Replace Brake Drums

Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated May 28, 2010)

Note that these instructions are very general. Due to the wide variety of brake drums between the various manufacturers, you might want to get a vehicle specific guide (such as Chelton's) that can give you an accurate diagram for your specific make and model of vehicle.

Materials and Tools:

  • Chisel
  • Grease (white lithium is best)
  • Hammer
  • Vice grips
  • Pliers
  • Sealable container
  • Brake spring pliers
  • Brake retainer tool
  • New brake shoes
  • Jack
  • Safety stands (Jack stands)
  • Screwdriver
  • Small pry bar
  • Goggles
  • Gloves (latex or similar)
  • Dust mask

Project Steps:

  1. Prepare. Choose your site carefully making sure that it is sturdy and level and not on grass or dirt. Locate where your car's brakes are located (front or rear) and loosen the lug nuts on the tires. Jack up one side of the vehicle and place a jack stand under the car in the appropriate location. Repeat on the other side. At this point, put on your gloves, goggles, and dust mask. These items are to protect you from the asbestos that is the brake pads.
  2. Remove wheel. Remove the wheels. Keep all the parts associated with that tire, or side, in the same location so they won't get lost or mixed up. Work on only one side at a time so that you can use the other as a model. Also, since you have the car ready for it, check for cracks or leaks in the brake line.
  3. Remove brake drum. The process for removing the brake drum is a little different for front and rear driven cars, but not too different. For either type, remove or bleed about half of the brake fluid into a container. This will allow you enough "play" to be able to work. For rear wheel drive vehicles, look near the wheel studs for a round clip. If these studs are still there, remove them (since they are only there for assembly purposes, not safety). Then remove the drum. For front wheel drive vehicles, need to remove the bearing cap and wheel bearings first the slide the drum off. Remove the shoe return springs and then the anchor plate. To get the anchor plate off you will need to remove the adjuster cables and the adjuster lever. Disconnect these first from the secondary shoe, and then the primary. You should notice the shoes spreading outwards. At this point, it you can remove the shoe pads, since all that is left to disconnect is the parking brake cable(s).
  4. Install. Thoroughly clean the area by removing any major dirt and grime. Lubricate the connectors with the appropriate brake lube (usually the grease mentioned in the parts list). Reconnect everything in the reverse order that you disconnected it, while using your other wheel as a model.
  5. Test/Adjust. Replace the brake fluid you removed with some new fluid. Never try using old brake fluid! Pump the brakes several times until they are back to normal tension. This step will remove any air bubbles that might be in the brake line. When you think you have removed all the air, have a friend look at the brakes to make sure they are properly opening and closing as you pump them.
  6. Replace wheels. Replace the wheels and lower the car. Drive around the block a few times, slowly, to get used to the new brakes and how they affect the car.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...


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