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Old 06-10-2009, 08:34 AM   #1
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adjusting drum brakes

I just changed my drum brakes and they work fine except the e brake doesn't work correctly. It used to "click" when you pulled it on about five or six clicks and was barely half way as far as it could go, now its all the way back and doesn't hold the car still. I'm guessing I don't have the brakes adjusted. What are methods of adjusting them?
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Old 06-10-2009, 08:54 AM   #2
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Re: adjusting drum brakes

Poorly adjusted brakes don't just affect the parking brake, they also impede the effectiveness of the regular brakes.

To adjust, you turn the star-wheel adjuster (the things that hold the shoes apart at the bottom) This forces the shoes apart.

Usually, I raise one wheel of the car. I can access the adjuster through a hole at the bottom of the backing plate. Sometimes you have to remove a rubber plug first. Then you can rotate the adjuster with a screwdriver. The adjuster level should make a ratchet -type clicking sound as you turn it. It should only turn one way. If you are not sure which way to turn, remove the drum and take a look at the threads. Turn the adjuster and watch to make sure it is pushing the shoes apart.

Occasionally, spin the wheel by hand and listen for a scraping noise as the shoes contact the drum. When you hear this noise, get in the car and apply and release the regular brake. This will center the shoes again. Then get under the car again and spin the wheel. Has the scraping noise gone away?

If yes, turn the adjuster some more and repeat the process. When you reach the point where the scraping noise will not go away, back off the adjuster just a turn or 2 and the brakes are adjusted. You may need to insert a second screwdriver to push the adjuster lever back a bit to back off the adjuster.

Finally, you are sure the brakes are adjusted properly..... the adjusters are the correct way around and on the correct side of the car; the e brake is hooked up right and the adjuster cables are working, correct?
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Old 06-10-2009, 01:41 PM   #3
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Re: adjusting drum brakes

And on some cars the self adjuster will be located just below the wheel cylinder, so if you don't find the rubber plug/access hole below the axle, check above it as well. I seem to recall the rule of thumb being that you will always move the brake adjuster spoon from top to bottom when adjusting via the access hole, regardless of the side of the car. While it is possible to release the self adjuster arm from the access hole with a second screwdriver, I always tried to be very careful not to adjust too far because it's not fun to back an adjuster off. At least not if it's assembled correctly.

You'll want to get both sides pretty close so that you don't experience a pull when braking aggressively. If both sides are adjusted evenly, and the rest of the self adjuster hardware is assembled correctly, you can fine tune them by driving slowly in reverse and stabbing the brakes.

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Old 06-10-2009, 05:41 PM   #4
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Re: adjusting drum brakes

Adjust the drums out until they drag slightly. Then your good to go.
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