If the rear end of your car is vibrating or shuddering, your brake pedal is stiff, or the back of your car is skidding when you go to stop, it’s a good sign that replacing the drum brakes is a good idea.
Today, drum brakes are uncommon, but can still be found on new cars like the Volkswagen ID.4, the Mitsubishi Mirage, and the Toyota Tacoma.
Drums are almost exclusively installed in the back – unless you have a car older than 1986 – meaning you’ll only have to replace the brakes on a single axle.
In most cases, the average cost of replacing rear drum brakes is $279-$399. That includes both wheels. However, if you have a set of four drum brakes, that estimate can be as much as double. However, you may be able to replace the drum shoes or the cylinders and save money over replacing the full drum.
How Much Does Drum Brakes Replacement Cost?*
Drum brake replacement prices heavily depend on the vehicle, the type of drum brake you’re replacing, and whether you have to replace one, two, or even four brakes. For example, the following table details cost estimates across several popular vehicles with drum brakes.
|Vehicle||Brake Drum Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (December 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Drum Brake Replacement Pricing Factors
Replacing your drum brakes will depend on factors like the local cost of labor, the brake drum brand, the age of the vehicle, and the type of drum brake.
Cost of Labor
In most cases, the cost of labor makes up about half the total cost of installing drum brakes. Here, you can expect to pay your mechanic anywhere from $45 to $95 per hour for work. Depending on your location, you might pay as little as $15 per hour or as much as $210. Additionally, chain shops normally charge around $95 as a standard while dealers normally charge around $145 as a standard.
In addition, replacing drum brakes on a car normally takes anywhere from half an hour to two hours per axle. Because you want to replace both drum brakes on the axle at once, you’ll always pay for two. And, because most vehicles only have one set of rear drum brakes, you’ll only have to worry about one axle.
In addition, even if your drum brake replacement takes less than an hour, you can expect to pay for an hour of labor. You can also expect to pay a shop fee on top of the total cost, which is normally 5-20% of the bill.
Type of Drum Brake
There are three main types of drum brakes. The simplest is the “Single Leading Shoe”, which is also the cheapest. These have a single shoe in each directly, meaning one shoe aids in braking in each direction.
Twin leading shoe brakes apply both shoes to brake no matter which direction you are braking in. These drum brakes are more expensive.
Finally, duo servo brakes link both brake shoes, creating more braking friction. These brakes are more expensive.
In most cases, you’ll want the type of drum brake already installed in your car. This means that rather than choosing options based on price, you should match them to what you already have to ensure your car continues to brake safely.
Drum brakes are made by original equipment manufacturers like Honda and Toyota. However, you can also often purchase aftermarket parts. These reduce the total cost of the drum brake, sometimes down to less than $50 for the part. However, it’s important to do your research, make sure your mechanic or technician will install the parts for you, and make sure they actually fit.
Here, you can also often save money by getting the drum cylinders secondhand, as those rarely wear down.
Age of Vehicle
If you’re buying drum brakes for a new vehicle, you can expect that only expensive and OEM parts will be available. However, if you’re buying parts for an old vehicle, it might actually be difficult to find those parts. That can mean paying extra for the parts. For example, if you have a pre-1986 vehicle with front drum brakes, you can expect to pay a premium, unless modern drum brakes fit the car. For this reason, some people have their old drum brake systems converted to rotor brakes.
In most cases, you’ll have the easiest time replacing drum brakes on a vehicle that’s 5-15 years old.
Type of Vehicle
Drum brakes are quickly becoming a standard on new electric vehicles. They’re also a standard on heavy-duty vehicles like semis. Here, the extra heat dissipation offered by the drum cylinder outweighs the reduced stopping power of drum brakes versus caliper brakes.
However, vehicle type will greatly influence costs. For example, if you’re buying brakes for a new electric vehicle, you can expect to pay a premium. In addition, tractor and trailer brakes will always cost more because there are more brakes. In this case, you can expect to pay about $800-$1400.
Finally, most vehicles with drum brakes are compact vehicles with rear drum brakes. The drum brake also doubles as the parking brake – meaning they lock up when you engage the parking brake. These are the cheapest to replace brakes on.
How Many Parts You Replace
It’s unlikely that you have to replace the full drum brake. Instead, it’s more likely that part of the system has failed and you can get away with replacing just that part of the brake. Drum brakes mount to the wheel cylinder and feature two brake shoes, a lever, a lining, springs, an anchor, and a parking lever. The shoes are usually the first part to start to wear. In this case, you ‘d have to replace the shoes.
It’s also possible that the brake cylinder or brake drum will wear down. However, it’s more common that you can get away with simply refinishing these parts. However, if they are badly damaged or leaking, replacing them may be the best call.
How Do Drum Brakes Work?
Drum brakes are a type of hydraulic brake that uses pressure from one or more brake shoes to stop the vehicle.
