Wheel Cylinder Replacement

Easy step by step guide on how to replace an automotive brake wheel cylinder, though appearances may vary this information pertains to most vehicles.

Difficulty Level - 4 of 10

Tools and Supplies Needed

Begin with the vehicle lifted enough to access the brakes while using jack stands for safety and wearing protective eyewear and gloves.

CAUTION: Brake fluid is corrosive, use caution when handling.

Step 1 - After the brake shoes have been removed from the backing plate, the wheel cylinder is now ready to be replaced. Please visit our brake shoe removal guide for further instructions.

Wheel Cylinder

Step 2 - When replacing the wheel cylinder, use a line wrench to avoid damage to the fitting while removing the brake line. (Note: Brake fluid will be present.)

Remove Brake Line

Step 3 - Once the brake line has been removed, brake fluid will drip out of the line until the brake master cylinder is empty, a vacuum cap should be used to prevent the loss of fluid from the master.

Vacuum Cap

Step 4 - Next, use a wrench or socket to remove the wheel cylinder mounting bolts. (Note: Some wheel cylinders are held in place by a snap ring.)

Remove Wheel Cylinder Mounting Bolts

Step 5 - After removing the wheel cylinder mounting bolts, grasp the unit and separate it from the backing plate.

Wheel Cylinder Removed

Step 6 - Once the old wheel cylinder has been matched up to the new unit, insert it into the backing plate and secure the mounting bolts.

New Wheel Cylinder

Step 7 - Then, using a wrench or ratchet tighten the wheel cylinder mounting bolts.

Tighten Wheel Cylinder Mounting Bolts

Step 8 - After tightening the wheel cylinder mounting bolts, remove the cap which was previously installed and hand thread the brake line fitting into the cylinder to prevent cross threading.

Thread Wheel Cylinder Brake Line Fitting

Step 9 - Once the fitting has been threaded by hand, use a line wrench to tighten the brake line.

Tighten Brake Line

Step 10 - Then, use a small screwdriver to remove the bleeder cap, this will allow the brake fluid to be bled in later steps. Please visit our brake bleed and flush guide for further instructions.

Remove Bleeder Cap

Step 11 - After the wheel has been installed and lug nuts tightened, clean the top of the brake master cylinder using a shop towel, then loosen and remove the lid.

Remove Brake Master Cylinder Cap

Step 12 - Using a sealed container of brake fluid, top off the brake master cylinder with fluid.

Adding Brake Fluid

Step 13 - Once the fluid level has be added to, reinstall and tighten the reservoir cap.

Reinstall Brake Master Cylinder Cap

Step 14 - Have a helper press the brake pedal down and hold. (Note: Do not pump brake pedal.)

Press Brake Pedal

Step 15 - While the brake pedal is being held down, open the bleeder screw on the rear of the wheel cylinder, fluid will begin to flow out of the valve, once the fluid has stopped close the valve and slowly release the brake pedal, repeat this operation until no air bubbles are observed.

Brake Fluid Bleed

Step 16 - Once the bleeding process is complete, recheck the fluid level inside the master cylinder reservoir and add as needed to obtain the proper level. Once both wheels have been completed and while holding the brake pedal down, activate the parking brake lever several times to set and adjust the shoes against the drums.

Brake Fluid Level


Helpful Information

A fluid leak can cause the brake shoes to grab or lock up, and ultimately fail completely. (Note: Your front brake system will still work, with a slightly lower brake pedal position and diminished brake operation.)

If the shoes are saturated with brake fluid, replacement is needed.

If the brake pedal is spongy air is in the system.

Best Practices

  • Line wrenches are recommended for the removal of hydraulic lines to avoid fitting damage
  • Spray penetrating oil on the fittings to help loosen
  • Clean the drum and all components with brake cleaner or water
  • Brakes contain asbestos, avoid using compressed air to clean
  • Wear a dust mask to help eliminate harmful contaminants


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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