouldnae be able to “do doughnuts” in my local Tesco’s carpark, but at least the Anglesey mission was back on!