Replacement Brake Shoes on Drum Brakes Tutorial

01
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What Type of Rear Brakes Do You Have?

Rear brake drum
A brake drum looks like this with the wheel off. photo by Matt Wright, 2012

Before you can consider replacing your rear brakes, you need to figure out what type of rear brakes your car or truck is equipped with. There are only two choices: drum or disc. This article will tell you how to replace drum brakes. The easiest way to tell what type of brake you have in the rear is to simply take a look. Don't worry, you don't have to take the car apart for this peek. In many cars and trucks, you can see right through the wheel. If you can't you might have to jack your car up and remove one wheel to see whether you have a drum or disc back there. With a clear view of things, you'll see either a dull, black drum or a shiny, metallic disc. There's no gray area here. Drums are fairly rough and dull finished. Discs are super shiny because their surfaces are designed to create maximum braking friction.

If it turns out you have rear discs, go to the section on replacing rear disc brakes and I'll help you get it done. If you have drum brakes in the rear, read on and we'll make it happen.

02
of 05

Remove the Rear Wheel and Brake Drum

Dust cap coming off to access rear brake drum nut.
Brake drum in the process of removal to access rear brake shoes. photo by Matt Wright 2012

Before you can access all of the intricate brake parts, you have to get to them by removing some heavy parts. They are hiding behind that big brake drum you see when you remove the wheel. Before you start working on your brakes, be sure your car is safely supported on jacks stands. Safety first! With the wheel off, you need to remove the brake drum. This is described in detail in Replacing a Rear Wheel Cylinder so please refer to that article for photos and details.

03
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Removing the Rear Brake Shoe Assembly

Brake shoe assembly
This is what it looks like inside with the brake drum removed. photo by Matt Wright, 2012
Brake shoes are put together as an assembly, then attached to the car as a unit. You have two brake shoes inside each brake drum, held in place by a series of pins, springs and brackets. There are a pair of pins, one on either side of the assembly, that will need to be removed first. These pins are spring loaded. Using a pair of pliers, press the spring on one of the pins in, then rotate the pin from the back with your hand. Rotate it until the round clip releases and the pin slides out the back. Don't lose any parts! Do this for both sides, removing both pins. In many cases you can no simply remove the brake shoe assembly. You may have to pop thebrake shoes over their brackets. Don't worry, you can't possibly hurt anything here.
04
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Assembling Your Brake Shoe Assembly

drum brake shoes
Drum brake assemblies side by side. photo by Matt Wright, 2012
The reason I like to remove the brake shoe assembly as a unit is because it can be darn confusing to get back together once you remove all of the springs and brackets. I like to sit the old assembly on one side, and put the new parts together on the other. Be sure you get the springs where they need to go. Transfer the parts you are reusing from the old assembly to the new one. This will save lots of confusion later.
05
of 05

Reinstalling the Brake Shoe Assembly

Brake shoes installed and ready.
Brake shoe assembly is now reinstalled. photo by Matt Wright, 2012

Now that you have your assembly back together correctly, you're ready to reinstall it onto your hub. Start at the bottom, getting the brake shoes over the brackets at the bottom of the brake assembly. At the top, it helps to compress the brake pistons so that the assembly will slide over the ends of the wheel cylinder. They will spring back some. With the top and bottom of the shoes assembly in place, you're ready to replace the two spring loaded pins that hold the assembly onto the brake backing plate. Do this by compressing the spring and pic, then giving it a twist.

With everything together, you're ready to put your brake drum back on, reassembling the rear wheel bearing as you go.