Blog Car Care Advice 6 Obvious Symptoms of a Worn Brake Shoe (+4 FAQs)
Car Care Advice

6 Obvious Symptoms of a Worn Brake Shoe (+4 FAQs)

Looking for a mechanic near you for maintenance or repair? AutoNation Mobile Service brings the shop to you. Get a free instant quote today.
Get a Quote

Experiencing squealing sounds or reduced stopping power while braking?
This could be due to a worn brake shoe.

Brake shoes are a friction element in the automotive drum brake system commonly found in cars and trucks. 

But how can you identify if your brake shoes have worn out?
And, is it possible to drive with worn brake shoes?

In this article, we’ll cover 6 symptoms of worn brake shoes, what happens if you drive with worn brake shoes, when you should get a brake shoe replacement, and also answer four FAQs.

This Article Contains 

Let’s get to it.

6 Symptoms of Worn Brake Shoes

These are a few worn brake shoe symptoms that can warn the driver of a potential problem:

1. Squealing Sounds

If you hear odd squealing sounds when you press or release the brake pedal, it could be a symptom of worn-out brake shoes.

An excessively worn brake shoe may produce a scraping sound. You could use a brake cleaner to avoid brake dust buildup, which may be causing a squeaky sound

But in worse cases, when all the friction material (brake lining) in your brake shoe wears down, the metal backing plate tends to rub on the inner lining of the brake drum (also made of metal). This is a sign of excessive damage to your braking system and can become an expensive auto repair.

2. Reduced Stopping Power 

Reduced brake response is another sign of worn-out and damaged brake shoes and other brake components. 

Damage caused by overheated brakes can impact the ability of the brake shoes to create friction and reduce your vehicle’s stopping power.

3. Loose Parking Brakes

A loose parking brake indicates brake shoe problems and that your vehicle’s rear brakes are degrading.

If your vehicle has rear drum brakes and your brake shoe is worn or dirty, it becomes difficult to support the vehicle’s weight without slipping. 

Due to low friction, your parking brake may feel loose, and your car can continue to roll even after the emergency brake is applied. You’ll likely require additional force to engage the parking brake, which usually operates in the rear wheel.

4. Brake Pedal Vibrations 

Strong vibrations in your brake pedal could suggest your brake shoes are deteriorating.

When the brake shoes wear out, the drum brake as a whole begins to vibrate every time the brake pedal is pressed. This vibration then travels to the brake pedal, which can be felt by the driver’s foot.

Note: Vibrations could also occur in a disc brake system if your brake pads or brake rotor is damaged.

5. Spongy Brakes

Rear drum brakes have a self-adjuster that maintains the distance between the brake shoes and the brake drum to keep it as minimum as possible. In the case of worn rear drum brakes, this distance may increase, giving you a loose, spongy feeling whenever you apply your brakes. 

Spongy brakes can also result from worn brake pads in disc brakes. In either case, you should visit a mechanic immediately.

6. Illuminated Brake Warning Light 

Most modern-day cars are equipped with a brake system warning light. It can be found on your car’s dashboard and goes on in case of brake failure or when there is a problem with other brake components.

In case your brake shoes (or brake pads of disc brakes) have worn out or are beginning to fail, the brake warning light will illuminate. 

In this situation, you should visit a mechanic and get your brake shoes replaced. 

Driving with worn-out brake shoes?
Let’s see how it can impact your vehicle.

What Happens If I Drive With Worn Brake Shoes

The brake shoe is a vital part of your vehicle’s drum brake system.
Here’s what happens when you drive with worn brake shoes:

1. Reduced brake response time: When your brakes wear down, you may start to face difficulties in slowing down and stopping your vehicle. Worn brake pads and brake shoes can result in higher stopping distances, brakes slipping, etc.

2. Faster tire wear due to excessive braking: When your brake shoe gets damaged, you will have to slam your brakes frequently. Due to frequent hard braking, your tires can wear out faster or become unbalanced. To prevent this, you could get regular tire rotations and follow other tire care tips.

A worn brake shoe can damage your brake system, leading to inevitable rear brake repairs.

But when is the right time to get a brake shoe replacement?
Let’s find out.

When Should I Get a Brake Shoe Replacement

Due to brake bias, rear brake shoes typically last about twice as long as brake pads on a vehicle that uses both types of brakes.

Ideally, you should get your brake shoes changed every 25,000 to 65,000 miles, although this may vary depending on the type of vehicle and your driving habits.

Brake shoe replacement could also be a good time for a mechanic to check the health of your wheel cylinder (brake cylinder), adequate brake fluid levels, and spot any brake fluid leaks.

If your vehicle lacks adequate brake fluid levels, it can affect the hydraulic pressure of your brake system. So you should get a  brake fluid top-up immediately. And if your mechanic observes any signs of damage, they can perform a brake repair along with the brake shoe replacement.

Quick Tip: Get your brake shoes checked whenever your rear wheels are off.

Now that you know everything about worn brake shoes and their impact on your braking system, let’s have a look at some FAQs to understand brake shoes better. 

4 FAQs About Brake Shoes

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions on brake shoes:

1. How Much Does Brake Shoe Replacement Cost?

On average, brake shoe replacements cost between $225 to $300. The cost of the replacement parts is around $120 to $150, while labor costs can amount to anywhere between $75 to $180.

The prices can vary depending on your vehicle type and service location.

2. What Is the Difference Between a Brake Shoe and a Brake Pad?

Brake pads are friction materials used in disc brakes. Disc brake components include brake rotors and calipers — and the calipers press brake pads against the sides of the brake rotor.   

In the case of drum brakes, brake shoes press against the inside of the brake drum. Other brake drum components include a backing plate, wheel cylinder, return springs, brake shoe holders, etc.

Although brake pads work similarly to brake shoes (turning kinetic energy to heat), brake pads tend to degrade faster. However, disc brakes have a higher stopping power, so they are used in most modern vehicles, compared to older vehicles that have a drum brake system on all wheels. 

It’s fairly common for vehicles to have a hybrid braking system, i.e., brake disc on the front wheel and drum brake on the rear wheel, while you’ll likely see rear disc brakes on high-end models.

3. Why Do My Brakes Lock Up?

If your drum brakes lock up, it could be due to worn springs. 

In the case of worn springs, the top and bottom of the brake shoe make contact with the brake drum, and when this happens, your brakes may lock up. Ideally, only the center of the brake shoe should make contact with the brake drum.

Issues in your drum brake components, like a worn rear shoe or faulty brake cylinder, can also cause your rear brakes to lock up. 

While in a disc brake, problems like a faulty brake pad, corroded caliper, or bad brake rotor can cause the brakes to lock up.

4. How Can I Make My Brake Shoes Last Longer?

Follow these car care tips to reduce the wear and tear of your brake shoe and make them last longer:

Wrapping Up 

Brake shoes are an important component of your vehicle’s drum brake system. They create friction against the brake drums, which is necessary for maximum drum brake performance.

Regular maintenance of brake components and timely brake repair can help extend the life of the brake shoe. But if you notice any of the symptoms listed in this article, you should contact a mechanic right away.

What if you could get a quick and easy brake shoe replacement right in your driveway?

AutoNation Mobile Service is a mobile car repair and maintenance solution that offers you:

Contact AutoNation Mobile Service for brake shoe or brake pad replacement, car care tips, and other auto repair services.