Brake Drum adjusting?

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Hey guys - I was a Ford man for 14 years, but then I got a good deal on an '03 Mazda Protege, maybe my downfall...there is no Mazda group and Ford enthusiasts in this NG seem to know a lot more about car issues
then anybody else.
Anyway, I have had nothing but issues with the brake feel and firmness and pedal height with this car. It has drums in the rear, and it seems like they go out of 'adjustment' so quickly. It is an automatic, I always use the e-brake to keep it from seizing, I know the trick about driving in reverse and hitting the brakes hard, supposedly adjusting them. None of this seems to work. I am constantly pulling the drums and adjusting the ratchet to snug up the shoes then sliding the drum back on and making sure there is a little drag ensuring good pedal height and brake feel. It works for about 5000 miles but then the brakes start to feel 'limp' again and if I pull the wheels and spin the drums they will spin and spin with no slight drag at all. What is the deal, I never had this problem with any of my Fords, but I have a lot invested in this car and hate to part with it just because of the brakes.
Any ideas or thoughts on this?
Thanks, Eric
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My guess is you do not drive in situations where you must "back up" very often? Modern cars have self adjust brakes that "adjust" themselves when one applies the brakes. after backing the vehicle.

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Mike hunt wrote:

The OP said, "It is an automatic, I always use the e-brake to keep it from seizing, I know the trick about driving in reverse and hitting the brakes hard, supposedly adjusting them."
Careful reading of the post would tell one that not only does the OP know about this, but he does back up and apply the brakes.
Jeff
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What part of often enough did you not understand, once a week or ten times? LOL

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Mike hunt wrote:

Only a twit make a reply asking "what part of often enough did you not understand...?" when he did not even use the words "often enough." Nor did you make a reference to once a week or ten times.
When he asked for thoughts on this, he meant from someone who is actually able to think.
Jeff
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DUH. Stiill a bit show I see "My guess is you do not drive in situations where you must "back up" very often?"

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@lycos.com says...

these groups show up at my ISP
rec.autos.makers.mazda
free.autos.mazda
--
I. Care
Address fake until the SPAM goes away ;-}
  Click to see the full signature.
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Actually I came to this NG as i believe as a lot of brake components and other things are very similar to the last Ford i owned. I know my 95 Escort was a collaboration of Ford/Mazda. The drum brakes are almost identical but I never had a prob with the Escort drums. The Mazda groups seemed pretty dead, while this Ford group is always busy.
Eric
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Guys - I didn't intend to start a war here, I am sorry if I did. I just wanted some honest advice, when I owned all my Fords I always came to this group with Q's about one thing or another, I truly trust the knowledge of you guys over even the local mechs in my area. I am writing from my mom's machine but it is me.
Eric
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Actually I do apply the brakes hard every time I back out of my driveway each morning ever since this started happening about 2 years ago. The springs and adjuster are very clean and shiny since I clean the hardware every time I pull the drums to adjust the shoes. And I do apply the e-brake each and every time I park it. Guess it is habit, I owned sticks from 1989 to 2003.
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It's quite possible that the automatic adjusters just don't work. Usually, this is because they need disassembly and cleaning. On older vehicles, or one that get exposed to water on the road, it's not an uncommon problem.

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Interesting development to this thread, last Thursday while driving I started smelling an acrid burning odor and once I parked it I noticed the left front wheel was damn near burning hot. It was colder than hell and snowing like crazy and I didn't feel like screwing with it so I limped it to a trusted mechanic I know that I use when I can't figure something out or don't want to get into a mess. Turns out my left front caliper was seized up on the disc and he said it has probably been building for a long time before I finally smelled the burnt brake pad smell.
He showed me the ripped dust boot that covers the piston, how in the hell does that happen? I do live in the rust belt and we have a lot of potholes up here in Michigan now, but in 19 years of driving I have never had a caliper boot rip, especially on car only 4-5 years old.
So, he noticed the right caliper boot was starting to develop a tiny tear as well so he ended up replacing both calipers and of course the discs and a new set of premium pads and what do you know? The spongy and low feeling brake pedal is gone completely. He is guessing the brake fade from overheated brakes was so bad from the pads riding on the disc that I was getting a mushy pedal. Now I just adjusted the rears 2 weeks ago so I'll see how it goes, but the brakes feel now almost like they did when I drove it off the lot brand new in Nov. 2003.
Thanks for all the responses, Eric
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I have a long (often ice coated driveway) & I usually get a nice fresh rear brake adjustment every morning when I back up my Ranger to go to work. The icy conditions sometimes sends me into the snowbank then my rear bumper gets an adjustment.
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Eric -
i have been working with drum brakes as a hobbiest "shade tree" mechanic for... umm, a long time. The design hasn't changed much in 40 years. Perfectly set up, drums should never have drag until applied. Part of the beauty of the design is that they self-apply, the rotation of the wheel actually pulls the shoe tighter.
The only way I can accurately judge if drums are working is to carefully and safely raise the wheel, spin it, and step on the brake. If it stops, all is good. This was quite easy on RWD cars, provided you raised both wheels and used jack stands.
If your brakes are mushy, I suspect something else may be the actual cause. Perhaps an all-around bleeding would help. The front brakes do most of the stopping, anyway. Do they check out OK?
Hope this is helpful...
PoD
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PoD - Thanks for your thoughts. When I tighten up the drums, I do get a higher pedal and more 'friction' feel. Somebody once told me back about 1990 when I put my first set of brakes on my first car that after putting on shoes you should adjust them so that there is a slight drag after you get the wheel back on and spin it. I have always gone by this principle, and but that car cost me $700 and was a real winner so brake feel wasn't as important as when you are driving a car you paid $12,000 for. The fronts are going to need to done probably in a year or so, they seem to last about 3 or 4 years, it has alloys so I can visually see discs are slightly grooved as would be expected with probably 25,000 on them, but pads look nice and thick still. This car has never had calipers or wheel cyl, or master cyl opened so I can't imagine it needs to bled, but who knows, you might be right there. Once the weather gets above freezing around here, I might get a buddy over and pop open the calipers and wheel cyl and bleed them.
Thanks, Eric
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Eric, I had another thought about your symptoms as I was out running errands.
I had a 1984 Thunderbird - front disc, rear drum. I loved it and kept it for years. Oddly, it ran thru tires, especially on front. Everything checked out in the suspension and body and stuff so I chalked it up to having the V8 when it was designed for a lighter motor.
A few years later I realized that, any time I had made a sudden stop, the front wheels locked and I had a skid. Much digging later, I found the rear brake cylinders were frozen and moved just enough to engage the drums when freshly adjusted as you have described but was worthless after the shoes wore down. I finally had someone hit the brake for me while I watched the pistons.
I suspect the car never had working rear brakes because the difference in feel was very noticeable once I replaced the rear cylinder assemblies.
Just be sure whoever is helping is light on the brake pedal because, if they are ok, they won't be after a hard application with no drum on.
Hope it helps!
Paul
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Thanks Paul- I actually made that mistake once in about 1991 when I wanted to see if my rear wheel cylinders were frozen or not and I pulled the drums and had somebody hit the brakes, and BOOM out came the pistons, had to have it flat bed towed to a brake shop...I kind of wondered about my wheel cyl, I am going to try your idea this weekend, supposed to be 45 on Sunday so that should be warm enough...
Eric
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The pedal should never be pressed when drums & shoes are not present.
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Found that out the hard way in with my 85 Escort, had to have it towed, I couldn't even force the pistons back in...
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