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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I bought my '96 Grand LE with 80K miles on it. It now has 230K and I've never checked the rear drum brakes, but have replaced pads on the front disks at least twice. Haven't heard any noise from the rear, but how long do they last?

Braking has always seemed weak in comparison to smaller, lighter vehicles. Once had smoke coming off the fronts after descending a mountain. But I guess that's all normal for a vehicle of this weight.

Wondering whether to spend $86 on Tuesday to have the rear drum brakes inspected just in case, or just go until I start hearing something.
 

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How long depends on driving habits and local terrain. Safe to say they should last 100k miles. I changed mine at around 160K miles. Beyond that depends on the answer to the first sentence. If they determine the pads still have life I would suspect the proportioning valve or it's equivalent has a problem.
 

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I changed mine at about 250,000 km but I could see there was still a lot of material left on the old ones.
 
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175K out of mine / original brakes / till needing to be replaced...driving habits "MAIN REASON IMO"...over using or using abusively
changes the longevity "DRASTICALLY"...many go through brakes @ 50K or sooner...how you drive is amazing the extra miles they
last without a heavy foot....
 

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Discussion Starter #6
There must be some easy way to test the proportioning valve without just replacing it on suspicion if the rear brakes show little wear.

I drive VERY easy on braking.
 

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There must be some easy way to test the proportioning valve without just replacing it on suspicion if the rear brakes show little wear.

I drive VERY easy on braking.
I've never read of a procedure. In fact I've only heard one mentioned maybe a dozen times in 10 years of cruising forums. Apparently there may be a procedure for these vans. Here's a link to a generic version of a test: http://www.tirebusiness.com/article/19940711/ISSUE/307119994/testing-proportioning-valves

If it comes to it and I doubt it will, they run $23 at RockAuto.
 

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...or jack up the back end and try rotating the rear wheels, one at a time by hand...then have someone step on the brakes. Get a feel for how hard the brakes are holding. I would even use a wrench on a lug nut, as if tightening, to apply torque(but don't over torque to the point of snapping a stud off, of course). It should hold if the pressure is good. A fool-proof test it is not, but it is a quick 'sanity' check as to whether the rear brakes are at least trying to work. Maybe they are just way out of adjustment and auto adjuster is not working?? Then again, maybe everything is fine.

Best to pull the drums and look at the brake shoes along with the other components responsible for adjusting the shoes.
 

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On our three vans with rear drums, I've found the brakes last far longer than the brake cylinders inside the drum; those suckers tend to start leaking every eighty to hundred thousand miles. I just do the brakes whenever the cylinders start leaking.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, I got the inspection for the $86. He showed me the pads, they had about 50% wear left. Lubricated, turned the drums, and adjusted. The moaning sound in the rear when braking is gone. He said if they weren't doing their part that my fronts would be wearing out faster than they are. 230K miles so far on the rears.
 

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My experience was that the rears did not wear because they weren't doing anything useful. At 140K, they looked like new. So I swapped in rear discs, and the van now stops much better. And the rear discs are wearing, unlike the drum shoes. So my conclusion is that if the rears aren't wearing, they aren't doing anything. When brakes are doing their jobs, they wear.

Now, if most of your 200k+ miles are freeway miles, that may be a different story.
 

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I only step on the front brake pedal.
 

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Well, I got the inspection for the $86. He showed me the pads, they had about 50% wear left. Lubricated, turned the drums, and adjusted. The moaning sound in the rear when braking is gone. He said if they weren't doing their part that my fronts would be wearing out faster than they are. 230K miles so far on the rears.
I typically get 2 years (50K miles) on a set of front brake pads, and about 5 years (125K miles) on a set of rear shoes. They do wear, just not very fast. When checking the rear pads, bear in mind that they are usually riveted, and so you can't let the friction get quite as thin as when the friction is bonded. Also bear in mind that the shoes will wear more at the top than at the bottom. The 4-yr-old set I just replaced this summer looked like it had a lot of material left, but when measuring from top of rivet to top of friction at the thinnest point, it became clear they were closer to needing replacement than might at first appear.

- G
 

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I checked my 1996 Voyager rear drums at 200K miles and appear to have another 200K miles of lining left. Have owned the minivan since new and done all work so know they are original. Perhaps I'll try skidding in a wet parking lot (if ever rains again in CA) and insure the rears do lock up. I expect they proportion little to the rears because minivans are high and the rear tires must unload a lot when braking. My brakes never smoke coming down a mountain. I use engine braking, as everyone was taught in the old days. Because FL drivers kept going off the side of the Blue Ridge Pkwy, the feds mandated front disk brakes ~1973 (drums take longer to cool). I grew up in FL but learned how to drive in the mountains.
 

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Rear Brake Shoe Glaze

My experience was that the rears did not wear because they weren't doing anything useful. At 140K, they looked like new. So I swapped in rear discs, and the van now stops much better. And the rear discs are wearing, unlike the drum shoes. So my conclusion is that if the rears aren't wearing, they aren't doing anything. When brakes are doing their jobs, they wear.

Now, if most of your 200k+ miles are freeway miles, that may be a different story.
I agree. They become glazed and do very little. They get so glazed over time they will last forever, but they don't help stop. Change them at 100k.
 
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