How to Adjust Drum Brakes?

How to Adjust Drum Brakes?

As important components of a vehicle’s braking system, drum brakes must be regularly adjusted to ensure optimal performance and safety. While disc brakes have become more common, many vehicles still use drum brakes on the rear wheels. Making adjustments to drum brakes can be a bit trickier than disc brakes, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be easily done at home. In this article, we will discuss the steps and tools needed to adjust drum brakes and keep them functioning properly, saving you time and money on costly repairs.

How To Adjust Drum Brakes

How To Adjust Drum Brakes

Drum brakes are an important component of a vehicle’s braking system. They use friction to slow down or stop the rotation of the wheels. Over time, the brake shoes and other components of the drum brake can wear out, resulting in a decrease in braking efficiency. As a mechanical engineer, it is essential to know how to adjust drum brakes to maintain their effectiveness. Here are the steps to adjust drum brakes:

1. Locate the drum brake: The drum brake is located behind the wheel and is covered by a round metal drum. Remove the wheel to gain access to the drum brake.

2. Inspect the drum brake: Before adjusting the brakes, it is essential to inspect the drum brake for any damage or excessive wear. Look for cracks, warping, or worn-out brake shoes.

3. Adjust the brake shoes: The brake shoes are responsible for pressing against the drum to create friction and slow down the wheels. There are two adjustment mechanisms on a drum brake – star wheel adjuster and manual adjuster. The star wheel adjuster is used to adjust the brake shoes automatically, while the manual adjuster allows for fine-tuning adjustments.

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4. Adjust the brake shoes manually: To adjust the brake shoes manually, you need to locate the brake adjuster screw. It is usually located at the rear of the brake assembly. Use a brake spoon or another specialized tool to turn the screw counterclockwise to increase the gap between the shoes and the drum. Turn it clockwise to decrease the gap.

5. Adjust the brake shoes automatically: To adjust the brake shoes automatically, use a brake spoon to turn the star wheel adjuster counterclockwise. You should hear a clicking sound as the shoes move outwards, creating a larger gap between the shoes and the drum. Repeat this process for the other shoe.

6. Check the adjustment: After adjusting the brake shoes, check the gap between them and the drum. There should be a small amount of clearance, about the thickness of a fingernail. If the gap is too small, the brakes will drag, resulting in excessive heat and premature wear. If the gap is too large, the brakes will not be effective. Make adjustments as needed.

7. Reassemble and test: Once the brake shoes have been adjusted properly, reassemble the drum brake and reinstall the wheel. Take the vehicle for a test drive to ensure that the brake adjustments are working correctly.

It is essential to regularly check and adjust drum brakes to maintain their effectiveness and ensure the safety of the vehicle. If you are not comfortable adjusting the brakes yourself, it is best to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic for proper maintenance.


In conclusion, adjusting drum brakes is an essential skill for any car owner or mechanic. By following these simple steps of inspection, cleaning, adjusting, and testing, you can ensure that your drum brakes are functioning properly and safely. Remember to always refer to your car’s manual for specific instructions and to seek professional help if needed. Regularly maintaining and adjusting your drum brakes will not only save you money on repairs but also ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road. With practice and proper techniques, you can confidently adjust your drum brakes and keep your vehicle running smoothly.

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