How To Adjust Drum Brakes for Safe and Smooth Operation

Four-wheeled vehicles used to have all of their brakes as drum brakes formerly. But, with the coming of disc brakes, drum brakes are sometimes used only in the rotor of the rear wheels or are not used at all.

Disc brakes deliver a higher response rate compared to the drum brakes. The drum brakes can only give a reduced rate of response. A drum braking system has a capacity of only about twenty-five percent. As a result, the workload is significantly on the front wheels that contain the disc brakes.

Dive in to learn how to adjust drum brakes. Failure to correct the drum brakes of your vehicle will expose your front wheels to a lot of problems. They begin to work more than is necessary. Adjusting rear drum brakes is a way to keep your car brake system working for much longer and balanced.

How to Adjust Drum Brakes

How To Adjust Drum Brakes

Knowing fully well, the impacts of not adjusting your rear drum brakes, it is equally important to note that this could be a tasking activity to carry out on your car braking system. In this light, note the following:

  • Your vehicle cannot undergo a proper rear brakes adjustment if the brakes are not in good shape. 
  • If you have to press down your brake pedal a lot before they engage, know that the drum brakes are due for an adjustment.
  • It is not every drum brake that can be adjusted.
  • Check your vehicle to know if there are any signs of the drum brakes failing to confirm if it is in good working condition before you adjust them.

Now let us go through specific steps to take to adjust your rear drum brakes.

1. Get all of the materials necessary for the drum brake adjustment first. You need the following materials to have a proper drum brake adjustment:

  • Jack and Jack stands;
  • Eye safety piece;
  • Paper towels;
  • Rags;
  • A screwdriver;
  • A ratchet set and socket;
  • A torque wrench;
  • Brake spoon;
  • Lug wrench.

2. Raise The Rear Of The Vehicle. To raise the vehicle, the vehicle must be parked and set the parking brake. Make use of the jack to raise a part of the rear end of the car. The jack stand, therefore, goes under this raised side. Do the same on the other side. For safety reasons, do not remove the jack.

3. Remove The Tire. Having raised the vehicle, and you can go ahead and remove all the tires. You will do this by screwing the lug nuts off. Make sure you place the log nuts not too far away. Place them where you will be able to get them quickly. Do the same for the tires for a while.

4. Check The State Of The Drum Brake Adjustment Screw. You will find the drum brake adjuster below an access cover, behind the drum brake. Check the rubber grommet protection using a screwdriver.

5. Adjust the Vehicle’s Star Wheel. Turn the drum brake adjuster. If it keeps rolling, hit the drum and change the direction with a single click back off the star wheel. Roll the wheel manually with your hands. Ensure it spins freely. If the drag persists, repeat the process with a few increments. Do this until it is in your preferred position. Do this on both sides of the vehicle.

6. Confirm That The Work Is Done. Get the adjuster wheel. Cover the drum brakes up. Then check around to confirm everything is in the right place.

7. Put Back The Tires. Fix the lug nuts in the star format. Use the tire iron or the ratchet. Use the manufacturer’s guide torque the wheels appropriately, also in the star format.

8. You Can Now Bring The Vehicle Down. Raise the vehicle as high as possible using the jack. Lifting it will give you enough safe space to get the jack stand out. Then lower the car. Do the same for both sides of the vehicle.

9. Take The Vehicle On A Test Drive. Confirm that the brakes are now working well by taking it on a test drive. Pump the pedal to see how easily the brakes engage. Take your test drive on a safe road.

How To Adjust Drum Brakes For Safe And Smooth Operation

How To Adjust New Electric Drum Trailer Brakes?

First, lift the trailer using quality jack and jack stands. Make sure it is secured. 

  • Go ahead and install your new electric brakes. 
  • After the installation, mount the drum and the hub.
  • Locate the rubber plug behind the backing plate. Unplug it to reveal the teeth of the brake adjuster.
  • Make use of a brake adjustment tool to unscrew the gear and turn it. 
  • Keep on turning the wheel till the hub and drum gets rigid to bend.
  • After this, reverse it for about ten clicks.
  • After doing all these, the test drives the trailer to see how well the drum brakes are functioning.

How To Set The Gain On Trailer Brakes

If you want to keep your electric brakes in the best condition with sufficient force, it is best to set the gains often.

  • Set the gain control to 50% or solely to the center of the slider.
  • Tow the trailer at about 20mph to run a check on the settings. 
  • Engage the manual override button.
  • Regulate the gain to make sure the brakes grip and so they do not lock up.
  • Do this over and over again to optimize the gain conditions.

How To Adjust Self-Adjusting Drum Brakes

Take off the device on the self-adjustment wheel of your brakes that keep the brakes’ shows from going inward. 

Then, you can now adjust the star adjustment wheel. It will be more comfortable now.

How To Know When Your Vehicle’s Drum Brakes Is To Be Adjusted

You would know it is to be adjusted when you begin to notice the following:

The brake pedal is not feeling the same way at different points.

The hand brakes give a slack feel.

The brakes give a scrapping noise when you engage them.

If you notice any of these, then the vehicle’s drum brakes are due for an adjustment.

watch How to Adjust Drum Brakes

How to Adjust Drum Brakes FAQs

What Could Cause Rear Brakes Shoes To Over Tighten Even After I Had Adjusted The Brakes and Changed Some Parts?

There is a high probability that the issues are not from the brakes, having checked and replaced everything when necessary. For drum brakes, they adjust when you drive in reverse and engage the brakes. So, if the brakes are engaged too suddenly, the brakes could over-adjust. When drum brakes over-adjust, it will lead to it over-tightening.

How Often Should I Adjust Drum Brakes?

Disregard that drum brakes should not be adjusted because they self regulate. You should fix them every three thousand miles.

Which Way Do I Turn The Brake Adjuster To Tighten My Trailer Brakes?

Turn the brake adjuster wheel in a way that the teeth on the wheel face upward. That way, the brake shoes will expand. Moving the teeth of the wheel otherwise will make the shoes of the brake contract. 

Why Are Trailer Drum Brakes Weak Even After I Have Adjusted Them?

Check through the magnets. If the copper windings look like they are coming through, replace them. Check also if the controller is in good condition. Also, ensure that the side connector is appropriately fitted and clean. Finally, check if there is enough voltage coming from the brake controller. If all of these are working well, there will be no issue.

Why Do I Need Drum Brakes?

Drum brakes do a lot in a vehicle wheel and brakes system. The return springs of a drum brake are what makes the shoes relax. It also fastens the shoes to the backing plate.

When Do The Shoes Get Completely Relaxed?

The shoes get fully retracted when the wheel cylinder receives the released pressure.

How is the secondary shoe fastened to the lever?

The pin and the return spring from the drum brakes keep it fastened.

Is This A Work I Can Take On, On My Own?

You can take on this job on your own without a second hand. It is not difficult at all. But if you count it to be stressful, you can use the help of a technician.

How Can I Get My Vehicle Brakes To Self-adjust?

It is quite easy. You just have to engage your brakes when driving on the reverse.

How Long Will It Take Me To Adjust My Vehicle’s Drum Brakes?

Even as a beginner, it would only take you an hour or less. You can also complete the job in thirty minutes.

Final Words

Understand forehand that you will have to adjust your drum brakes. You most often drive your vehicle forward. That means you seldom allow the drum brakes self adjust –since the drum brakes self-adjust when you engage them while driving on reverse–.

Therefore, you have to take out time to adjust your drum brakes. This way, you will be able to keep those drum brakes working for much longer. You will also keep them balanced. Having read this article, you know how to adjust drum brakes.

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.

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