The brake shoe is a component found inside the drum brake system. It produces friction when it comes into contact with the inner lining of the drum brake as you hit the brakes.
In this article, we’ll go over everything a car owner should know about brake shoe replacement, including what affects a brake shoe’s lifespan, how a brake shoe replacement is done, and some FAQs.
In This Article
- What to Expect During a Brake Shoe Replacement
- How Much Does a Brake Shoe Replacement Cost?
- When Should Brake Shoes Be Checked?
- 5 Things That Can Affect Brake Shoe Effectiveness
- 3 FAQs About Brake Shoes
Let’s get started.
What to Expect During a Brake Shoe Replacement
A brake shoe replacement can be a complicated process, as drum brakes have more parts you’d have to put together compared to disc brakes.
Here’s a look at what your mechanic will be doing during a rear brake shoe replacement:
- First, your mechanic will jack up the rear axle and release the parking brake.
- Then, they’ll remove the rear brake drum by removing the axle-bearing retainer nut. Rust buildup on the axle can cause the rear brake drum to become stuck, so your mechanic must loosen it with a brake cleaner before removing it.
- Next, they’ll inspect the rear brake assembly (springs, backing plate, axle, etc.) and use a brake cleaner to clean the brake dust and grease inside the drum brakes.
- They’ll also inspect each rear brake shoe for contamination and thickness.
- Now, your mechanic will check the wheel brake cylinder to ensure there’s no brake fluid leak.
- The mechanic will then disconnect the parking brake cable using a pair of pliers and remove the brake shoes from the backing plate.
- They’ll replace the wheel cylinder if needed, especially if it’s an older vehicle or used for heavy duty. Your mechanic may advise replacing them as a set because if one wheel cylinder leaks, the other isn’t too far behind.
- Next, the mechanic will install the new brake shoe set onto the backing plate, reconnect the parking brake cable, and adjust the star wheel on the brake adjuster.
- Then, they’ll reinstall the rear drum brakes and ensure each lug nut is secured correctly. Your mechanic may machine the brake drum first to give the new brake shoe set a clean surface.
- Once done, they’ll check the brake fluid level.
- And finally, set the rear brake shoes with the adjuster and perform essential safety inspections.
Now that you know how a brake shoe replacement is done, let’s find out how much a brake shoe repair will cost you.
How Much Does a Brake Shoe Replacement Cost?
The cost of your brake shoe replacement will depend on a few factors:
- Material: The brake shoe material has an impact on the pricing. Ceramic or semi-metallic shoes can cost around $15-$80.
- Size: The size of the brake shoe is a major cost driver. For example, a small brake shoe set for a compact vehicle costs between $18-$55, while a larger shoe set can be $20-$70.
- Labor cost: Labor rates will depend on your location. Typically, the labor cost for a brake shoe replacement averages around $124-$157.
So, how often should brake shoes get checked?
Let’s find out.
When Should Brake Shoes Be Checked?
You can have the brake shoes inspected at least once a year or every 50,000 miles.
However, you don’t have to wait for a scheduled brake inspection to have them checked. Ask your mechanic to review the rear drum brakes during an oil change or whenever any rear wheel is off.
Rear brake shoes generally last about twice as long as brake pads due to brake bias. Front brakes (typically disc brakes) take up more of the braking force than the rear brakes (usually drum brakes) when you step on the brakes.
Speaking of which, did you know that certain driving habits and factors can affect your brake shoes’ effectiveness?
Let’s take a closer look.
5 Things That Can Affect Brake Shoe Effectiveness
No brake system is immune to failure, be it drum brakes or disc brakes.
A drum brake uses a pair of brake shoes, connected to the brake cylinder, that pushes against the brake drum to bring your vehicle to a stop. The condition of the brake shoe pair is vital to the brake’s overall performance.
Here are some common things that can affect brake shoe effectiveness:
1. Regular Wear and Tear
Regular driving will gradually thin the brake shoe friction material.
Eventually, the friction material wears unevenly until the metal shoe backing or rivets that hold the friction material contacts the brake drum. Brake dust buildup inside the brake drum results in a horrible scraping noise every time you press the brakes.
Your brake pedal will also likely travel farther down to the floor, and the brake system won’t respond as usual.
2. Locking-up From Weak Springs
Locking-up happens when there are weak return springs, causing the very top and bottom of the brake shoe to contact the brake drum. Typically, only the center of the brake shoe should touch the brake drum.
3. Brake Fluid or Oil Contamination
Broken wheel brake cylinder seals can leak brake fluid onto the brake shoes. A leak in the rear axle seal or a wheel bearing failure can coat the drum brake shoes with gear oil or grease.
