How to Change Drum Brakes on Vehicles

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

One of the most vital systems on your Vehicles is its brakes. Failure to maintain the brakes on your Vehicles can greatly impact your safety as well as others on the road. Like many cars, the brakes used on the Vehicles rear wheels are drum brakes. This is a braking system where the brake pads are located inside a drum and push out against the drum when the brakes are engaged. You can change the drum brakes yourself with the right tools and knowledge.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change Drum Brakes on a Neon

Loosen the lug nuts on the rear wheels of your Neon with a lug wrench, but do not remove them from the studs. Raise the rear of the car until the tires are off the ground several inches, using a jack, then place a set of jack stands under the rear suspension to support the car.

Remove the lug nuts from the wheel studs and set them aside. Pull the tires off the car and set them off to one side for now.

Locate the inspection hole in the brake drum backing plate from the back side. Insert a small flat screwdriver into the hole and lift the adjuster tang slightly, then slide a brake spoon into the hole and turn the adjuster down, pulling the brake shoes away from the drum.

Grasp the drum with both hands and pull it straight off the brake shoes. Install the new drum, sliding it over the shoes and wheel studs. Push it all the way on until it bottoms out on the wheel hub and will not go any farther.

Turn the brake adjuster with the brake spoon until the shoes just start to drag on the new drum when you rotate it. Move to the opposite side and repeat the process.

Install the wheels on the car, followed by the lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts with a lug wrench. Raise the car off the jack stands with a jack. Remove the jack stands from under the car and lower the jack , setting the car on the ground.

Tighten the lug nuts with the weight on the tires. After several days of normal driving, recheck the lug nuts to ensure they have not loosened up.

Items you will need

  • Lug wrench

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Flat screwdriver

  • Brake spoon

 How to Change the Drum Brakes on a Honda Civic

Park the Civic on a firm, flat surface. Engage the emergency brake and shift the car into "Park" if it's an automatic or in second gear if it's a stick shift.

Loosen the lug nuts on the rear wheels but do not remove them.

Raise the rear of the Civic with a jack and place jack stands underneath the outer frame. Slowly lower the car onto the jack stands.

Remove the lug nuts from the rear wheels with a lug nut wrench and take the tires off of the car. Work on one side of the car from this point forward.

Screw two 8 mm bolts into the holes on the front of the brake drum. Alternate turning each bolt two revolutions at a time until the brake drum comes off of the wheel hub.

Clean the brake drum and wheel hub with brake wash. Wear safety goggles and gloves and avoid direct contact with the dirt from the brakes as it may contain asbestos.

Disconnect the springs that hold the brake pads onto the wheel hub. Start with the bottom spring: press down on the spring and turn the pin that holds the shoes in place with a screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Remove the front brake shoe from the wheel hub. Disconnect the rear brake pad from the parking brake cable.

Remove the U-clip that connects the parking brake arm to the brake shoe by prying it off with the needle-nose pliers. If the hardware is too damaged to use the pliers on it, grind it off with a Dremel drill but do not grind down the pin.

Clean the wheel hub with brake wash. Apply brake grease to the locations on the wheel hub where the brake shoes make contact.

Slide the new brake pads into position on the wheel hub.

Reassemble the brake by reversing the process that you used to disassemble it. Repeat this procedure on the wheel on the other side of the car.

Remount the tires onto the wheel hubs then tighten the lug nuts with the lug nut wrench.

Raise the Civic off of the jack stands with the jack, remove the stands then slowly lower the car to the ground.

Items you will need

  • Lug wrench

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • 8 mm bolts (2)

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Brake wash

  • Safety goggles

  • Gloves

  • Screwdriver

  • Needle-nose pliers

  • Dremel drill (Optional)

  • Brake grease

  • Brake pads

 How to Change Drum Brakes on a Chevy Tahoe

Losen the lug nuts on the Tahoe's rear wheels without removing them yet. Then raise the Tahoe's rear end on jack stands. Block the front wheels and remove both of the rear wheels. Release the parking brake.

