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Your Brake shoes worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Safe braking with the drum: brake shoes
Brake shoes support brake linings with their friction surfaces in drum brakes. They are often found on the rear axle of compact and midsize cars and are still very significant for parking brakes.
A great advantage for the cars of yore
Until deep in the 60ies the drum brake was standard in cars as it was technically simple and very trustworthy. Furthermore, its encapsulated construction kept it free of dirt and moisture. With engine performances increasing, the drum brake soon reached its technical limit: its construction with friction surfaces, operating in a closed box makes the drum brake very susceptible to a specific condition: overheating. The friction heat cannot escape in a closed brake drum unlike in an open disc brake. This can cause a sudden failure of the drum brake. In the 60ies, driving downhill with a fully loaded car was a risk. For this reason, the cheap drum brakes were gradually banned to the rear axle. Because rear wheel brakes only provide 30 % of the total brake performance, malfunctions in this area were neither critical nor probable.
Brake shoes – drum brake component
Brake shoes are semi-circular components made of cast brass. On one side they are fitted with brake linings. These are generally riveted, glued or screwed on, which theoretically makes used brake shoes fit for use by applying a new lining. This only pays off in cars for which the spare part supply is problematic. For average cars from the big series, brake shoes are very cheaply available in the accessory trade.
Brake shoe wear
A worn brake shoe makes itself heard by a grinding noise. This should never be ignored because otherwise the brake drum risks damage as well. Furthermore, the car's overall brake performance will be 20 to 30% lower.
Replacement of brake shoes
To replace brake shoes, the rear wheel is removed, the brake drum opened and the internal mechanism disassembled. Brake shoes are always sold as a repair kit. The split pin and spring are replaced as well. This is always an excellent occasion for thorough cleaning and inspection of the entire drum brake. This specifically applies to the wheel brake cylinder. If it leaks oil or its rubber sleeves show cracks, this component needs replacement as well. The brake system is vented after wheel brake cylinder replacement. Prior to doing so, you can check the quality of the braking fluid with a testing strip. Principally, you should never save on brake maintenance and always perform a repair completely.
Brake shoes in the parking brake
A growing number of cars have brake discs on the rear axle and therefore many manufacturers install double systems: the brakes of the rear axles are often built as hybrid systems. For driving, the externally situated disc brake is applied. An additional drum brake functions as parking brake. For reasons of space and costs the drum brake is integrated in the disc brake, which is possible. Nevertheless the replacement of the brake disc automatically involves replacement of the brake drum. The wear of the brake shoes is nevertheless considerably less. They are now exclusively used for the parking brake. The usual grinding wear does not occur, making them last longer than the drum brakes of the past. Nevertheless, in case of replacement of the brake disc with integrated brake drum the drum's mechanism should at least be checked and cleaned. Especially the split pin and return spring are susceptible to corrosion and should therefore always be kept clean and intact. Replacing brake shoes in a parking brake involves replacement of the parking brake cable for safety reasons. A braking system always wears evenly. Therefore you play safe for a mere 15 EUR (c. £13), preventing every risk.
Costs for a brake shoe kit
Prices for a quality brake shoe kit from a branded manufacturer start at ca. 30 EUR (c. £26) per pair.