When I was a teen I had a Ford Elite. I changed the front brakes on my car. I started to hear a whining noise every time I applied the brakes so I knew something was wrong. I was relieved to find out that my brakes were supposed to make that sound and weren’t ruining my rotors (discs).
Drum brake pads typically last about 35,000 – 45,000 miles and may last up to 100,000. If you commute daily get them inspected every 6 months. You should replace them or get them checked when:
- Your braking starts taking longer
- You hear a whining or scrapping sound from the brakes
- Your car starts to vibrate when braking
- Your brake pedal or hand brake feels loose
- When you or a mechanic inspects them and they are 1/16 of an inch thin
Checking to see if the drum brakes need replacing (also called shoes) can be done at home or by a mechanic. If you don’t have experience working on cars or the right tools then a mechanic would be best. If you want to do it yourself ensure you have time, patience, and the right tools.
Checking the Drum Brake Pads
Before you do anything it is best to find out if your brakes need replacing or if there are other problems causing the brakes to act strangely.
Checking the brake drum pads shouldn’t be too hard. It requires you to take off the wheel and the brake drum.
You’ll need to have:
- Jacks stands
- Floor Jack
- Tire Chocks
- Possibly a Hammer
You can watch this video for more details about how to safely remove the tire and brake drum.
Once your tire and brake drum are off you will be able to check your brake pad thickness. If they measure more than 1/4 inch thickness then they are still good. Once they reach 1/8 of an inch it’s probably best to replace them even if they could go down to 1/16 of an inch.
If you decide that you want to try replacing your own drum brake pads, then you will need to make sure you have all the time, equipment, tools, and parts you need before you begin. Otherwise, you could be stuck without a car for a while.
Tools You Need to Replace Drum Brakes
First, you’ll need to have:
- A jack that can jack up your car and hold it up safely.
- Have the rear axle supported by jack stands.
- Use wheel stoppers on the front wheels.
Then make sure you have:
- A lug nut removal tool to remove the tire.
- A drum brake tool set (May be able to use other tools – see video below).
- An adjustable wrench.
- A metal wire brush.
- Aerosol brake cleaner
- New brake pads
- New brake Drums
- Repair manual
- Safety Glasses
- Cleaning Supplies (rags)
Plan a Day and Time to Replace the Drum Brakes
In general, it should take 2 hours to replace both drum brakes if you have everything ready.
To get ready you will need to:
- Watch a video or two about how to about replace the drum brakes and have an owner’s manual to use as a reference. (See Video Below)
- Plan for a sunny day. You can do the job in your garage, but outside will likely give you better light and more room.
Watch this video to see the full drum brake replacement steps that need to be taken. It’s a great resource to use to help with your job.
Get Everything Ready for Brake Repair
Layout your tools and take at least one picture of the drum brake before you start taking it apart.
- Take a picture of the drum brake layout and print it if needed. This will help ensure you set up the new brakes the same way. (You could also video taking out the old brakes)
- Layout all the tools you’ll need.
- Layout all the parts you’ll need.
- Wear Safety Glasses.
- Get Started
STEP 1: PREPARATION OF THE VEHICLE
- Park your car on a level surface and use wheel blocks on the front tires to stop any movement.
- Loosen the lug nuts on your back wheels, but don’t take them off.
- Use a jack to lift the rear of the car.
- Place jack stands under the rear axle (see video) or areas indicated on your repair manual.
- Make sure the car is secure.
- Remove the lug nuts and remove one wheel. Now you can start to replace your drum brakes.
STEP 2: REMOVE THE BRAKE SHOES
- Clean the inner assembly such as springs, shoes, and car cylinder, drain out the brake oil onto a pan and spray the entire assembly with brake cleaner to remove the entire dust particles; otherwise, the dust may cause uneven wear and noise.
- Measure the thickness of the old shoes with a digital micrometer and change them if the thickness is less than 1/16th. Make a thorough check for cracking, scoring, or grooving, and check the wheel cylinders. If the brake fluid is leaking, replace it.
