Brake Shoe - Wheel Cylinder - Drum Replacement

Step by step guide on how to replace an automotive rear brake shoe and wheel cylinder, this information pertains to most brake shoe style systems.

Difficulty Scale: 5 of 10

Tools and Supplies Needed

  • Replacement brake shoes and wheel cylinder
  • Side cutters or dikes (used to grip springs only)
  • Large socket set
  • Screwdriver set
  • Breaker bar
  • Wrench set
  • Brake fluid
  • Shop towels
  • Water
  • Hammer
  • Small chisel
  • Safety eyewear, gloves and respirator.
  • Hydraulic jack
  • Jack stands

Before beginning work, park the car on level ground while blocking (4 four blocks) front wheels to prevent wheel roll in either direction, parking brake should be released.

Step 1 - Once the car is lifted safety in the air, remove the wheel cover which will expose the lug nuts. (Note: If a lug wrench or breaker bar is used, perform this, and the next step while the vehicle is still on the ground.)

Remove Wheel Cove

Step 2 - Using an air impact wrench, breaker bar or a lug wrench loosen and remove the lug nuts that hold the tire. (Note: Only loosen lugs one turn while on the ground, remove after the car has been lifted.)

Removing Lug Nuts

Step 3 - Once the lug nuts have been removed, grasp the wheel and lift it from the wheel studs.

Removing Tire

Step 4 - After the wheel has been removed, use a small chisel with a hammer to remove the bearing dust cap.

Removing Bearing Dust Cap

Step 5 - Then, remove the bearing dust cap and the axle bearing retainer nut will be exposed.

Bearing Dust Cap Removed

Step 6 - Next, choose the right size socket and remove the axle bearing retainer nut.

Removing Axle Nut

Step 7 - Then, grasp the drum and pull while turning the drum which helps release the unit from the axle.

Rear Brake Drum Removal

Step 8 - Once the brake drum has been removed, hang a bucket on the axle which will be used for a catch basin.

Water Bucket

Step 9
- After the basin is in place, use water to rinse away harmful dust particles and allow to dry, wipe away water from the axle.

Rinsing Brakes

Step 10 - Then, inspect the brake shoe thickness to the new brake shoes, each shoe is different and requires comparison.

Brake Shoe Thickness

Step 11 - When a brake shoe is overheated, it can crack which indicates failure that requires replacement.

Brake Shoe Crack

Step 12 - To check the wheel cylinder, use a large screwdriver and pull back the rubber cups to check for the presence of brake fluid, which is an indication of failure.

Inspecting Wheel Cylinder


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


Please use our question form if you have a specific question about your car as we are not able to give you a full answer on this page.

Article first published (Updated 2015-01-06)