Remove the brake drum, cutting off the pressed metal washers with a strong cutting tool. If the drum won't come off because the drum shoes have worn into the drum, retract the shoes by removing the access plug from the backing plate. Push the lever off the adjuster star wheel with a small screwdriver and turn the star wheel with another screwdriver.

Clean off the entire assembly with brake system cleaner, using a drain pan to catch the residue. Never blow away brake dust with compressed air.

Detach the spring from the adjuster level from within the drum by gripping it with pliers. Then pull out the retractor spring from the hole in each drum shoe.

Remove the trailing shoe and adjuster lever. Remove the adjuster screw assembly. Pull away the retractor spring and remove the leading shoe. Disconnect the trailing shoe from the parking brake lever.

Clean off the backing plate and lightly lubricate its shoe contact areas with high-temperature grease. Clean the adjuster screw assembly and lubricate the threads and socket end.

Inspect the condition of the drum itself. If there are any cracks, score marks, deep scratches or discolored areas that can't be removed with an Emory cloth, have the drum resurfaced at an automotive machine shop.

Attach the new trailing shoe to the parking brake lever, position it on the backing plate and install the retractor spring's end into its hole. Re-install the adjuster screw assembly, making sure it engages with the leading shoe. Lubricate and install the adjuster level on the trailing shoe.

Place the trailing shoe on the backing plate, making sure it properly engages with the adjuster screw assembly, and insert the retractor spring into its hole within the trailing shoe. Place the actuator spring within its hole in the leading shoe, stretch the spring and connect it to the adjuster level.

Install the drum back on the Tahoe. Turn the adjuster screw's star wheel until the drum slips over the shoes without rubbing them. Reconnect the wheels once the brakes are changed on both sides and lower the vehicle.

Items you will need

  • Lug wrench

  • Jack stands

  • Metal cutting tool

  • Screwdrivers

  • Brake cleaner

  • Drain pan

  • Pliers

  • High temperature grease

  • Drum brake shoes

 How to Change Drum Brakes on a Chevy Cobalt

Lift the Cobalt at the rear wheel by placing the jack head onto a frame rail and pumping the lever until the wheel is in the air. (Do not place the jack onto the body or suspension.) Secure the jack with a jack stand in the same location.

Remove the rear wheel by turning the lug nuts counterclockwise. Take the wheel off of the hub and place it away from the work area.

Remove the drum by turning the keeper screw counterclockwise and sliding the drum from the brake assembly. Inspect the interior drum surface for scarring or pitting, and inspect the wheel cylinder on the brake assembly for leaks.

Remove the shoes by levering off the long springs with a screwdriver or brake tool, then turning the spring bolts in the center of each shoe counterclockwise. The shoes will slide off, directly away from the backing plate.

Replace the shoes with new units by pressing them into the brake assembly, then securing them with the spring bolts and long springs. Resurface or replace the drum and slide it over the shoes until it reaches the backing plate. Turn the keeper screw clockwise.

Replace the wheel by turning the lug nuts clockwise, in an alternating pattern. Remove the jack stand and lower the Cobalt from the jack by turning the pressure screw counterclockwise.

Repeat the procedure on the opposite brake.

Items you will need

  • Socket set

  • Screwdrivers

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stand

  • Lug wrench

  • Brake tool

 How to Change the Drum Brakes on a 2001 Cavalier

Secure the front wheels using the wheel chocks and release the parking brake. Position the floor jack under the rear axle and lift the rear of the Cavalier until the wheels are almost off the ground. Loosen the rear lug nuts, and raise the wheels off the ground. Remove the rear wheels.

Slide the brake drums off of the rear brake shoes. If the drums are stuck, a few sharp blows with a hammer will break them free of any corrosion around the rear hub. Clean the brake shoes with brake parts cleaner to remove the dust from the brake system. The dust in the brake system should never be removed with compressed air. It is harmful to breath the dust created by car brake systems.