- By using needle-nose pliers, remove the shoe retaining springs. If you loosen the top spring, it will loosen the overall tension, and you can easily remove the lower springs. If the shoes are tensioned with pins and washers, pull them free by using needle nose pliers
- Check for any leakage and if found, replace the brake wheel cylinders, immediately. Next, go in for reassembly.
- Remove the retainer clip of the parking brake cable by twisting it with a pair of pliers or by prying with a flat- head screwdriver.
- Remove the brake shoes to expose the brake drum. Remove the brake drum back and forth for removing it from the hub. If required, put more force.
STEP 3: INSTALL THE NEW DRUM AND SHOES
- Clean the baking plate by lubricating it. After that, apply brake lubricant to the anchor of the pin, bosses, and the lever pivot surface of the parking brake actuating lever.
- Slide the pin through the replaced shoe and install the new shoe into it. Then reinstall the brake retaining clip.
- The next step is to install the adjusting screw assembly and the spring.
- Reinstall the new brake shoes onto the hub. Put it secured in its place using washers and pins.
- After the shoe brake is kept secured in its place, reinstall the tension springs in their reverse order. Now the entire drum brake assembly is reassembled.
- You are now to install the springs and the hold-down pins and then the return pins.
- With a screwdriver, make adjustments to the brakes so that its shoes expand.
STEP 4: INSTALLATION OF DRUMS AND REPLACEMENT OF WHEEL
- Before installing the drum, spray it with brake cleaner so as to remove any film coated on it.
- Slip the drum over the brake shoes and put it on the hub, by adjusting the shoes, if required.
- For the final adjustment of the brake drum, ensure that it is neither loose nor tightened, as otherwise, it may damage both the drums and the shoes. You can find the brake adjuster inside the hub.
- After putting the while and tire in their places, tighten the lug nuts.
- After jacking up the car, remove the jack and the stand.
- After removing the wheel chocks, torque the wheel lug as specified in the owner’s manual
- Repeat the same steps for the other rear wheel.
- Check the brakes by applying a hydraulic pressure on the brake pedal.
Now that you are conversant with the replacement of drum brakes, it is pertinent for you to be aware of the utilities and advantages of the best brake controllers. These are especially beneficial for towing a vehicle. The brake controller is an external device, installed on the dash of the vehicle that is towing another vehicle. When the driver of the towing vehicle applies the brake, a message is electronically transmitted to the brakes of the towed vehicle that it must stop.
When the towing vehicle applies the brake, the towed vehicle continues to move at the same velocity and causes a domino effect which is a great threat to the safety of both vehicles. There are two kinds of brake controllers. The Time-delayed one applies a pre-determined pressure on the brakes of the towed vehicle. The second category is called Proportional and is comparatively cheaper.
According to your budget and need, you can opt for any one of the following well-performing brake controllers:
- Reese Towpower 850711; Brakeman
- Tekonsha 90885, Prodigy
- Hopkins 47284, Reliance
- Tekonsha 90195 P3
- Draw-Tite 201911-Stop
If you are a conscious vehicle owner, you know how essential it is to use quality brake fluid. It makes the brakes of your vehicle operate perfectly and thus provide absolute safety, while you are driving your vehicle. When you apply the brake, heat is generated. If your brake components are overheated, there is every possibility of brake failure. Brake fluid prevents overheating. Other functions of brake fluid are it keeps the moving parts perfectly lubricated and protects them from corrosion. It reduces the wear and tear of the moving components.
There are mainly three types of brake fluids. They are:
- DOT 3 is Glycol-based that attracts water and has the lowest boiling point.
- DOT 4 too is Glycol-based but has a little higher boiling point.
- DOT 5 is silicon-based and does not attract water. It has a higher boiling point.
You can choose the best brake fluid out of the following:
- Prestone AS 400 which is DOT 3 type
- ATE 706202 TYP 200 which is DOT 4 type
- Motul RBF 600 which is DOT 4 type
The brake is the life-saving component of your vehicle. You should know to replace the drum brakes as a professional. Never compromise on price when it comes to the use of brake fluid. If you are vehicle uses trailers, it will be your prudent decision to make use of a brake controller.
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