Attention! My automotive repair pages are not intended to replace a service manual. It is just a means to share some of the things I learned while repairing my Mercury Sable and I hope you find the information helpful.

Installed brake drum.

If you are having trouble removing the brake drum because you can't back off the star wheel adjuster or you just can't seem to move the adjuster when you are trying to adjust the brakes. I have some solutions that might help.

I had run into this problem with my 1993 Ford Taurus and now with the recent purchase of a 2003 Mercury Sable so I thought I would take some time to come up with a solution. On the Sable and Taurus trying to rotate the star wheel to manually adjust the drum brakes or to remove the brake drums can be quite a pain.

Of course the parking brake must be disengaged before you adjust the brake shoes or remove the drums.

Bench grinder, high speed cutoff tool, and modified brake adjustment tool.

The first problem is having a tool that fits between the brake backing plate and the wheel spindle. The next issue is the tool edge has to be thin enough to engage the star wheel teeth.

I used a high speed air cutter to modify an inexpensive brake adjusting tool I bought, and a bench grinder to square up and taper the edge of the tool.

Modified brake tool and dimensions.

Modified brake tool. Edge of tool ground to 1/32"

The modified brake adjustment tool fits nicely between the wheel spindle and brake backing plate.
I ground a nice thin edge on the tool so it can engage the star wheel teeth.

Now I have a brake tool that can turn the star wheel, so now I need a way to push the brake adjusting lever out of the way if I want to back off the adjuster.

Fit of modified brake tool shown.

I have included an image showing the fit of the modified brake tool in use. The brake tool is now cut just short enough to fit properly between the star wheel and the wheel spindle.

The next image shows the position of the brake lever relative to the star wheel and brake tool access hole.

Image showing position of brake lever and brake tool access hole.

In the image you can see the wheel spindle through the brake tool access hole and the brake lever off to the right side of the hole.
My after market repair manual says to use a screwdriver to push the adjusting lever away from the star wheel but the wheel spindle is in the way.

Screwdriver used to show position of access hole relative to brake lever.

In the next image I have the tip of the screw driver sticking out the access hole and the shaft of the screw driver lined up with where you have to push on the brake adjusting lever.

To push the brake adjusting lever away from the star wheel I formed a tool from a metal wire clothes hanger. I used what I had on hand but a larger gauge wire would be better.

Homemade brake tool made from clothes hanger.

The top bend in the wire helps you to orient the tool inside the brake drum. So here it is, except it is not easy to get the tool in the right spot with the brake drum on.

It has since occurred to me that bending a long thin screwdriver might work better than the push rod I made. If this is attempted safety glasses should be worn and great care taken to not get injured in the event that the screwdriver breaks when it is bent. If this is done improperly you can get injured even if the screwdriver does not break. (ATTEMPT AT YOUR OWN RISK)

Drum brake adjustment tightening and loosening direction diagram.

Brake tool tightening and loosening diagram referenced from my 2003 Mercury Sable.

The brake adjuster lever must be held off the star wheel to back off the brake shoes.

So what if you have tried to back off the adjuster wheel and you just can't disengage the adjusting lever. You can't see into the access hole, and the drum won't come off.

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