A kind reader Walt (Thanks Walt!) wrote with the solution to his brake system not bleeding as expected. The key to a good solid brake pedal is to have the brake shoes adjusted tight during the bleeding process. Even after bleeding, the shoes should drag on the drums just a tiny bit. It is true for nearly all cars with drum brakes that the shoes should drag lightly.
If your brake drums have a lip (as mine do) the shoes will drag on the lip,
but when the brakes are applied, the shoes will press against the drum. This
will give you a soft pedal. Your drums should not have a lip. If they do, you
need to have the drums turned. When the drums reach some minimal thickness,
you cannot turn them and must replace them. VW Bug rear drums are kind of pricy,
and the wheel bearings have to be replaced as well.
Back in 2001 (or was it 2000?) I replaced the front brake hoses, wheel cylinders (slave cylinders), and brake shoes. The brake hoses were not clogged, but the driver side wheel cylinder had been leaking for some time, and so those shoes were coated in brake fluid and totally ineffective. No wonder the car pulled to the right during braking! I still need to have my rear drums turned to remove the lip.
Master Cylinder replaced.
This job was more work than expected, but the brakes are now really good! Photos and more text coming.
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