Here, the drum brake attaches to the rear wheel cylinder. It holds two brake shoes, which are held in place and tensioned via a series of levers and springs. The brake drum fits over the top, sealing the system. When you brake driving forward, the leading shoe brake presses against the drum, effectively creating friction and slowing the wheel. When you brake in reverse, the trailing shoe presses against the drum, slowing the car.
Many drum brakes use twin leading shoe or duo systems. Here, both shoes make contact with the drum no matter which direction you’re braking in. This gives you more stopping power.
How Are Drum Brakes Replaced? (22 Steps)
It’s almost always important to replace drum brakes in pairs. That’s because brake shoes can wear down over time. The brake drum can also wear down. If you only replace the brake on one side, you might find that your vehicle brakes unevenly. This can increase the chances of spinning or skidding, especially on slippery surfaces.
In addition, you can always replace drum brakes on your own. However, you will need tools including a good jack and jack stands.
Things You’ll Need
- Jack + jack stands
- New drum brakes
- Wrench set/ratchet set
- Screwdriver set
- Pliers/wire cutters
- Brake fluid
- Brake grease
Otherwise, you shouldn’t need anything extra to replace the drum brakes on your car.
Replacing Your Drum Brakes
- Block the front wheels of your car. You’ll be taking out the parking brake, so don’t bother setting it.
- Jack up the back of the car to get the wheels a few inches off the ground. Stabilize the vehicle with jack stands.
- Remove the back wheels.
- Tap the brake with a hammer to loosen it.
- Pull the drum brake off the wheel.
- Take a photo of the drum brake so you can replace the parts from how they were.
- Remove the springs. If you’re replacing them, feel free to cut them off to save time.
- Use a pair of pliers to pull the retaining rings and springs.
- Pull the shoe out and unhook it from the bottom screw.
- Pull the second shoe out. Use a pair of pliers to pull the cable till the bolt at the back of the emergency brake cable pulls out, then slide it off the shoe.
- If you have to remove the brake drum, check for screws or bolts, undo them, and then pull the brake drum off.
- Clean any parts of the assembly you intend to reuse. If you’re reusing the old brake drum, re-apply a thin coating of brake grease. If you’re using a new brake drum, apply brake grease as directed by the manufacturer.
- Put the parts back on in reverse order.
- Hook the emergency brake wire back into the first shoe and then attach it to the springs, then fit it into the brake drum.
- Reattach the retaining clip and its spring.
- Fit the second shoe into the spring and then pull it over the top of the brake drum.
- Line up the brake shoe with the top spring and use a pair of pliers to snap the spring in.
- Replace the second retaining ring and spring.
- Use a screwdriver to adjust the adjuster to meet recommendations from your new brake shoes. This prevents the brakes from rubbing while you’re driving.
- Replace the brake drum.
- Replace the wheel.
- Lower your car.
Here, it’s always a good idea to test your vehicle’s brakes before driving on a highway. It’s also a good idea to check your brake fluid and top up where necessary.
4 Signs Of Worn-Out Drum Brakes
If your drum brakes are wearing down, you’ll likely notice from brake performance, sounds, and your parking brake. However, it’s not as easy to notice when drum brakes go bad as it is when caliper brakes go bad. This means you might not notice until the brakes are very worn.
1. Vibration or Shuddering from the Back
If your drum brakes are losing tension or are very worn down, they may cause the car to vibrate, pulsate, or shudder. In most cases, that’s first noticeable in the brake pedal. However, as the brakes get worse, the back of your car will also shake. If you have drum brakes in the front of your vehicle, the front of the car will also shake.
While shaking can be a symptom of suspension issues as well, it’s important to have your brakes and suspension inspected if you notice the problem.
2. Poor Parking Brake Performance
Most parking brakes use the rear drum brakes. This means that if you notice the parking brake is loose, it’s probably because the brakes are failing, or the parking brake cable is coming loose. Fixing this may mean taking the drum brake apart and replacing the cable. Or, it may mean replacing the shoes if they are wearing down.
3. Soft Brake Pedal
If your brake pedal is unusually soft, it may be because the brake drums are failing. Here, you’ll usually have the opposite issue of low brake fluid, which causes the pedal to become stiff. However, in any case where your brake pedal is soft, you should have the full brake system inspected to be sure.
4. Scraping Noises from the Rear of the Car
If the tension is wrong in your brake drums, they may scrape or grind when you stop the car. Here, the problem may be from springs, worn shoes, loose shoes, debris, or even the brake drums themselves. If you’re hearing noises when you brake, stop and inspect the brakes and replace any worn parts.
Many vehicles still have brake drums. In fact, many new vehicles are increasingly using brake drums instead of caliper brakes. Replacing these brakes normally costs anywhere from $250-$399 per axle. However, you may end up paying more depending on your vehicle and the brand of the parts. In addition, you can save about half if you do the work yourself rather than having it done for you.