Drum brake advice

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Well-known member
Aug 1, 2008
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South of Bristol somewhere in Somerset....
Year of Your Van(s)
Van Type
On my last big trip in the van I had a rather heart stopping moment when braking approaching a roundabout after a long drive and the pedal went straight to the floor. :oops:

Fortunately managed to slow down with the gears, there was little traffic and no damage other than a new pair of shorts .... and very careful driving thereafter.
I discovered that the fluid reservoir was empty so topped up and the return trip a week later was ok.
So I've been meaning to look over the brakes since then and finally been able to recently but I'm reaching the extent of what I know from reading various posts/ youtube vids and haynes. Note van hasn't really moved much for a few months.
I've jacked the van up onto stands and removed all the wheels (I now realise I shouldn't have done the rears!) and just looking at the front brakes:
  • The nearside does move but I've seen where my brake fluid is going - every time pedal depressed it spurts out the top cylinder where the rubber boot is.
  • The offside doesn't seem to move at all when depressing the pedal
So what is my next course of action to
a) stop the leak
b) free the seized brake

Should I take the brakes apart and clean everything/ potentially replace everything?
To do that do I need to back-off the adjusters (which are stuck) or can I just pull the brake shows out and then dismantle?
While I'm at it should I paint them?
Some pics to illustrate below
Left to right:
1.n/s , 2.ns hub, 3.n/s, 4.o/s, 5.o/s, 6.o/s hub

many thanks


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Thanks Ben, do you think any of the other parts on the front need replacing while I'm there? Brake shoes look ok to me.
No idea what the back brakes look like as I've not been able to get the castle nut off yet.
Hi there,
It sounded like you said one of the cylinders was leaking if that’s the case I would replace it and personally I would also replace the one on the opposite wheel. If the brake fluid leaked onto the brake pads I’d replace them as well, you can use a screwdriver to scratch it to see if the fluid has seeped into the pad.
The offside brakes won't work as the front brakes are single circuit and all the pressure is going through the burst cylinder seal.
To be honest, I'd strip and refurb the lot. If one wheel cylinder has leaked then the others aren't far behind. And I'd replace the flexi hoses as well. When was the last time they were done?
Clean and smear the adjusters in anti-seize, replace the brake shoes and give the braking surface of the drums a good once over with some 80 grit sandpaper. Don't worry about paint unless you're stripping them right down to backing plates.
I had old hoses collapse internally which resulted in pretty much no movement in my front callipers, so I’d personally replace all those. Brake cylinder sounds shot, and they’re not expensive so probably best Replace those (both sides). Check shoes for fluid contamination.
Thanks for all the advice, much appreciated. I suspected that they needed replacing & certainly a refurb. Looked through my stack of invoices and looks like:
  • rear hoses last replaced in 2008
  • rear brakes last replaced cylinders/ shoes/ adjusters in 1995 :eek:
  • fronts I've no idea
That said I've barely done any mileage so they don't get a lot of wear and it's passed MOTs (I still get them done)

Who does good parts or are they much the same? JK, C&C and heritage are my normal 'go to'
It makes no difference what mileage you've done, the rubber deteriorates over time and modern parts seem to fail much sooner than their older counterparts.
Suppliers are all much the same, but with brakes I wouldn't try and save a few quid.
As sparky says be careful of what wheel cylinders you buy, we are getting lots of failures on cheap wheel cylinders at the moment so wherever possible we fit OEM parts and for that you are looking for either ATE or FTE, these are much better components and should last a good few years, if changing hoses as well make sure they are a good brand.

Unfortunately everything is being built to a price and lots of parts are simply not fit for purpose, its becoming a minefield at the moment, avoid white box products wherever possible.
Thank for the additional info. JK has the FTE cylinders and FEBI front hoses; Heritage have Goodridge, Meyle and Forst hoses. I'm hoping the Meyle/ Forst are ok!
Meyle are good but Forst is a cheaper brand, we tend to go for Febi hoses

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