How To Adjust Drum Brakes: The Steps to Follow

It is important you familiarize yourself with different parking brake systems. Although all systems accomplish the same goal, the design varies from one manufacturer to another. Some systems contain two or more adjustment points, and others only have one. You need to know the parking brake adjustment.

A common question on every car owner’s mind is how to adjust drum brakes without damaging the system. We will explain how you can accomplish the task without posing a risk to the entire braking system.

What Is Drum Brake?

Before going to know how to adjust drum brakes, it is important to know what the drum brake is and how it works. Let’s start with the definition of drum brakes. 

Drum brake is a brake that uses friction caused by a set of shoes or pads that press outward against a rotating cylinder shaped part called brake drum. The term drum brake usually means a brake in which shoes press on the inner surface of the drum. When shoes press on the outside of the drum, it is usually called a clasp brake. 

For many years, disc brakes have been  used at the front of the vehicles while drum brakes are used at the rear. With frequent maintenance, the drum brakes can last for long. So drum brake adjustment makes sure that the brake does not drag when driving. And many people choose self adjusting brakes at home. That’s why this article introduces to you how to adjust drum brakes on truck

How Do Drum Brakes Work?

Let’s take a look at the operating principles of the drum brakes before going deep into the method of adjusting rear drum brakes

Drum brakes consist of hydraulic wheel cylinders, brake shoes and a brake drum. When the brake pedal is applied the two curved brake shoes, which have a friction material lining, are forced by hydraulic wheel cylinders against the inner surface of a rotating brake drum.

When you are driving, and you step on the brake pedal, the power is amplified by the brake booster and changed into hydraulic pressure by the master cylinder. The pressure reaches the brakes on the wheels through tubing filled with brake fluid. The delivered pressure pushes the pistons on the brakes of the four wheels.

The pistons press the brake linings, which are friction materials, against the inside surfaces of the brake drums which rotate with the wheels. The linings are pressed on the rotating drums, which in turn decelerate the wheels, thereby slowing down and stopping the vehicle. If there is any problem with each part of the brake, you need to make adjusting drum brakes by backing up.

Check the video below to see more how drum brake work!

What Can Affect the Drum Brake System?

When you are driving under normal conditions, the friction between the brake shoe and drum will remove the brake material from the shoe. Once the brake material deteriorates beyond its limits, the brake pedal will travel downward, which will give the feeling the brakes are not working.

In case, your car’s parking brake does not hold or cause the brake pedal to travel to the end of its throw; then it is a clear indication the rear brake shoes need adjustment. In short, it is an important thing to know before you understand how to adjust drum brakes.


Before we help you understand how to adjust the drum brakes, firstly you need to use a floor jack and raise the car. Then, you would need to remove the tires and reinstall them after the work completes.

How To Adjust Drum Brakes In Your Car

Firstly, the parking brakes are a part of a more extensive system known as the drum brakes. Automobile manufacturers have preferred drum brakes from the last 100 years. You should see the shoe is the star of the drum brake system.

It offers sufficient friction against the drum, which stops the car when one-steps on the brake pedal.

The drum brake system is useful in only the rear wheels these days, as they are not much efficient and require much maintenance than the one available these days.

Let us now find out how to adjust drum brakes without damaging the system. You can browse online to find the best maintenance tips for your car brake system.

1.Removing The Brake Drum

Once you remove the car wheel, use a small chisel with a hammer to remove the damaged dust cap. In some cars, the drum will easily slide off or held in place by a thin metal sheet, which you should remove before the drum. Make sure to remove the drum using a twist and pull motion. It will help to release the unit from the axle and brake shoes.

2. Clean The Brakes

You should use regular water to do away with the harmful dust particles and allow it to dry. Wipe out any water from the axle. In case, you are using a garden hose during the cleanup, do not blow the brake dust into the air when the pressure hits the brake shoe. It is a crucial step to remember if you want to know about adjusting drum brakes without any hassle.

3. Check The Brake Shoes

Make sure to check the thickness of the brake shoes to the new brake shoes, as each shoe can be a little different and might require a thorough comparison. Do not forget this step, as it is essential for you to get matching brake shoes.

4. Removing Brake Shoes

Now remove the brake shoes by identifying the primary brake shoes spring. We recommend you use a pair of side cutters and grasp the spring, and pull it towards the brake shoe.

You need to use a pair of needle-nose pliers to release the brake shoe hold-down clips, as there will be one on each brake shoe. It is a good idea to use a brake shoe tool for the job.

Once, you release both the brake shoes, grasp both the shoes firmly, and pull outward. It will allow the shoes to separate from the backing plate. Once the brake shoes are free from the backing plate, remove the parking brake cable spring downward and release the cable from the parking brake arm.

At last, the brake shoe would become free from the backing plate. It is a crucial step to remember when you want to know about how to adjust drum brakes.

5. Replacing The Wheel Cylinder

Keep the wheel cylinder in good condition, as poor maintenance will cause it to leak and ruin the new brake shoes. In case you have a new car, then you can wait until the next brake maintenance. However, if the wheel cylinder is leaking, then there is no doubt it needs replacement. Remember if the wheel cylinder fails, then you will surely lose a part of the braking system pressure, which can lead to an ugly situation while driving.

6. Installing New Brake Shoes

You should use a medium-size flat surface to start the spring and e-brake lever change onto the new brake shoes. Note the location of both the springs and shoes, as it is an excellent time to use a new spring hardware kit, especially if the brakes are a bit hot. You should know that springs can quickly lose their power if the vehicle is too hot.

7. Reinstalling / Repairing the Brake Drum

Before installing the brake drums, it needs replacement to create a square surface for the new shoe to connect when applying the brakes. Make sure to install the brake drum with a spinning motion. Move the shoe outward every time you hear the shoemaking contact with the drum. In short, the drum needs to spin freely with minimal contact with the brake shoe.

8. Checking The Brake Fluid

Now, lift the car hood and find the brake master cylinder’s fluid reserve. Clean the brake master cylinder top of using a towel, then loose and remove the lid. You should follow this important tip to know how to adjust rear drum brakes without hassle.

9. Set the Rear Brake Shoes

After work done on both the wheels, the brake shoes are ready to set to the drum brake system. Utilize your foot and hold the brake pedal down.


Adjusting drum brakes is not an easy job. Hence, you must follow each of the steps mentioned above to know how to adjust drum brakes without any hassles. Follow our maintenance tips for more information about car treating!