4 Things You Need To Know About Working With Drum Brakes

Here are four things you need to know about fixing drum brakes that are different from fixing disc brakes. If you already know how to repair disc brakes, this information will help you make the transition to working on drum brakes a little easier. 

#1 You Will Need A Few Special Tools

In addition to the typical tools that you use while working on your vehicle, you will also need three specific tools that were created to make working on drum brakes easier and more efficient.

  • Brake Adjusting Tool: This tool is designed to allow you to properly adjust the rear shoe on your drum brakes. The adjustment process on drum brakes is especially sensitive. If you don't adjust the brakes just right, you will have to push your brake in extremely far to engage the brake, which can lead them to not properly engage. This tool helps you avoid that problem.
  • Retainer Pin Tool Kit: This is a set of tools that allow you to properly hold on to the retainer spring and plate. It will be easier for you to remove, rotate and compress the retainer plate and spring with this tool set. 
  • Return Spring Tool Kit: This is another set of tools that makes it easier for you to both remove the old return springs and install the new springs that go on the brake pad. Installing the springs without this tool can be unsafe. 

#2 Cleaning As Your Work Is Vital

You also need to make sure that you keep the parts clean as you work. Specifically, you need to make sure that you keep the surface of the friction area on your brakes clean. If you get oil or grease on that area, try first to wipe it clean with a rag dipped in brake cleaner. If any contaminates are stuck on the friction surface, you may be able to remove them with some fine sandpaper and a soft cloth. 

If any contaminants get on this area, and you are not able to remove them, you may end up needing to completely replace the friction material. 

#3 The Rear And Front Drum Brake Shoes Are Different

There is a difference in the construction between the front and rear drum brake shoes. It is vital that you play close attention to the brake shoes and install them properly. On the rear drum shoe, the friction component material is longer. 

Make sure that you don't mix up the shoes; if you do, you will end up with metal and metal, which will quickly degrade your brakes.

#4 Don't Forget To Lubricate The Backing Plates

Finally, when you install the drum shoes, you need to make sure that the knuckles they rest on are well lubricated. You'll want to clean the area first with a cloth and possible some brake parts cleaner. Next you will want to apply grease, preferable white lithium,  to the knuckles the shoes rest on. This will ensure that the shoes are able to move properly when you installed them.

Working on or repairing drum brakes requires a lot of the same skills and knowledge that you used when you worked on disc brakes. However, the type brake systems are not identical. Keep in mind the tips above when you work on your drum brake system.