Contaminated brake shoes are likely to grab and lock up while braking.
4. Damaged Brake Drum or Failing, Broken Brake Parts
Damage to the brake drum or any loose, broken brake parts (like a spring or stud) in the brake drum can ruin the brake shoes and compromise your car’s braking performance. A frozen adjuster wheel can also reduce brake shoe contact with the brake drum.
5. Driving With the Parking Brake On
Driving with the parking brake applied can overheat and glaze the surface of a rear brake shoe, as the drum brake shoes are in contact with the brake drum. High temperatures generated by braking when hauling a heavy load or towing can glaze the rear brake shoes too — increasing brake fade.
Maybe you’ve experienced one of these issues before, and you’re not sure if your brake shoes have been affected. Either way, it’s best to contact your mechanic if you feel something’s wrong while driving.
Now that we’ve gone over brake shoe replacements let’s answer some FAQs.
3 FAQs About Brake Shoes
Here are the answers to some common questions about brake shoes:
1. What Is a Brake Shoe?
The brake shoe is a curved piece of metal used in drum brakes. Each brake shoe has a friction material (known as brake lining) on one side.
The brake lining is made of different heat-resistant materials mixed with compounds like ceramic, brass, and graphite.
Brake shoes come in pairs and are usually bought in sets of four shoes — with two on each side.
You may notice one shoe in the pair has friction material that’s slightly shorter than the other. This is the primary shoe and faces the front of the vehicle. The secondary shoe (also known as the trailing shoe), with more friction material, faces the rear.
Why is there a difference?
As the trailing shoe handles more braking than the primary shoe, it requires more friction material.
2. How Do Brake Shoes Work?
A drum brake system consists of a pan-shaped brake drum, a backing plate, brake studs, a hydraulic wheel cylinder and curved brake shoes. The friction material on the brake shoes faces outwards towards the inside of the brake drum.
Here’s what happens when you step on the brake pedal:
- Force is converted into hydraulic pressure in the brake line from the master cylinder.
- The hydraulic pressure in the brake line is transmitted by brake fluid, activating a piston in the wheel cylinder.
- The piston pushes the brake shoes toward the inside of the brake drum.
- The friction created between the brake shoes and the brake drum slows the wheel.
- When the brake pedal is released, stiff return springs retract the shoes to their original position.
- The star wheel in the adjuster in the drum brake assembly extends gradually to compensate for worn brake shoes over time.
What about disc brakes?
The drum brake is a reliable braking system, though the disc brake (that uses a brake caliper, brake pads, and brake rotor instead) has superseded it. You’ll still find a drum brake on the rear wheel of many modern cars because they’re cheaper to manufacture than disc brakes.
What about the parking brake?
The parking brake, or emergency brake, is operated from a lever via an emergency brake cable. Pulling the parking brake lever forces the brake shoes apart, the same way that hydraulics do.
If a vehicle uses a drum brake system, the rear brake shoe pair performs the parking brake job. In cars with rear disc brakes, there’s usually a smaller drum brake in the brake rotor that performs a similar function.
3. What Are the Symptoms of Worn Brake Shoes?
The thing about brake shoes is that they’re inside the drum.
Unlike a disc brake pad, they’re not very visible, making it difficult to identify issues.
However, if there’s a problem with your brake shoes, there are still some obvious signs:
- Squealing or rubbing noises when you brake
- Vehicle veers to one side during braking
- There’s a noticeable reduction in braking power
- Your parking brake isn’t as effective as usual
- The brake pedal sinks to the floor
- Vehicle shakes upon braking
- The brake warning light is on
- The drum brakes lock up
If any of these signs pop up, it’s time for a visit to the mechanic, or better, get one to come to you so you don’t have to drive with a faulty brake system.
While brake shoes don’t wear down as fast as disc brake pads, you shouldn’t ignore their maintenance needs. They play a vital role in keeping you and your vehicle safe so ensure that you get them serviced regularly.
To make things easy, why not book a brake shoe or brake pad replacement with AutoNation Mobile Service?
AutoNation Mobile Service is a convenient mobile vehicle repair and maintenance solution, and here’s why we should be your first call:
- Your brake inspection and servicing can be done right in your driveway
- Online booking is convenient and easy
- We offer competitive, upfront pricing
- Expert technicians perform the repair
- AutoNation Mobile Service provides a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty for all repairs
For an accurate estimate of your brake shoe replacement, just fill out this online form.
Once you do, our expert mechanics will be at your doorstep, ready to check on your brake shoes!