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How to Adjust Drum Brakes – Steps That You Need to Follow

Drum brakes are strong components that are responsible for your car’s braking mechanism. It is an integral part of your vehicle, and it sometimes needs adjusting because it can be loose or tight. Knowing how to adjust drum brakes is a must for any driver. This is because you’ll never find out when your drum brakes might loosen.

Loose drum brakes will lead you to miscalculate the amount of foot pressure that you exert on the brake pedal. This can cause fatal accidents. Usually, once you feel that your brake pedal needs extra pressure for it to work, it means your drum brake needs adjusting.

What is a Drum Brake?

Although it’s easy to understand what a drum brake does, it’s important to know the other parts of it as well. This will give you an idea later on when we discuss how to adjust it.

what is a drum brake

Drum brakes are located in your rear wheels. It’s a lot stronger than a disc brake. Disc brakes are located in the front wheels. Since the rear wheels require more force upon breaking, you can say that drum brakes are a lot more important.

Don’t be fooled, though; disc brakes have a primary responsibility when it comes to your safety, too.

Drum brakes use friction to stop your car’s wheels. With that said, it needs sub-parts to apply friction to your wheels. Its sub-parts primarily consists of the drum shoe, backing plate, brake drum, and wheel cylinder.

The backing plate is the casing of your drum brake. It protects the internal components from wear and tear. Meanwhile, the drum shoe is what provides friction to the wheels. This is what grinds and presses towards the brake drum.

Lastly, the wheel cylinder applies the brake on the brake pads. It does so by using two pistons to generate hydraulic pressure.

Materials You’ll Need

  • Goggles – Any eye protection such as laboratory glasses would also work. Remember, if you’re handling a vehicle, safety first!
  • Jack stands – Lifting your car will be the first step in adjusting your brakes.
  • Socket and ratchet set – Used to remove the nuts.
  • Torque wrench – A more advanced wrench used for more complicated bolts and nuts.

Steps to Follow

Step 1. Lifting the car

Since we’re dealing with a component located in the wheel, you’ll need to remove the tires first. This is a standard rule every time you’re handling something in the car chassis or the wheel area.

To lift your vehicle, use a jack stand and apply it to the rear of your vehicle.

There are several kinds of jacks out there, but to make your life easier, you should better use a floor jack. Floor jacks are strong and convenient compared to a bottle or crocodile jack. This could prevent accidents from happening.

floor jack

Jack stands can be quite tricky to use at first. If you’re a beginner, then it’s best to check how to use a jack stand properly first.

Step 2. Remove the rear tires

Once the car is lifted and stable, remove the tires using a tire wrench. Make sure to follow the correct way to dislodge a tire. When removing the tires, you’ll need to target the lug nuts that keeps the tires in place.

After you’ve unscrewed the lug nuts, be sure to keep it in a safe location. You wouldn’t want to lose the lug nuts.

Step 3. Finding the star wheel

change brake drum

Once you removed the rim and tires, locate the drum brake star wheel. When you removed the tires, you’ll immediately see the drum brake. Find the star wheel behind at the back of the drum brake.

You’ll see a cover behind the drum brake. Use a screwdriver to dislodge it by manually taking out the cover.

Step 4. Adjust the star wheel

After you found the star wheel, it’s time to adjust it. This is the critical step that adjusts the drum brake.

Use a flat screwdriver when turning the star wheel. Just only target the teeth of the wheel and set it using the screwdriver. You’ll hear a click every time you turn the star wheel.

When turning the star wheel try to turn it as much as you can until it stops. If it does not stop try turning it in the other direction. Once the pads hit the drum, turn it in reverse by one click. Afterward, turn the entire drum brake and see if there’s drag.

Should there be any drag, turn the star wheel again in reverse. Make sure to back it minimally. This prevents ruining your previous effort in adjusting it.

Repeat the process until you’ve reached your desired adjustment.

Step 5. Double check the adjustment

double check the adjustment

To do this step, you must first start by putting everything back in place. Put the cover first and check if everything’s intact and secure. Afterward, you can now put your wheels and tires again.

When tightening the lug nuts, use a torque wrench. This lets you tighten the nuts accurately. Over tightening the nuts can lead to serious problems such as loose threads.

Afterward, lower your vehicle and safely remove the jack stand. Make sure the vehicle is completely on the ground before removing the jack stand.

Afterward, test drive your vehicle to see the results.


Adjusting your drum brakes may sound quite daunting, but in reality, it’s not. Once you came past the stage of lifting your car and removing the tires, everything gets easier. With that said, be sure to do each step as carefully as you can.

One wrong move and it could spell disaster for you. There are many accidents out there that involve lifted cars, so the most important step is knowing that your vehicle is secure for lifting.

Also, once you’ve adjusted your car, don’t relax and always be alert. Make sure the drum brake cover is safe. This is even more important when it comes to the tires. Remember, safety comes first!

* Read more: https://automotiveward.com/best-brake-controller-reviews/

Steven K. Galloway