Brake Drum And Shoe Replacement For Trucks In 7 Steps

For car owners, it can be intimidating to replace drum brakes. Unlike its disc brake counterpart, the assembly is much more complicated and usually takes longer. Furthermore, drum brakes aren’t replaced nearly as often since they are built to last much longer – up to 100K-150K miles. This may be why many novice mechanics are unaware of how the procedure works.

You can confidently begin disassembly by breaking down how a drum brake works and understanding each part. Begin by removing the rear tires, axle nut, and axle glove before disconnecting the brake line from the backing plate. Read on and learn step by step guide to replacing brake drums most easily.

When should drum brake shoes be replaced?

Drum brake shoes should be replaced when worn down beyond a certain point. The exact mileage or time interval for replacement can vary depending on your driving habits, vehicle model, and road conditions. However, a general guideline is to replace drum brake shoes when they have reached a thickness of around 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch (1.5 to 3 mm) or less.

Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to replace drum brake shoes:

  1. Squealing or Squeaking: When you hear a high-pitched squealing or squeaking noise when you apply the brakes, the brake shoes are getting worn. A small metal tab often causes this noise, called a “wear indicator,” which rubs against the drum when the shoes are thin.
  2. Reduced Braking Performance: If you notice that your vehicle’s braking performance has decreased, it could be due to worn brake shoes. You might need to apply the brake pedal harder or notice that the vehicle takes longer to come to a complete stop.
  3. Vibration or Pulsation: Worn brake shoes can cause vibrations or pulsations in the brake pedal when you apply the brakes. This can indicate uneven wear and the need for replacement.
  4. Visible Wear: If you inspect the brake drum through the inspection hole or by removing the wheel, you can visually assess the thickness of the brake shoes. If they appear significantly thinner compared to new ones, it’s time for replacement.
  5. Brake Warning Light: Some vehicles have a brake warning light on the dashboard that might illuminate when the brake shoes are worn. Check your vehicle’s manual for details about this warning light.
  6. Irregular Wear Pattern: If the brake shoes wear unevenly, it could be due to misadjusted or sticking brake components. Addressing these issues and replacing the shoes may be necessary.

It’s essential to consult your vehicle’s manual for manufacturer-specific recommendations regarding brake shoe replacement intervals. Regular brake inspections during routine maintenance visits can help you catch wear early and address it before it becomes a safety concern. If you’re unsure about the condition of your drum brake shoes, it’s advisable to have a professional mechanic inspect them and recommend replacement if needed.

Here is How to Replace the Brakes Drum and Shoe

1. Wear Safety Items

If you’re ever feeling uneasy about changing your drum brakes on a car, it’s simply because these types of shoes can release dusty, hazardous materials if done incorrectly. This task should be done by an experienced mechanic or by someone who is very aware of potential safety hazards, including exposure to poisonous gasses and other harmful particles.

Replacing brake shoes can also be damaging, so taking all necessary precautions is important when performing the service.

Prepping your car can make the entire process go more smoothly. Remove the wheel covers, loosen the lug nuts, and remove the old shoes before replacing them with new ones. If you’re working on pre-1990 vehicles with old brake shoes, wear safety goggles and a mask to limit exposure to potentially fatal particles. The last thing you need is someone getting injured as they work on your car.

2. Check the Brake Drum

After removing the wheel and brake drum, some force may be necessary to remove it from the axle hub as it can often become stuck. A penetrating oil like PB Blaster can help get it loose. If that doesn’t work, a moderate tap with a hammer on the face of the drum is an accepted method to break it free. In rare cases, cutting off the brake drum completely may be required.

For vehicles with front-wheel-drive, their hubs come with cone bearings which require the removal of the spindle nut along with the rotor and drum. Be sure to remove any drum retaining screws or wheel stud clips before attempting to slide off the brake drum for inspection. After the inspection is complete and the results are satisfactory, all parts can be put back together following reverse steps for reassembly.

3. Take off Brake Shoes and Hardware

Removing brake shoes and hardware can be tricky, so care must be taken to ensure the proper removal. The brake shoes are held in place by holding down and return springs with extremely high tension. Therefore, It is highly recommended that special tools are used to make removal and reinstallation easier.

Furthermore, one should take detailed pictures or consult a specific repair manual for their vehicle to ensure everything is the right way up and in the correct orientation before installation begins.

