There are two main types of brakes—drum brakes and disc brakes. Drum brakes are found in many cars, often on the rear wheels. They’re less expensive to manufacture, but more difficult to replace because they contain more parts. However, changing your drum brakes is a feasible DIY project. Follow these steps to change your drum brakes on your own, and when in doubt call Chip Wynn Motors for service help and questions.
For your safety, you’ll want to be equipped with an asbestos respirator mask. When you change the brakes, you’ll release asbestos dust from the drum brakes. Asbestos is extremely hazardous, so protect yourself and make sure no one else—not even a pet—is around during the job.
When you’re equipped for safety, you’re ready to get to the drum brakes. Use a jack to raise your vehicle so that the wheel is off of the ground. Remove the hubcap, the nuts, and then the tire itself.
Next, use a penetrating oil like PB Blaster to spray the hub. This type of oil makes it easier to remove mechanical parts because it penetrates the tight spaces between the threads of two connected parts. With the oil applied, you should be able to remove the brake drum by grabbing its edges and wiggling it off. In some cases you may need to use a brake adjustment tool to remove the brake, and in other cases you may need to first remove some screws before you can take off the brake. Your owner’s manual should tell you whether or not this is necessary. Take a picture of your drum brake before you do anything else so that you can remember how it’s assembled later on.
Place the entire brake in a container such as a tub or a bucket and spray it with brake cleaner from the auto parts store, which will help keep the asbestos from going airborne.
Wearing gloves and your mask, take your drum brake apart piece by piece. Start by removing the shoe return springs, then the parking brake lever, followed by the retainer springs. Separate the shoes from the wheel cylinder pins, then remove them along with the self-adjuster. When they’ve been separated from as a unit, remove the self-adjuster spring. You can use a photo from online or from within your owner’s manual to help you identify each part as you go along. It may also help to take plenty of pictures or make a video as you disassemble to help you reassemble your brakes correctly.
Now that everything has been taken apart, you can clean each part and inspect each part carefully for damage. It’s a good idea to replace all springs at this time, and any specific part that’s undergone significant wear.
With everything cleaned, replaced, and lubed, it’s time to put it all back together. Use your photos and footage to help you rebuild your brake. When everything looks right, replace the drum brake onto the wheel, retracing all of your steps. Replace the tire and check to see that the brakes are working properly. Readjust the brake adjustment as needed to ensure that brakes aren’t too tight. If everything seems to be running properly, you have just successfully replaced your drum brakes!