Small screw, big trouble: Fixing the rear brakes in my 2002 Chevy Silverado, Part 1
In “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Pirsig writes about the effect that one stuck screw can have on a mechanic’s psyche:
It’s normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over and make you want to hammer on that side plate with a chisel, to pound it off with a sledge if necessary. You think about it, and the more you think about it the more you’re inclined to take the whole machine to a high bridge and drop it off. It’s just outrageous that a tiny little slot of a screw can defeat you so totally. …
Right now this screw is worth exactly the selling price of the whole motorcycle, because the motorcycle is actually valueless until you get the screw out. With this reevaluation of the screw comes a willingness to expand your knowledge of it.
I found myself in just this scenario recently as I attempted to fix the rear brakes on Project Old Grey, my dad’s old 2002 Chevy Silverado pickup truck.
On each rear wheel, one 3/4" screw holds in a clip that stops the parking brake shoe from rattling around as you drive around the road. On the passenger side, this clip is at the top of the wheel bracket. The clip and the screw come out with virtually zero effort. But on the driver’s side, the clip and screw are at the bottom of the bracket. On that side, salt and water pool in the bottom of the parking brake shoe, forever soaking the clip and virtually melting it away over a long enough timeline.
The screw fairs no better. In my case, it was so rusted in place that the fastener chose to decapitate itself rather than come out on it’s own. Now I needed to drill out the remains of the screw, but there was no room to do so with the wheel hub in the way.
That left me in a pickle, to be sure. What would take 30 seconds under perfect conditions in the factory without that broken screw now was about to take me more than a week of sleuthing, gumption generation, and final execution to fix in my garage because of it.
Lucky for me, the internet exists, or I might still be working on the truck. Instead, I found the GM-Trucks.com forum, where a fine user (from Wisconsin no less) named 98 Z71 SLT posted an excellent trick to help out a fellow wrencher back in 2008. The solution: Bang out a wheel stud, then use the hole left behind to get access to the broken screw.
Voilà! My knowledge just expanded, big time.
Of course, that still wasn’t the end of it. Another round of horror followed. And then that was fixed. And then something else broke. And then…
To be continued…
Wisconsinite Andy Reuter writes and creates films about whatever DIY project is holding his attention at the time. For more, follow him on Instagram, find him on Twitter, or subscribe to his channel on YouTube. Find early access to videos and director commentary by becoming a member on Patreon.
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