I am trying to change the rear brake shoes on my 1999 Ford Ranger. I get the tire off and then try to pull off the brake drum but it's stuck. I consult Haynes and I am supposed to do this:

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I've tried doing that. There are a few problems though:

  1. You need a to hold a focused flashlight with one hand, a flathead screwdriver with another, and a brake adjusting tool with your third hand.
  2. The service port is extremely small. You cannot see what you are doing.
  3. They don't sell that special tool at either of the parts stores I went to.
  4. The rear axle is where your forehead needs to be. There is no elbow room.
  5. I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be doing. Make the star gear that is at a 90 degree angle to the 10mm tall service port rotate up by jabbing at it while using a flathead screwdriver to release the lock even though I can't see what I'm doing and have no way of telling if I'm making progress.

I'm no professional but this seems to be astonishingly poorly engineered. The service port should be bolted on so when you need to work on it you can reach in with your hand or a line wrench. Honestly part of why I'm having a hard time is believing that they are asking me to do something so dumb.

They really did design it that way and I really am supposed to release the tension by figuring out how to get that gear to rotate up? I've done the head gasket, pulled the oil pan, and pulled the transmission on this truck but I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this. I'm a little bit angry.

1 Answer 1


This seems more like a rant? I can tell you I've done many rear brake drums, and while it takes a little bit of coordination, getting the star wheel to back off isn't a big deal. Once you've found the adjuster arm, push it back with a long thin screwdriver (or awl/scribe) to release the star. Then start backing the star wheel off with the flat tip screwdriver. Remember, each side will adjust the opposite way to back it off. Like I said, it isn't difficult, just takes some coordination. Do it by feel and not by looking at it.

  • Why is it called an adjuster arm? Isn't its function to hold the star in place? You're saying I can push back the adjuster arm and then push on the star wheel? In other words I don't have to have two tools in there at the same time? I really can't see what I'm doing. I'm thinking of putting whiteout on the gear so I can see if it's moving when I blindly push around in that hole. Aug 13, 2017 at 23:42
  • 1
    The adjuster moves the star which unscrews, making it longer, and adjusting the brake shoes outwards. Then, when not moving, it holds the star in place so it doesn't adjust back. When the brakes need adjustment, they'll move when you press on the brakes in reverse. This causes the arm to move, thus adjusting the star wheel. Once you get the arm out of the way, you can work on the star wheel without issue. Aug 13, 2017 at 23:50
  • Being able to work around corners, in the dark, where you can't see and by feel only is a "normal" skill for a mechanic....
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 14, 2017 at 7:36
  • @SolarMike - No lie about that one ... Aug 14, 2017 at 12:37

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