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How drum brake works


The dru­m brake may look complicated, and it can be pretty intimidating when you open one up. Let's break it down and explain what each piece does.

For the drum brakes to function correctly, the brake shoes must remain close to the drum without touching it. If they get too far away from the drum (as the shoes wear down, for instance), the piston will require more fluid to travel that distance, and your brake pedal will sink closer to the floor when you apply the brakes. This is why most drum brakes have an automatic adjuster.

The most common service required for drum brakes is changing the brake shoes. Some drum brakes provide an inspection hole on the back side, where you can see how much material is left on the shoe. Brake shoes should be replaced when the friction material has worn down to within 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) of the rivets. If the friction material is bonded to the backing plate (no rivets), then the shoes should be replaced when they have only 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) of material left.

Just as in disc brakes, deep scores sometimes get worn into brake drums. If a worn-out brake shoe is used for too long, the rivets that hold the friction material to the backing can wear grooves into the drum. A badly scored drum can sometimes be repaired by refinishing. Where disc brakes have a minimum allowable thickness, drum brakes have a maximum allowable diameter. Since the contact surface is the inside of the drum, as you remove material from the drum brake the diameter gets bigger.

Now let's put it all together. The drum brake diagram below shows how all the parts of the brake work together.