4 Symptoms of a Bad Brake Drums and Shoes (And Replacement Cost)

The brake drums and shoes are vital components of a vehicle’s braking system. Brake drums and shoes are more commonly found on older vehicles which don’t use a disc brake system to slow the car down.

Basically, the brake drums serve as the brake disc and the brake shoes serve as the brake pads. The brake drum looks like a bowl-shaped component and it is attached to each wheel.

When the driver steps on the brake pedal, the brake shoe pushes against the brake drum to cause the friction that slows the spinning wheel down.  It is a similar concept to the disc braking system, just an older version of the concept.

What are Brake Drums and Shoes?

Drum brakes are an older type of braking system. Rather than calipers and rotors, drum braking systems have shoes and springs inside a drum. As you step on the brake pedal, the brake shoes press against the inside of the drum, slowing the vehicle. 

Although drum brakes can still be found on modern vehicles, they are typically only found on the rear wheels of affordable economy cars. Most economy cars have moved to disc brakes at all four corners. Disc brakes are safer, work better when wet, and are easier to service than drum brakes. 

Bad Brake Drums and Shoes Symptoms

Below are 4 symptoms of bad brake drums and shoes.

1) Poor Braking Performance

car crash bad brakes

If you step on the brake pedal and it takes longer for the car to slow down or stop, then you may have a problem with your brake drums and shoes. Although it is possible that other problems in the braking system may exist, the cause usually revolves around these two components.

On the other hand, if you have a modern car with a disc braking system, then the equivalent of this would be faulty discs and pads.

2) Brake Noises

noise while driving

In addition to weak brakes, you will also experience noisy brakes as you step on the brake pedal. This will happen over time because brake drums are not good at absorbing the heat from braking.

This causes heat to build up and put stress on the braking system. Then, when the brake shoes push against the drums, there will be annoying scraping or grinding noises that follow.

3) Brake Pedal Vibrations


As mentioned, the brake drums will get worn out throughout time as you continue using your brakes. When they get too worn out, you will start to feel vibrations coming from the brake pedal when you put your foot on it.

You may not think it’s a big deal if there are no other symptoms but once you start having brake performance issues, then you will have no choice but to get your drums and shoes replaced.

Of course, it is better to take brake pedal vibrations as an early warning sign that you need to have your braking system inspected for problems with your drums and shoes.

See Also: Why Does My Brake Pedal Go to the Floor?

4) Parking Brake is Loose

emergency brake

The parking brake depends on the shoes to squeeze firmly against the drum in order to keep the car parked securely. But if there is an issue with the shoes or the drums, the parking brake is not going to function properly.

This will result in the parking brake feeling too loose when you try to activate it. Not only that, the vehicle may slip a little bit after you apply the parking brake.

Brake Drums and Shoes Replacement Cost

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There are four brake shoes on each vehicle; two shoes per axle. Brake shoes would cost about $40 per corner if you were replacing them yourself. This means the total cost of the brake shoe parts is $160.

However, if you need a professional mechanic to do the replacement job for you, the labor costs will be anywhere from $200 to $300. As a result, replacing all four brake shoes will cost you between $240 and $460. When you need to replace all four brake drums, this will cost you anywhere from $360 to $550.

For both the drums and shoes replacement costs, there will be fees and taxes added to those total amounts. Do not forget that.


1 thought on “4 Symptoms of a Bad Brake Drums and Shoes (And Replacement Cost)”

  1. My star wheel adjuster on my rear brake drums is cracked. Do I need to do a complete brake job now, or wait until my shoes need replacement?


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