Remove the return springs that attached to the pivot pin at the top of the brake system using a return spring tool, from the set, to pry them over the pivot pin. Use a screwdriver to pry the spring from the lower edge of the self-adjuster arm and remove the rod that attaches the adjuster arm to the pivot pin. Remove the parking brake strut that is located below the wheel cylinder and connects the parking brake lever on one side to the brake shoe on the other side of the set.

Pull the lower edges of the brake shoes apart and allow the self adjuster to drop out of the shoes. Remove the self adjuster spring from the lower ends of the shoes. Remove the hold-down springs using the hold-down spring tool from the set. Pull the brake shoes from the backing plate. Clean and lubricate the backing plate using brake parts cleaner and silicon brake grease.

Install the parking brake lever from the old shoes onto the new shoes. Position the new shoes onto the backing plate and attach them to the backing plate with the hold down springs. Slip the parking brake strut into place between the lever and the shoes. Place the adjuster rod onto the adjuster lever and pivot pin, and attach the shoes to the pivot pin using the return springs.

Install the spring on the lower edge of the adjuster lever. Install the lower spring on the lower ends of the brake shoes. Pull the brake shoes apart and slip the self adjuster into place between the lower ends of the shoes. Slide the drum onto the shoes to check the fit. Adjust the shoes by rotating the self adjuster until the drum just fits onto the shoes.

Repeat the process for the opposite side of the brake system. Reinstall the wheels. Torque the lug nuts to 80 ft-lbs. using a torque wrench. Lower the car from the jack stands and test drive to check the function of the brake system.

Items you will need

  • Wheel chocks

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Lug wrench

  • Hammer

  • Brake tool set

  • Silicon brake grease

  • Brake parts cleaner

  • Torque wrench

 How to Replace Drum Brakes on a GMC Truck

Park the vehicle on a level surface and turn off its ignition. Set the two wheel chocks in front of the two front wheels. Loosen the wheel's lug nuts using the tire iron, turning counterclockwise. Raise the rear end of your truck with the jack and set the jack stands under both sides of the rear axle. Lower your truck onto the stands with the jack. Remove the lug nuts on your rear wheels with the tire iron. Slide the rear wheels off the the truck and pull the brake drum off the hub.

Locate the adjuster spring on the top half of the brake assembly. Remove the spring with the pliers and detach the retractor spring that links the shoes.

Slide out the rear-facing shoe manually, along with the adjuster lever and the assembly for the adjuster screw. Remove the parking lever from the brake shoe. Move the retractor spring to the side and remove the forward-facing shoe. Repeat the Steps 1 through 3 for the remaining wheel(s).

Insert new brake shoes into both drums and reverse the instructions you followed above to restore all of the drum brake components to their original positions. Slide the drum back onto the wheel.

Twist the star wheel on the adjuster screw clockwise with a flat-head screwdriver to tighten it and gain enough clearance for the drum to go over the shoes. Replace the vehicle's wheels and tighten the lug nuts by hand, turning clockwise. Lower your truck with the jack and remove the jack stands. Tighten the lug nuts with the tire iron.

Items you will need

  • 2 wheel chocks

  • Jack

  • 2 jack stands

  • Tire iron

  • Pliers

  • Flat-head screwdriver

  • New drum brake shoes

 How to Replace the Drum Brakes on a Chevrolet Silverado

Disassemble

Jack the axle up until the wheel is off the ground, then place a jack stand under the axle for added safety. Remove the lug nuts by turning them counterclockwise with the lug wrench, and lift the wheel off to gain access to the brake system.

Remove the drum from the brake system. It can be stubborn; if so, try hitting the edge of the drum with a sharp blow from a hammer, which will free the drum of any rust that has built up around the axle.

Remove the old shoes by removing the return down springs that attach the shoes to the anchor pin at the top of the assembly. This will allow the self-adjuster and parking brake spreader bar to fall free. Remove the primary and secondary shoes by releasing the hold-down springs attaching them to the backing plate. The secondary shoe is attached to the parking brake lever by a U-shaped clip; remove this clip.

Clean the hardware and backing plate with brake parts cleaner, and let it dry completely. From here on, pay attention to cleanliness. Avoid contaminating the shoes with dirt and grease, which can cause groaning and shudder of the brakes.

