Brake Shoes

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Brake Shoes

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What are brake shoes and where are they located?

Your vehicle’s brake shoes, also referred to as brake linings, are major components in a drum brake system.  A drum brake system consists of brake shoes, drums, backing plates, and wheel cylinders.  The brake drums bolt onto the wheel hubs and spin at the same rate as the wheels.  Inside each drum sits one wheel cylinder and two brake shoes, which are bolted to the backing plate.  When you press the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is transmitted from the brake master cylinder to the wheel cylinder, causing the pistons to expand, pushing the brake shoes against the inside surface of the drum.  The friction that this creates is what allows the vehicle to slow to a stop. In a nutshell, your vehicle’s brakes convert kinetic energy to thermal energy.

Most vehicles today have four brake discs.  However, at one time drum brakes were the standard for all vehicles, and rear drums are still found on many cars and trucks today.  If a car or truck is only equipped with brake drums, then each drum will have a set of two brake shoes for a total of four brake shoe sets on the vehicle — two in the front and two in the rear (for a total of eight brake shoes).  If a car or truck only has brake drums in the rear of the vehicle, the vehicle will have two front brake rotors and two rear brake drums, and therefore it will have a total of two sets of rear brake shoes (for a total of four brake shoes).

Automotive brake shoes consist of a brake lining and steel shoe; the brake lining is made up of a friction material formula bonded together by resin which is either riveted or bonded to the shoe. The friction material is usually made up of a mixture of organic and metallic materials such as zinc, brass, aluminum, graphite, and rubber. It is this friction material that makes contact with the drum which creates the friction needed to stop your vehicle.

One advantage of a drum brake system is that the brake shoes will generally last longer than pads in a disc brake system, since there is a larger friction material contact area. However, due to the design of drum brakes, they do not dissipate heat as well as a disc brake system. As heat builds within the drum, the brakes become less effective.

Emergency Brake Shoes

Many vehicles today with rear disc brakes use emergency or parking brake shoes rather than using the brake caliper. An emergency brake shoe system is essentially a mechanical drum brake system; the brake rotor is actually a rotor / drum combination. The brake shoes in these applications are generally the same as in a drum brake system, however a cable and lever is used instead of a wheel cylinder to push the shoes against the inside of the drum / rotor. Some vehicles, such as GM trucks and SUVs use a single emergency brake shoe per side rather than a pair.

How do I know my brake shoes need to be replaced?

Generally, brake shoes should be replaced when the liner reaches a thickness of 1/16 inch. It is recommended to inspect your vehicle’s brakes yearly, or every 15,000 miles. It is important to inspect all components such as the wheel cylinders, hardware, adjuster, cables, and backing plates for any signs of wear, rust, or corrosion. It is important to seek out replacement brake shoes as soon as they reach this predetermined thickness to prevent possible damage to your car or truck’s brake drums and to ensure proper braking. Being able to stop your car safely is equally as important as being able to start it. Not only will you be thankful, but those around will be as well.

Can I replace the brake shoes myself?

The brake shoes can be replaced by the average do-it-yourselfer. The job can be laborious depending on how old and rusted your brake drums are. The tools you’ll need include jack stands, sockets and a ratchet, a few bolts or a hammer, flat blade screwdriver, torque wrench, eye protection, brake parts cleaner, wire brush, and a pair of pliers. For the first step, you’ll need to jack up and secure the vehicle on jack stands. Then you want to remove the wheel. To access the brake shoes, you need to remove the brake drum, which can be done by either threading two bolts into the empty holes on the drum only to tighten and loosen them, or, if your drum is absent of bolt holes, you can remove the drum by tapping its perimeter with a hammer to jimmy it off. With the drum off, now is the perfect time to inspect the condition of the brake drum’s parts. It can be useful to have a set of new springs on hand in case any old ones need to be replaced. We recommend that if you’re going to replace one spring that you replace them all.

 To remove the shoes, pry out the upper spring from the first shoe. Then remove the adjustor. Then remove the clip from the bottom of the brake shoe, and remove the first brake shoe altogether. For the second shoe, pry off the clip that connects the shoe to the emergency brake. The second shoe should now be free.

Before reinstallation check to make sure that the new shoes match your old ones. Then clean out the interior of the drum with a wire brush. We recommend that you check the wheel cylinder for leakage at this time as well. Then line up the correct shoe with the parking brake. Press on the washer and clip and insert the shoe into place. Insert the pin into the shoe and press the spring and hat into place with a pair of pliers. Insert the spring and hat onto the second brake shoe, and then double check to make sure the shoes are in securely and properly. Fit the adjustor into place with its corresponding lever and tighten the upper spring into the lever. Then check to make sure the spring is secure and in place by rotating the adjustor’s wheel with a screwdriver. Listen for clicking, which means that the spring is properly aligned. Then insert the last spring into the bottom of the shoes.

When the shoes are in place, reinsert the drum brake and give it a few turns.  You should feel a little resistance as it turns.  If it feels too loose, simply turn the adjustor’s wheel with a screwdriver to tighten the brakes.  Then reinstall the wheel and tire and tighten the lug nuts to the recommended torque specifications.  Lastly, conduct a road test from 5 mph and 10 mph. 

Need brake shoe replacements?

Having properly functioning brakes on your car or truck is an absolute must for your own safety as well as for the safety of others.  Since brake shoes are an important component of a vehicle’s drum brake system, if they are worn out, then replacement brake shoes are needed ASAP.  At 1A Auto, we carry a full line of high quality aftermarket brake shoes, including both front brake shoes and rear brake shoes for many makes and models. The grades of stopping power of the brake shoes we carry range from everyday city driving to highway to severe heavy duty applications!  Each brake shoe is engineered to deliver unsurpassed performance and reliability, along with ensuring extended service life and quiet operation.  If you are looking for exacting quality, selection, and performance in a brake shoe then search no more — 1A Auto has the perfect answer for your braking needs!

At 1A Auto, we make shopping for a replacement brake shoe set for your car, truck, SUV or van easy — we're here to help you select the right part for your vehicle! Restore the safety of your vehicle and order a replacement brake shoe set from 1A Auto today!

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