It's usually the two rear cables, one by each rear wheel, that stick on Fords. As soon as you mention "Ford" and "smoking rear wheels", we know what the cause is. Typically we run into these when someone else besides the regular driver was in the car. In this case the body shop was the glaring clue. They are frame, body, and paint experts, usually not mechanics, and some of those people don't even understand how brakes work. That's not exactly part of their job or profession. We run into this problem all the time after someone used the parking brake, or even just bumped it getting in or out of the car. For safety reasons a conscientious body man will apply the parking brake if it is warranted, then worry about the consequences later.
Regardless of who did it or why, if the parking brake is not used daily, the cables are going to get rusty and stick. That commonly used to occur within a year on Ford products but it will happen on any brand of car eventually. The parking brake pedal may release fully and the red parking brake light may go out, but it's the rear cables that will stick. You will typically see evidence of that if you crawl underneath and look at them. Both cables have spiral-wound metal casings that come out of each rear backing plate, (around the center of the wheel), and they're about two or three feet long. That casing ends in front in a metal bracket, and the cable itself continues out of it and runs to near your foot area on the left side. It's right where the cables come out of the casing that you need to look. The cables will be covered in dirt, but if they're sticking partially applied, the first half inch or so will be clean and shiny indicating it is pulled out.
Sometimes you can get the cable to retract from return spring pressure by flexing that casing with both hands. That works if they aren't rusted real badly yet. If they won't retract you have to replace them or cut them. Cutting them will get them to release but it should only be done if the car owner refuses to have them fixed properly. Also, cutting them may be illegal in some states. In my state it is actually legal for a dealer to cut them on a used trade-in car and sell it that way, but it must be disclosed on the window sticker. The fines are pretty severe for not disclosing it. We only did that on low-value older cars. Also, we never ever tried to lubricate a sticking cable or free it up. Those were guaranteed to come back on a tow truck because doing that implied they were in good working condition so people would try to use them, and they would always stick again. It was "cut 'em or replace 'em; don't lube 'em".
You can grease a new cable but it will only delay the entry of water and road salt into the casing. That makes the cable and casing rough from the rust, and that powder is not coming out. That's why they will continue to stick.
Besides those two rear cables, a lot of Ford models have an intermediate cable on the right side. The casing is only a foot or two long but it makes a sharp 90 degree bend right about under the passenger side rear seat. Those commonly got rusted tight too.
Replacement cables aren't terribly expensive, and in most cases the pair can be replaced in about an hour to maybe an hour and a half. The rear brake drums have to be removed to disconnect that end of the cables and that's when we often find the rear brake shoes are worn and more repairs are needed. A lot of car owners recognize that the rear brakes are typically worn out at the same time the cables need to be replaced and will request a rear-wheel brake job at the same time. The brake job and the parking brake cable replacement both require many of the same parts to be disassembled so it costs less in the long run to do both jobs at once rather than each one individually at different times. If you're already paying for a brake job, the additional cost to replace the cables will be for just the cables and a little extra labor time.
Friday, June 21st, 2013 AT 9:55 PM