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Drum Brake Adjustment

Omkar Phatak
Adjusting brakes, once in a while, is an important procedure that will ensure its smooth functioning. The generic procedure, has been explained in this story.
With a properly functioning brake, a car is purely a disaster waiting to happen. The importance of having it to be fully-functional, can never be overstated. The system needs its share of maintenance work, if you want to ensure safe driving.
The aim of this story is to provide you with an overview of the adjustment procedure for drum brakes. You have to understand that the procedure presented here is merely an outline and doesn't go into specific details. That is because each car has a slightly different internal mechanism.

About Drum Brakes

There are two prime types of brakes used in modern automobile systems. One is the disc brake type, installed in the front wheel assembly and drum brakes installed in the rear wheels.
The drum in such brakes rotates with the wheel and braking is achieved by the application of frictional contact between brake shoes and the insides of a drum mechanism. Only about a quarter of the braking force required to stop the car, comes from the rear brakes, while the rest is enforced by the front ones.

The Procedure

Firstly, get hold of your repair manual and refer to the brake drum repair and maintenance section. The tools that you will need are a ratchet and socket set with extensions, screwdrivers, hammer, lug wrench, lubricant, jack stands and most importantly, a brake adjustment spoon.
For these instructions to make sense, keep the rear brake's internal mechanism diagram before you. To begin with, you must lift up the rear part of the car using a jack and then support it with jack stands.
Then, you must remove the wheels by removing the nuts so that you can gain access to the brake mechanism. Observe it, with the brake in place. In order to adjust the brake, you will need to remove the plug that blocks the drum porthole. On removal, you can access the adjusting retainer clip inside.
This clip is actually a lever attached to a star wheel inside. To tighten the brakes (to position the brake shoes properly), you must depress the clip (away from the star wheel using a screw driver) and move the star wheel in the right direction with the adjustment spoon. Determine which is the right direction for the star wheel to move so that a tightened hold of brake shoes on drum is possible.
Keep making adjustments with the star wheel and adjustment clip. You can rotate the drum, once in a while, to know if the brake shoe contact with the drum is right and there is sufficient friction. You may need to spin the drum several times to check, if you have made the right adjustment. You may need to pull the parking brake cable to ensure that the shoes are centrally aligned. Refer to the car manual for more details.
You must adjust the shoes on both sides in a similar fashion. Once you think that they have been adjusted well and centered properly, engage the parking brake and press the brake pedal. Ensure that both brakes are working properly and the shoes are centered precisely. Once you think that the adjustment has been satisfactorily made, you can put the plug back and then proceed to put the wheels back again.
For specific instructions, refer to the appropriate copy of a Hayne's manual. If you find it to be too complicated, it is best to hand over the whole job to a professional. Make sure that you include the adjustment in your regular car maintenance schedule. With properly functioning brakes, you can enjoy a safe ride around town.