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There are a few key signs that indicate that your brake drums and shoes need to be serviced. A common indicator is hearing squealing or scraping sounds when applying the brakes. The brake shoes will begin to squeal as they are wearing down. Once the shoe has completely worn out, the metal shoe platform that remains will create a metal-on-metal scraping sound. Brake shoes that have worn down to the metal can cause damage to your brake drums, requiring replacement.
Brake pedal feel is a strong indicator when determining the condition of your drum brakes. When brake shoes wear down, they are not able to firmly press against the drum creating an inconsistent pedal feel. If you feel vibrations when applying the brakes, it is time to inspect your drums and shoes and replace worn-out components accordingly.
A hard-to-pull hand brake or noticing your car roll back an inch or two after applying the hand brake on an incline can also point to trouble spots in the drum brake system. However, these symptoms can also point to a loose hand brake cable.
If you do replace your brake shoes, make sure you dispose of any hazardous waste safely. You can read more about disposing of old brake parts here.
The cost of replacing drum brakes and shoes varies depending on the parts used and the vehicle. Most drum brake components are more affordable than disc brake components.
Our brake drum assemblies start at under $10 each and can be upward of $500 while a pair of brake shoes start at under $15 and can exceed $275. Costs depend on the brand and vehicle application. You can read more about finding the right brakes for your car here.
Labor costs for brake drum and shoe replacement can vary depending on the vehicle and if it has front and rear drum brakes or just rear. Typically, it takes about 1-2 hours to replace and adjust rear drum brakes. Allow an additional 1-2 hours if you have rare front drum brakes as well.
Of course, you can tackle this job on your own if you have the right tools and mechanical expertise.
Brake drums are typically built to last for 100,000 to 200,000 miles. This can vary depending on driving style. Vehicles that are mostly driven on highways suffer from less brake wear than vehicles that are typically driven around down. The wear of internal components can also affect the lifespan of your brake drums.
Brake shoes typically last 35,000 to 70,000 miles but again, this can vary depending on driving style. Worn-out internal components or warped brake drums can reduce the lifespan of brake shoes. Once brake shoes wear down to 3 millimeters, it's time to replace them.
It is advised to clean your drum brakes once a year in order to maximize braking performance. Cleaning your drum brakes is straightforward, however, it does require some tools.
Start by getting your vehicle on jack stands and unbolting the wheel. Dust off the general area and remove the drum, exposing the brake shoes. Brush off the brake shoes and drum with a toothbrush.
Spray the brake pads with cleaner and brush them with the toothbrush. Spray again with cleaner to rinse them, and dry excess cleaner with a rag.
Then, spray some brake cleaner into the drum and swish it around a bit. Scrub the drum with a toothbrush and wipe it down with a clean rag, removing the excess brake fluid. Put the drum and wheel back on and repeat for the other drum brakes.