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These brake springs are hefty and are under a lot of tension. Don’t fight it. Borrow or buy a simple brake spring tool. The one I use is a Snap-On “S” shaped tool that’s used for one handed removal and installation of the springs.
To remove the spring you insert the tab on the cup end under the spring hook with the cup over the end of the spring retainer. Rotate the tool so the tab lifts the spring hook onto the tool and tilt the back end of the tool downward to pop the spring off.
The opposite end of the tool has a small curved claw type end. To install the spring, slide the spring hook onto the tool, angle it up and put the claw end onto the spring retainer, and lift the back end of the tool. The spring will slide right on to the retainer. There are numerous other type spring pliers and tools available, but this style is as simple and easy as it gets.
Thanks to John Smith of Old Ford Tractor for allowing us to use this information.