Now that the CV joints are done (yuck) it’s time to tackle the brakes. Each wheel on a stock beetle has a traditional drum break, with shoes and a cylinder that connects to the hydraulic lines. When the brake pedal is pressed, the master cylinder, acting like a piston, sends brake fluid through various tubes to the brake cylinder, which expands and presses the shoes against the side of the brake drum.
The first step in doing a brake job on an air-cooled VW is to get the brake drum off. These drums are held in place by large ‘castle’ nuts that have a hole drilled in the side to allow a cotter pin to insure the wheel stays put. More significantly, these drums are secured by the nut at an incredible degree of torque, well over 200 foot pounds. The tradition way of removing these is with a breaker bar with a cheater extension (usually just a pipe over the handle to increase leverage) which you sort of stand on. I use a ‘torque meister’ gear type of thing that allows me to usually use just a simple ratchet. Even with this tool these nuts did not want to come off. Finally with enough tapping and PB Blaster (an amazing lubricant; usually better for rusted nuts than WD40) it eventually came loose.
I was greeted by a mess of dirt, grease, rust, and what-not that had probably not seen the light of day since 1979. With enough scraping and scrubbing I could get to the metal, so that the healing could begin. Having done the brakes on Gracie I was comfortable with the job but sometimes inattention would rear its ugly head; for example I failed to notice that the wheel cylinders (the silver thing at the top of the photo above) are different for the rear and front wheels. So I had to go back and replace the first wheel I did (at the rear) with the correct cylinder (I had put a front one in by mistake).
All in all, a satisfying job. Plus the car should stop.