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How to Clean Drum Brakes

by Carole Ellis

Drum brakes are typically found on the rear of most cars and trucks, and can be overlooked since the front brakes do 90 percent of the stopping. Cleaning the drums and brakes on the rear about once a year can improve overall braking performance.

Do a preliminary dust-off. After removing the outer drum, the brake pads will be clearly visible. Brush them off with the toothbrush. Also brush off the inside of the outer drum brake with the toothbrush.

Pour a capful of brake cleaner onto the toothbrush, entirely saturating the bristles.

Brush off the brake pads with the moist brush. When the brush runs dry, pour another capful over it and continue. Once done with the pads, move on to the drums.

Clean the outer drums. Pour in enough brake fluid into the outer drum so that it can be swished around a bit. Brush the drum down with the toothbrush and scrub it out. Do this to both drums.

Wipe down the drums with the rag. This will remove any excess brake fluid. Now the drum brakes are clean and ready for action.


  • Always use brake cleaning fluid and never use an oil compound to clean brakes. An oil compound will soak into the brake pads and they will no longer grip the drum, causing brake loss and a possible accident.

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