Reassemble

Lubricate the contact points, the three raised areas on each side of the backing plate, with brake grease.

Begin installing the new secondary shoe, the longer of the two shoes. It goes on the side of the assembly closest to the rear of the vehicle. Attach the shoe to the parking brake lever, then attach it to the backing plate with a hold-down spring.

Install the primary shoe to the backing plate with a hold-down spring. Make sure both shoes are positioned on the contact points of the backing plate and lined up on the anchor pin.

Install the parking brake spreader bar, self-adjuster cable and return springs. The parking brake spreader goes between the two shoes, at the top, and attaches the primary shoe to the parking brake lever. The loop on the adjuster cable slips over the anchor pin and is held in place by the return springs.

Install the self-adjuster return spring in the lower holes of the shoes, and slip the self-adjuster into place by spreading the shoes slightly. Install the star wheel side first, then slip the long side into place on the shoe.

Install the drum, and check the brakes for adjustment. Rotate the star wheel until the shoes are adjusted to fit the drum. There should be a slight drag when you rotate the drum. You've attained the proper fit when the wheel rotates about one turn before stopping when you spin it.

Reinstall the wheel by tightening the lug nuts in a star pattern, and lower the car to the ground. Check the tightness of the lug nuts, then test-drive the car.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Lug wrench

  • Hammer

  • Brake parts cleaner

  • Brake grease

  • New shoes

  • Hold-down spring tool

  • Return spring tool

  • Brake adjustment tool

 How to Replace Drum Brakes on the 1997 F-150

Block the front wheels with wheel blocks. Loosen the lug nuts with a lug wrench. Raise the rear end of the vehicle with a jack and secure it with jack stands. Remove the wheels and set aside.

Remove the brake drum by pulling it away from the vehicle. Tap around the lug studs with a rubber hammer is necessary to loosen the drum. Spray the brake assembly with brake cleaner before removing any parts.

Remove the secondary retracting spring with a screwdriver. Remove the primary spring and set aside. Disengage and remove the brake shoe adjustment lever on the bottom of the brake assembly using your hands.

Remove the brake shoe adjustment spring and assembly with your fingers. Use your fingers and remove the top brake shoe adjustment cable from the anchor pin. Remove the guide plate, pin, and parking brake link spring with your fingers. Remove the front brake shoe hold down spring assembly using a screwdriver. Remove the rear brake shoe hold down spring assembly. Remove the brake shoes and set aside.

Lubricate the brake shoe contact points on the drum with high temperature brake grease. Install the new brake shoe and secure it with the front and rear hold down assemblies. Install the guide plate, pin, and parking brake link spring with your fingers.

Install the brake shoe adjustment cable and secure it to the anchor pin using your fingers. Install the primary and secondary retracting spring with your fingers and a screwdriver if necessary.

Install the brake drum by sliding it over the brake shoes. Tap it lightly with a rubber hammer if necessary to secure it.

Install the wheel and secure the lug nuts with a lug wrench. Remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle with a jack. Tighten the lug nuts securely with a lug wrench.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • Jack

  • Lug wrench

  • Jack stands

  • Brake grease

  • Brake cleaner

  • Rubber hammer

 How to Replace the Drum Brakes in My 1965 Mustang

Remove the wheel covers with the tapered end of the car's lug wrench. Loosen but do not remove the lug nuts on each wheel. Raise the car with a floor jack and place two jack stands under the power front suspension control arms and two jack stands under each side of the rear axle. Remove the lug nuts, remove the wheels and place them aside. Pull the brake drums straight off of each wheel hub. Use a rubber mallet to loosen the drums, if necessary.

Work on one corner of the car at a time to avoid mixing parts. Remove the two brake springs at the top and one at the bottom of the brake backing plate with a pair of pliers. Remove the two brake shoe retaining clips by pushing them in with a pair of vice grips, then twisting them 90 degrees. Pull the clip straight out. Remove the small springs from the brake shoe retaining pins. Pull the brake shoes and the adjustment mechanism at the bottom of the shoes straight off of the backing plate.