It is also important to note that when removing the old brake shoes, any debris should be disposed of properly, as some bits may contact the new shoe if not taken care of.

After all parts have been removed, it may be time to proceed with installing the new brake shoes and associated hardware, such as self-adjusting cables and springs. If done correctly, this should complete the process, but always use caution while working on brakes to avoid injury and other unexpected incidents.

4. Clean the Brakes

The brake shoes and related components are the most important parts of any brake system, and it is important to inspect and clean them thoroughly before beginning a brake job. During this inspection, it is essential to replace any springs that appear worn or damaged and to check for any signs of wetness around the rubber ends or cracked seals on the wheel cylinders. If these are present, replacement of the wheel cylinder should be considered.

It is also important to remember that problems such as a failed wheel cylinder may only present themselves after completing the brake job. For this reason, it is wise to replace components such as wheel cylinders or other parts that become saturated in brake fluid if they display signs of wear. Doing so will help ensure smooth and reliable braking performance during everyday driving.

5. Reassemble the Drum and Shoe System

Now that the components are cleaned and inspected, it is time to begin reassembling the brake drum and shoe system. Be sure to use a torque wrench when tightening nuts or screws to avoid over-tightening them.

During this step, refer to any pictures taken during disassembly and your repair manual to ensure all parts are in the correct order and orientation.

Once all components have been reassembled, it is time for a test drive. Be sure to practice safe driving habits, especially when braking hard or quickly, as this may cause damage if the system is not properly installed. The brakes should feel smooth and respond well during normal and emergency stops. It is recommended to consult a mechanic for further inspection if any issues are noticed.

6. Adjust the Brakes

Adjusting the brakes is just as crucial as cleaning and reassembling them. After replacing the drums and shoes, it is important to fine-tune the braking system to ensure it works correctly. To adjust the brakes, locate the brake adjustment hole in the backing plate on either side of the vehicle.

While rotating the wheel clockwise by hand, insert a flathead screwdriver into the brake adjustment hole and turn it counterclockwise. This will move the shoes closer to the drum and increase their friction, increasing braking power.

Once the brakes have been adjusted, it is important to test them out. When applying pressure to the pedal, there is no sound or other signs of wear on either side of the drum or shoes. If any issues arise during the test drive, consult a mechanic for further inspection and repair.

7. Test Drive

When you test drive a car, it is important to ensure the brake pedal feels normal. If the pedal seems low, the brake shoes may need more adjustment or additional Bleeding. Make sure the brake pedal travel is normal before Test Driving. Apply the brake pedal lightly during the initial Test Drive.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1. How Long Do Brake Shoes Last On A Truck?

Brake shoes typically last between 30,000 and 35,000 miles on a truck. Factors such as the type of driving, road conditions, and maintenance can affect the lifespan of brake shoes. Regular inspection for wear and tear should be done every six months or 6,000 miles to ensure safe brakes. If brake shoes are worn out before the recommended mileage, it may indicate a problem with other components in the system.

2. What Is The Difference Between A Drum Brake And A Disc Brake?

Drum brakes use a metal drum that rotates as the brake pedal is applied, while disc brakes use two metal plates that are pressed together by the brake pedal. This difference in design reduces wear and tear on the braking system, making them more durable over time.

3. How Long Do Drum Brakes Last On A Truck?

Drum brakes have an approximate lifespan of 150,000 to 200,000 miles if properly maintained. Brake shoes typically require replacement every 30,000 to 40,000 miles. The wear of drum brakes is also impacted by the conditions the vehicle is exposed to over time.

4. What Is The Biggest Problem With Drum Brakes?

The biggest problem with drum brakes is their lack of performance. Drum brakes cannot dissipate heat as quickly as disc brakes, leading to brake fade and reduced stopping power.

5. Why Do Drum Brakes Last So Long?

Drum brakes last longer than disc brakes because of the increased friction contact area. They are also cheaper to make. Rear drum brakes produce less heat. Like hydraulic pressure, drum brakes have a self-energizing effect that needs less input force.


Proper maintenance and regular inspections are needed to ensure your truck’s brakes remain in working order. Replacing the drum and shoes is a crucial part of brake maintenance that should be done every 30,000 to 40,000 miles. Adjusting the brakes after replacing them is also important to ensure they work correctly. Lastly, always test drive the vehicle after any brake service to ensure everything works properly.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.