How to Change Drum Brakes

Most cars in recent years come equipped with rear drum brakes, and eventually, you will have to know how to change the drum brakes on your car or pay a mechanic to do the job. Installing brake shoes will almost certainly require you to have access to special drum brake tools, but with these tools you should be able to install a new set of brake shoes in less than an hour by following the 5 steps below.

Things You'll Need:

  • Tire lug wrench
  • Hammer
  • Jack
  • Brake spring tool
  • Brake shoe removal tool
  • 2 Jack stands
  • Wheel puller
  • Brake parts cleaner
  • New brake shoes

Step 1 – Prepare your Vehicle

Before raising your car off the ground to begin changing its brake shoes, you will need to loosen the lug nuts of the wheels on which you plan to install new shoes. Loosening them while the car's tires are resting on the ground will make it easier for you to loosen these tight nuts. Secure your vehicle by putting the gear shift lever into the "park" position and depress the parking brake. If the wheel cover is still on the wheel, remove it. With your lug wrench, on the first lug nut of your wheel, turn the wrench counterclockwise just enough to break the nut loose. Follow this procedure on the other lug nuts on the wheel.  

Step 2 – Raise your Car Wheels off the Ground

If you'll be working on the rear wheels, jack up the car's rear end enough to place jack stands under the car's frame, then lower the car until it is resting on the jack stands. Check to be sure the car is resting securely on the stands by pushing it with your foot. If the car is stable it will not move or shift when pushed.

Step 3 – Remove the Wheel

With your lug wrench, remove all the lug nuts on one wheel and pull the wheel off the axle spindle. Then, pull off the wheel drum. Corrosion may have collected inside the drum, making it difficult to remove. If you have difficulty removing it, you can usually loosen it by hitting it with a hammer on all sides of the drum. If after hitting it with a hammer it still refuses to come off, you may need to use a wheel puller.

Step 4 – Remove the Old Brake Shoes

Use the brake spring tool to remove the retainer springs for each of the two brake shoes. To remove the springs, pull the rear part of the retainer pin and position the removal tool over the retainer spring so that the tool has hooked the spring, then turn the tool counterclockwise until the spring releases. This will free the shoes, and you should then be able to pull them loose.

Step 5. Attach the New Shoes

Attach the new shoes, then replace the drum, the wheel, and the lug nuts. Tighten the nuts enough that they hold the wheel firmly in place. When finished use the same procedure to install new shoes on the second wheel. Then, when you have completed that wheel, you can lower the car and test your new brakes.