Remove the brake line from the back side of the wheel cylinder at the top of the back plate with a tubing wrench. Remove the retaining nuts from the wheel cylinder with a wrench. Remove the cylinder from the backing plate. Clean the backing plate with brake cleaner.

Attach a new wheel cylinder to the backing plate with the original retaining nuts. Attach the brake line to the back side of the cylinder with a tubing wrench. Position new brake shoes over the retaining pins on the backing plate. Push the small springs over the pins, then replace the clips with a pair of vice grips. Position the automatic adjuster in between the two brake shoes at the bottom. Stretch the two top springs and the bottom spring over the brake shoes.

Repeat the procedure for each corner of the car. Push new brake drums over each hub until they are fully seated. Replace the wheels and tighten the lug nuts. Raise the vehicle and remove the jack stands. Lower the car to the ground, then tighten the lug nuts with the lug wrench. Position the wheel covers into place on the wheels and knock them into place with a rubber mallet.

Items you will need

  • Lug wrench

  • 4 floor jacks

  • Rubber mallet

  • Pliers

  • Vice grips

  • Tubing wrench set

  • Wrench set

  • Brake cleaner

  • Wheel cylinders (one for each wheel)

  • Brake shoes (two per wheel)

  • Drum brake installation kit (one per wheel)

  • Brake drum (one per wheel)

 How to Replace the Drum Brakes on a Kia

Loosen the lug nuts on both rear wheels with a lug nut wrench. Jack up the rear of the car and set the car on jack stands. Remove the rear wheels.

Remove the four nuts that hold the drum. Pull the drum straight off the hub. If the drum is stuck, locate the two threaded jacking holes in the drum, thread two 8 mm bolts into these holes and tighten the bolts to jack the drum off of the brake assembly.

Detach the adjuster lever spring by using pliers to grip the spring end and unhook it from the adjuster lever. Remove the lower return spring in the same way.

Turn the adjuster star wheel to relieve the spring tension on the brake shoes. Remove the star wheel by moving it up from between the two brake shoes. Remove the upper return spring by gripping it with pliers and unhooking the spring ends from the brake shoes. Take care not to damage the dust cover on the brake cylinder.

Remove the two hold-down pins that hold each shoe to the backing plate. Use a large screwdriver to rotate each pin clockwise until it lines up with the groove in the hold-down pin clip then slide it straight out. Remove the hold-down pins by slipping them through the grooves in the clips then remove the hold-down pin clips.

Pull the primary brake shoe off of the backing plate then pull out the secondary brake shoe assembly. Remove the parking brake cable from the secondary shoe by removing the retaining clip with pliers then pulling the cable off. Use a large screwdriver to spread the control lever retaining clip then grasp the clip with pliers and pull it off. Pull the control lever off of the secondary brake shoe.

Measure the inside diameter of the brake drum with a drum micrometer. The drum should be round, meaning that the diameter should be the same, no matter which direction the diameter is measured. The interior surface of the drum should not have any deep grooves or cracks.

Clean the backing plate with sandpaper and brake cleaning fluid. Unscrew the halves of the star wheel, clean the parts with brake cleaning fluid and lubricate the threads with high-temperature brake grease before screwing the parts back together again. Also apply brake grease to the points where the brake shoes contact the backing plate.

Reassemble the brake with the new brake shoes by reversing the steps above. Use the wheel on the opposite side, as a reference, to help you remember where all the parts should go. Remount the wheel. Pump the brakes several times to set the self-adjusting mechanism. Repeat the procedure on the opposite wheel to complete the job then lower the vehicle.

Items you will need

  • Lug nut wrench

  • Car jack

  • Jack stands

  • Wrenches

  • Hammer

  • Large screwdriver

  • Pliers

  • Anti-seize compound

  • Brake cleaner spray

  • Sandpaper

  • High-temp brake grease

  • Drum micrometer or large Vernier caliper, capable of measuring 10 inches inside and outside