How to Change the Rear Drum Brakes on a Nissan Sentra

by Jody L. Campbell

Although they're not as easy to replace as front disk brakes, the rear drum brakes on your Nissan Sentra can be removed and replaced in the comfort of your driveway with the proper tools. It takes some hand dexterity and some technical know-how, but it's certainly an achievable task if you leave yourself enough time. A recommendation to beginners would be to remove both drums first and leave one side together intact with the shoes and hardware as a reference to the other side. Remove the shoes and hardware, then when reinstalling, you have a set still intact to go look at and help figure out how to put it back together and what springs go where.

Park the Sentra on a flat, level paved or concrete surface. Place the car in park or gear.

Place a wheel chock in front of one of the front tires. Break the lug nuts loose on both rear tires. Do not loosen the lug nuts too much and do not remove them.

Lift the rear of the Sentra using the floor jack and place a jack stand under the rocker panel on that side. Repeat the procedure for the other side so the entire rear axle is elevated. Remove the lug nuts and wheels from both sides.

Screw in the two 8-by-1.25 millimeter bolts into the small holes near the hub on the face of the drum. Tighten them inward using the ratchet and socket alternately. Three turns on one bolt, then three turns on the other. This will draw the drum from the hub. Remove the drum when it breaks free of the hub and remove the bolts. Repeat this procedure for the other drum.

Remove the retaining springs on each shoe of the left rear wheel first using the retaining spring tool in one hand while holding the retaining pin located on the backing plate with the other. Turn the retaining spring tool to the left until the slot in the cup of the retaining spring releases from the pin. Repeat this step for the other retaining spring on the other shoe.

Remove the upper and lower return springs that connect the shoes together and the adjuster spring at the very bottom using the brake spring pliers and or dikes. The entire rear brake assembly will now fall apart. Leave the right side intact as a reference to aide in putting the left back together.

Remove the retainer ring from the top of the outboard shoe (closest to the rear of the vehicle) using the dikes to pry it off. Remove the washer and remove the outboard shoe.

Remove the adjuster from the assembly and be sure to take note how your removed it in order to replace it in the same fashion. It is recommended to take the adjuster apart, clean it and apply lubricant to the threads inside before reinstalling.

Spray the backing plate with brake clean and spray the drums out with brake clean. Wipe the three contact points (for each shoe) on the backing plate that the shoes contact and apply a liberal coating of silicone brake lubricant to those points.

Reinstall the outboard shoe first, inserting the holding pin into the toggle lever through the hole in the shoe and locking it in with the washer and retaining ring. While holding it into place, replace the hold-down pin through the hole and replace the retainer spring and cup using the brake retaining spring tool until the slot in the cup feeds through the head of the pin and then turn the tool 1/2 turn to lock the pin in place. Repeat this step for the inboard pad.

Replace the upper and lower adjuster springs to hold the shoes into place. Replace the adjuster. You'll still be able to manipulate the shoes apart to fit in the adjuster. Make sure the adjuster lever is in place properly. Refer to the right side if you need to.

Replace the adjuster spring. Do not install the drum yet until you've completed the right side so you can refer to the left side again if needed.

When both sides are done, slide the new drums (or old drums if you're not replacing them) onto the rear shoes. If the drum slides easily, turn the star-wheel on the adjuster three or four click to extend the shoes apart and slip the drum on again. Do this until the drum had to be put onto the shoes with a little bit of force. Not too much force, but if you can slide the drum back off easily, you'll need to adjust the shoes outward a little more.

Replace the wheels and lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts as tight as you can with the wheels elevated and lower the Sentra. Torque the lug nuts in an alternate fashion using the adjustable torque wrench set at 80 foot pounds.

Remove the wheel chock and test drive.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.