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DIY: Drum Brakes

This is a good job for a moderately skilled DIY. It only takes about three hours to do and will save you quite a few bucks. Plus you will get the satisfaction of saying "I did it myself!"

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Part 3
» Part 4
  • Remove about half the brake fluid from the master cylinder and put it into a sealed container. Dispose of it properly. Do not reuse old brake fluid; always use fresh brake fluid from a sealed container. Brake fluid will eat paint so do not get it on your vehicles finish. If you do, wash it off (brake fluid is water soluble) with plenty of water.
  • Using a lug wrench, crack the wheel lugs loose one or two turns. Do not remove them completely.
  • Jack one side of the vehicle up and support it with a jack stand. Do the same for the opposite side.
  • Remove the lugs and take the wheels off.
  • To remove the brake drums:
Rear Wheel Drive:
  • Remove brake drum. Look at the wheel studs for a round clip. If they are there, use a wire cutters or other suitable tool to remove them. You don't have to worry about breaking or losing them. They are there to keep the brake drum from falling off while on the assembly line. They serve no purpose now. If brake lining is dragging on brake drum, back off brake adjustment by rotating adjustment screw. If brake drum is rusted or corroded to axle flange and cannot be removed readily, apply some rust penetrent and lightly tap axle flange to drum mounting surface with a suitable hammer.
Front Wheel Drive:
  • Remove bearing cap and wheel bearings. Slide drum off, backing off the adjustment if necessary. See DIY: Wheel Bearings if you are not sure how to do this. Some bearings are one-piece bearings in which case you just slide the drum off.

Any time the brake drums are removed for brake service, the braking surface diameter should be checked with a suitable brake drum micrometer at several points to determine if they are within the safe oversize limit stamped on the brake drum outer surface. If the braking surface diameter exceeds specifications, the drum must be replaced. If the braking surface diameter is within specifications, drums should be cleaned and inspected for cracks, scores, deep grooves, taper, out of round and heat spotting. If drums are cracked or heat spotted, they must be replaced.

Minor scores should be removed with sandpaper. Grooves and large scores can only be removed by machining with special equipment, as long as the braking surface is within specifications stamped on brake drum outer surface. Any brake drum sufficiently out of round to cause vehicle vibration or noise while braking or showing taper should also be machined, removing only enough stock to true up the brake drum.

After a brake drum is machined, wipe the braking surface diameter with a denatured alcohol soaked cloth. If one brake drum is machined, the other should also be machined to the same diameter to maintain equal braking forces. I would recommend that the drums be resurfaced whenever you replace the shoes. If you do not plan on resurfacing the drums, mark a wheel stud and put a matching mark on the drum so you can reinstall it in the same position it came off. Also mark them left and right.

Type 1:
  • Using brake spring pliers or equivalent, remove primary and secondary shoe return springs.
  • Remove automatic adjuster cable from anchor plate and unhook from adjuster lever.
  • Remove adjuster cable, overload spring, cable guide and anchor plate.
  • Unhook adjuster lever spring from lever and remove spring and lever.
  • Remove shoe-to-shoe spring from secondary shoe web, then the primary shoe.
  • Spread shoes apart and remove parking brake strut and spring.
  • Using suitable tool, remove shoe retainers, then the springs and nails.
  • Disconnect parking brake cable from lever and remove brake shoes.
  • Remove parking brake lever from secondary shoe.
  • Clean dirt from brake drum, backing plate and all other components.

NOTE: In many cases the primary shoe material is longer than the secondary shoe material. The longer shoe always goes towards the rear of the car and the short shoe towards the front.

Type 2:
  • Disconnect parking brake cable from parking brake lever.
  • Using suitable pliers, remove brake shoe to anchor springs and hold-down springs.
  • Fully seat adjuster nut, then spread shoes apart and remove adjuster screw assembly.
  • Raise parking brake lever, then pull trailing shoe away from support to ease return spring tension and disengage spring end from support. Remove trailing shoe.
  • Pull leading shoe away from support to ease return spring tension and disengage spring end from support. Remove leading shoe.
  • Remove parking brake lever from trailing shoe.
  • Clean dirt from brake drum, support plate and all other components.
Type 3:
  • Using suitable pliers, remove adjuster lever spring.
  • Remove adjuster lever.
  • Turn automatic adjuster screw out to expand shoes past wheel cylinder boot.
  • Using suitable tool, remove hold-down springs.
  • Pull brake shoe assembly down and away from anchor plate.
  • Remove C-clip retaining parking brake lever to trailing brake shoe webbing.
  • Disassemble shoe assembly.
  • Clean dirt from brake drum, anchor plate and all other components.

» Part 1       » Part 2       » Part 3       » Part 4

Additional Information provided courtesy of and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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