Common Problems when Replacing Rear Brakes

Replacing brake shoes at home has always been a favorite task for driveway warriors. Sometimes we get more than we bargained for and run into an unexpected problem that seems insurmountable. Here we’ll discuss solutions to a common problem when replacing rear brake shoes.

Rear Brake Problems

The first thing to tackle is the two different types of rear brake systems found on modern cars and trucks. Chances are if you’re attempting these kinds of repairs you already know your automobile will have either disc brakes or drum brakes on the rear axle. Here we will talk about common issues with drum type brakes. Sidebar: If the automobile is equipped with ABS brakes it is irrelevant to the basic maintenance service of replacing brake shoes. This is because the anti lock functions are handled through the hydraulics that operates the drum brakes or calipers.

Rear Drums are Stuck On

One common problem when you try to do rear brake maintenance yourself is you get stuck at one of the very first steps. This is removing the drums to gain access to the brake shoes. One of the reasons that the drum can be difficult to remove is the rear brakes often wear out slowly and the drums have been on the automobile for a long period of time. To help us with this problem vehicle manufacturers started placing small threaded holes on opposite sides of the drum face.

The picture used in this article has a common example of the location of these holes. You will have to experiment to find bolts that fit properly as the size can vary between manufacturers. The important part about using these drum removal devices is to apply pressure equally by turning in the bolts at the same time. If you don’t have two wrenches or a wrench and a socket you can do small half turns one at a time.

Emergency Brake Holding the Drum On

There are situations where the threaded holes won’t overcome the problem or the vehicle isn’t equipped with them. So let’s talk about another reason for the drums to resist removal. The drums won’t come off if the emergency brake is applied. The first step in resolving this problem is to verify the cable and the apply mechanism is working properly.

Often an emergency brake cable or ratchet mechanism can hang up due to rust or corrosion. This could slightly apply the emergency brake without your knowledge. Although it is often possible to restore movement enough to get the emergency brakes to release, in severe situations you can cut the cables near the drums and replace them after the brake repairs are done.

Rear Drums Still Won’t Come Off

If the rear brake shoes are metal to metal or if the drums haven’t been off the vehicle in 50,000 – 100,000 miles a ridge can develop. The ridge is actually an unworn part of the drum. It Develops on the inside edge where there is no contact with the friction material. In this situation it’s the shoes holding the drum in position. A telltale sign of this condition is when you pry on the drum and it moves slightly but springs back into position.

If this is the case you might have to manually back off on the rear brake self adjusting mechanism. An access hole is supplied on the backing plate that holds the rear brake shoes and hardware in place. Unfortunately the star adjuster has a lock on it that prevents it from moving in the loosening direction. You might have to strip the star wheel adjuster or break the lock tab if you can’t push it out of the way at the same time you operate the star adjuster. A quality rear brake hardware kit will include these items if you need to replace them. Also note that having a special tool called a brake spoon can make the task easier.