Maybe next time leave the wrenching to professionals, will ya?

So my sister’s been enjoying her recently-purchased 2004 V6 Explorer. The previous owner is a mechanic at a local shop, and the car looked to be in good shape. Everything appeared to be in working order, too.

Just one minor thing, an exhaust leak at the muffler. It’s a little noisy. ...Which is probably why my sister didn’t hear the wheel bearing starting to fail.

One day it suddenly developed an awful grinding noise from the right rear. Jacking the car up was all it took to confirm that the hub was just wobbling around. Okay, well that’s not unusual for a 13-year-old Explorer. Time for a new bearing.

Pull the wheel, set the brake caliper aside, pull the rotor, release the knuckle, and whoops, one more thing: the parking brake cable. Okay, let’s see what we g-

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Snap ring removed for clarity (and for pressing)

Oh, nice. The outer ring of the bearing had come loose, allowing the rollers to jostle around, some of them even turning sideways, hence the grinding. One of the bearing races had even cracked apart, and if that wasn’t enough, some material was shaved away from the snap ring.

So she picked up a new bearing, got it swapped into the knuckle/hub via shop press, and we started putting it back together.

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That’s when I noticed that the parking brake cable doesn’t really do anything. It has two little arms that push away from each other when the cable is pulled, but there’s nothing for them to move. A closer look brought on the sudden realization that somebody must have removed the brake shoes and hardware, and it sure as hell wasn’t me.

You ain’t got no parking brake, Lt. Dan!

Why didn’t I notice that during disassembly? I guess my brain must have forgotten about it after moving the caliper out of the way. After all, both of my vehicles have parking brakes that function through the service brakes.

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I asked my sister when was the last time she used her parking brake. Never, she replied. All of her parking has been on flat surfaces, so the automatic transmission’s parking pawl was doing a sufficient job. She hadn’t even tested it when looking over the car for purchase.

Now I won’t begrudge her such habits, it’s an easy thing to overlook, and she’s not parking on hills or anything. But it pisses me off to think that somebody gutted the parking brake mechanism and hid that fact.

I checked the other rear wheel bearing, and as you would expect, it had a little bit of play, too. Not as worn as the right side, but eh, might as well get them both done anyway. They’ve got to be the same age, so I don’t expect this one to last much longer.

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Surprisingly, the left side still had all the parking brake stuff in place, which meant that this time, there were more parts to remove. But the dust boots for the upper ball joint and the toe link joint were chewed up something awful. Now why would that be...?

Toe link, and its mangled dust boot

The knuckle slid off rather easily (thanks to some grease that someone must been have applied during assembly), and we saw a shiny, intact (but still slightly loose) wheel bearing inside. Hmm... somebody’s definitely been in here before.

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And I bet they used a pickle fork on those joints, tearing up the dust boots.

We went forward with replacing the bearing anyway, as it did exhibit some slight play. This must have been the first bearing to fail, and since we didn’t see any numbers printed on it, I’d say there’s a good chance that it was some cheap knockoff bearing that wasn’t made to last. Time to get a decent one in there (we ended up using National on both sides).

As for the joints, since they had to be disconnected from the knuckle anyway, we took this opportunity to just go ahead and replace them before more dust and dirt got in there to grind them up. We’ll round up the parking brake parts soon and get that back in working order too.

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And we’re not letting some yahoo with a pickle fork touch it.