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Bad Brake Drum Symptoms

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Brake drums are essential components of a drum brake system. Many vehicles rely on them for their rear wheels and emergency brakes.

As with any other brake component, your vehicle’s brake drums will wear out over time, resulting in decreased braking performance.

Thankfully, there are ways to find out if your brake drums are starting to fail.

old break drum
Like any other brake component, your vehicle’s brake drums will wear out over time.

Symptoms of a Bad Brake Drum

Here are some of the symptoms associated with a faulty brake drum:

Scraping or Grinding Noise

Drum brake linings are secured to curved metal assemblies called brake shoes. The shoe’s outer rim is covered with a friction material that rubs against the brake drum to produce stopping power. When the material is worn, the part’s metal plate will rub against the brake drum instead.

This causes a scraping or grinding sound. If you start to hear any unusual noises from your wheel while driving, have your vehicle checked right away.

Low Brake Pedal

A low brake pedal may be a sign that there is excessive clearance between the shoe and the drum. Usually, this issue can be fixed by adjusting and/or cleaning the brakes. However, in some cases, a low brake pedal may indicate a brake fluid leak or a faulty master cylinder.

Have your vehicle checked by a mechanic for an accurate diagnosis. 

closeup photo of pedal
A worn or cracked brake drum may cause the brake pedal to feel spongy when pressed.

Soft Brake Pedal

A worn or cracked brake drum may cause the brake pedal to feel spongy when pressed. Air in the brake lines due to unevenly distributed hydraulic air pressure may also be the reason behind this issue.

Pulsation in the Brake Pedal

Brake drums that are no longer perfectly circular and/or balanced do not make constant contact with the brake shoes. Instead of squeezing the drum, the shoes would bounce up and down, resulting in a pulsation in the brake pedal.

What are Drum Brakes and How Do They Work?

A brake drum is a circular metal component that usually houses the brake shoes. It turns with the wheel and is connected to the backing plate.

Brake fluid flows from the master cylinders via brake lines when the brakes are pressed. Once it reaches the wheel cylinders, fluid pressure will press the shoes into the brake drum. Meanwhile, the brake shoes’ lining creates the friction needed to slow down the drums and the wheels.

brake drums on white background
A brake drum is a circular metal component that usually houses the brake shoes.

Because brake drums are crucial to the operation of your braking system, it’s important to make sure that they are in good condition at all times. Have your vehicle checked right away if it’s starting to exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned above.

How Much Does a Brake Drum Replacement Cost?

An aftermarket brake drum replacement usually costs around $50 to $500, depending on the brand. Take note that this is only for the replacement brake drum and include other costs.

The average cost for a full drum brake replacement (including labor and installation) is around $500.

Brake drums are usually sold individually, in a 2-wheel set, or as part of a kit. When shopping for brake drums, make sure to check product specifications to ensure their compatibility with your vehicle.

brake drum black
Brake drums are usually sold individually, in a 2-wheel set, or as part of a kit.

What is Brake Fade?

Brake fade is the loss of stopping power due to reduced friction between the shoe linings and the brake drum. Most drum brakes are vulnerable to fade because they can’t dissipate heat efficiently. The heat produced during braking passes through the inside of the drum and out before it reaches the outside air.

Some drum brakes come with fins or ribs on their outer edge to disperse heat.

There are several types of brake fade that can affect brake drums. They include the following:

Mechanical Fade

This happens when the drum brake expands away from the brake lining due to intense heat. Once this happens, the brake shoes will move outward to stay in contact with the drum. The brake pedal may also drop closer to the floor because of the additional brake fluid directed into the hydraulic system.

Lining Fade

This happens when intense heat makes the friction coefficient of the brake lining become “slippery” enough to drop off. Lining fade also hardens the pedal and diminishes braking power.

Gas Fade

This happens due to extended hard braking when driving at high speeds, which produces dust particles and hot gases that can accumulate between the brake drum and brake shoe linings.

Gas fade also increases the force you’ll need to apply on the pedal to keep a constant level of stopping power.

Water Fade

This happens when there is excessive moisture between the shoes and the drum, causing decreased braking efficiency.

Although brake fade isn’t really caused by faulty drum brake components, its implications are the same. It will significantly diminish your vehicle’s braking performance, which may lead to major accidents on the road.

Importance of Regular Brake Maintenance

To prevent any dangerous situations that could come from reduced braking ability, it’s important to make sure that your braking system undergoes regular maintenance.

Here are some of the benefits of proper brake maintenance:

Improves Braking Performance

Proper maintenance will ensure that your brakes are in optimal condition, which also promotes better braking.

mechanic checking brake drum
It’s important to make sure that your braking system undergoes regular maintenance.

Enhances Safety

Brake issues contribute to thousands of road accidents every year. Conduct regular maintenance to ensure your brake system’s functionality and to guarantee your safety on the road.

Reduces Replacement Costs

Faulty brake drums usually cause metal grinding, which may cause premature wear or damage to other brake components. If the issue is not resolved right away, the affected components may also require replacement.

When you follow your vehicle’s regular brake maintenance schedule, you’ll be able to spot and replace faulty parts immediately. This will help you save a lot in the long run since it reduces the risk of damage in multiple brake components.

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