When it comes to DIY auto repair, failure is absolutely an option; Silverado rear brake fix, part 2

Andrew Reuter
May 3 · 4 min read

A project like this is more about the adventure than the final destination. Don’t forget that when you’re covered in blood and rust at 1 a.m. and need to work in the morning.

And so we again return to Project Old Grey, a journey to fix up my dad’s old 2002 Chevy Silverado pickup truck.

Last time, I started working on fixing the grinding rear brakes and nonfunctional parking brake. I took everything apart so I could get to the parking brake components underneath. Rust complicated things greatly, completely dissolving one piece and making it virtually impossible to replace another. But with a lot of time and gumption, I got past it.

In today’s video, I’ll try to wrap up this brake job and get the truck back on the road. Of course, it won’t go smoothly! Eighteen years of Midwestern road salt rust virtually guarantees that when working on any exposed part of the undercarriage. (I’m happy to trade strife on this end in exchange for fewer winter tragedies, but the transition to aluminum parts can’t come too soon!) But if I can’t get the job done, I can always pay someone to haul it to a mechanic instead.

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The parking brake cable was no more…

In this case, I didn’t fail. Well, it might look I did in some spots. At one point, for example, the parking brake activation cable snapped. At first, I felt dread, because reading the repair manual makes it sound like the process was going to involve fishing a whole new cable up through the innards of the truck to the parking brake pedal.

But some Googling revealed that actually, the part that snapped was an “intermediate parking brake cable,” which connected the front and the back ends of the line to operate the parking brake. It seems like this cable makes it easier for GM to manufacture different lengths of trucks. Longer trucks need a longer parking brake cable to get from the pedals to the back wheels. So this intermediate one lets them build in some flexibility for inventory and assembly. (That’s my take on it, anyway.)

Why this cable doesn’t have sheathing to protect it, I don’t know. But that’s a common theme with trucks of this era! The parts exposed to rust are designed to be replaced, not to last the life of the vehicle. While this makes some sense for a parking brake cable, it makes less for the brake lines that originally rusted out and nearly led to disaster, but that’s another story.

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Fishing the new line through the truck.

Circling back, that tow-truck option is a serious thing to remember when tackling a DIY auto repair project. It might seem like an intimidating thought. The pessimistic way to consider it would be, “Why waste a bunch of time and money myself when I’ll probably just have to have a mechanic fix it anyway?” That is totally the wrong approach, though. The optimistic, and I’d argue more accurate, thing to think is: “Well, even if I try and fail, I can still take this to a shop.”

That’s an easy thing to say when we’re talking about a project truck and not a daily driver. I have been there before, wrenching away into the wee hours of a Sunday night, knowing I needed the vehicle the next morning. But even if you’re not at a stage yet where you can truly enjoy the work you’re doing in your garage as fun and not a necessity, I hope you get there someday. Because a project like this is more about the adventure than the final destination, as our friend Robert Pirsig wrote in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”:

“It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow. But of course, without the top you can’t have any sides. It’s the top that defines the sides. So on we go — we have a long way — no hurry — just one step after the next.”

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Back on the road!

Yes, you might fail. But hopefully, that’ll be OK, because you’ll have some fun along the way.

See the end of this particular journey in the video above. Thanks for watching!

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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Project Lab

Demystifying DIY.

Andrew Reuter

Written by

DIYer, Project Lab. Web-editor-type, Lee Enterprises. Dad/husband. @djnf, @theexponentnews, @uwplatteville alum. Seeking best obtainable version of the truth.

Project Lab

Detailed, documentary-style DIY videos and blogs that demystify DIY.

Andrew Reuter

Written by

DIYer, Project Lab. Web-editor-type, Lee Enterprises. Dad/husband. @djnf, @theexponentnews, @uwplatteville alum. Seeking best obtainable version of the truth.

Project Lab

Detailed, documentary-style DIY videos and blogs that demystify DIY.

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