How to Replace the Rear Brakes on a Sunfire

by John RoseUpdated November 07, 2017
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Car Brake image by Joelyn Pullano from

Items you will need

  • Brake spring remover

  • Brake spring pliers

  • Brake drum clearance gauge

  • Pliers

  • Brake cleaner

  • Automobile jack

  • Jack stand

  • Wheel chocks

  • Rubber mallet

The rear wheel brakes on a Pontiac Sunfire, like those on other cars, will wear much faster than the brakes in the front. When you change the rear brakes, you need to do both wheels at the same time regardless of the wear that is present. Changing the rear brakes is not hard, but you must do it properly or they won’t perform as they should. Inspect the drums for damage or excessive wear when you change the brakes, in case the drums need replacing as well.

Park the car on a level surface and place wheel chocks in front of the front wheels.

Jack the car up with an automobile jack on the side that you will be working on.

Place the jack stand under the frame of the car near the jacking point and raise it as high as you can to the frame.

Remove the wheel and the brake drum. If the drum is difficult to take off, hit it several times with a rubber mallet until it breaks free.

Use pliers to remove the round locking springs. Grip the top of the spring with the pliers, push the spring down, and twist it until it comes free.

Lift up the actuator and disconnect the actuator link by removing it from the slot in the actuator. Remove the actuator, the pivot and the spring when it is disconnected.

Spread the brake shoes apart with your hands until they clear the cylinder pistons, and then remove the parking brake strut by removing the spring with spring pliers.

Spread the brake shoes apart with your hands far enough to clear the wheel hub and disconnect the parking brake cable. Take the shoes off of the wheel.

Use pliers to remove the C clip from the parking brake lever, and remove it from the shoe.

Wipe dirt and dust from the backing plate with a damp cloth.

Examine the wheel cylinders to check for excessive leakage. If excessive leakage is present, they will need to be replaced.

Lubricate the parking brake lever with the brake grease provided with the brake shoes.

Reattach the parking brake lever to the shoe with a C clip.

Attach the adjusting screw and spring to the brake shoes using the spring pliers to clip it into place. Make sure the coils do not touch the star wheel on the adjuster.

Lubricate the shoe contact surface on the backing plate with brake grease.

Spread the shoe assembly apart and reconnect the parking brake cable to the lever. Attach the brake shoes to the backing plate and lock into them into place with the locking springs (by pushing them in with pliers and twisting).

Spread the shoes apart slightly with your hands and use spring pliers to reconnect the parking brake strut and the spring.

Install the actuator pivot, lever and return spring, and then lift the actuator lever up and hook it to the lever.

Measure the width of the inside of the drum and then measure the width of the brake shoes. Adjust them as needed by spinning the star screw on the adjuster until they reach the proper width.

Replace the drum over the brake shoes and reinstall the wheel.

Remove the jack stand and lower the car to the ground.

Repeat the process on the other wheel.


Wear safety glasses to prevent eye injuries in case a spring slips off the tools.


Spray the brakes with an approved cleaner before removing them, to eliminate the possibility of ingesting brake dust. Wash your hands thoroughly after working on your brakes.

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