How To Defeat The Average Mechanic's Greatest Nemesis

Last year I set to replacing the drum brakes on my old Toyota. I started by asking friends how hard the job was, and they all said the same thing: “Fuck drum brakes.” Drums are definitely more of a pain than discs. But don’t worry, they’re not as hard as everyone seems to say, especially if you watch this video.

I’ve shared a lot of Chris Fix’s instructive auto repair videos here because he has a concise presentation style I really like, and his signature POV camera angle makes it very easy to translate what you see on screen to what you see in your garage. His channel is also refreshingly devoid of ego.


There are plenty of “how-to drum brakes” videos on YouTube already, even on Chris Fix’s channel, but since this 22-minute tutorial is such a clean and complete teardown-and-rebuild of a routine job that so many DIY mechanics love to complain about, I thought it warranted your attention.

People hate dealing with drum brakes because where discs and pads can be changed quickly and painlessly, changing a drum involves a whole mess of rusty old springs and a potentially tedious adjustment process.

The basic process of rebuilding (more like “replacing”) a drum brake goes likes this:

  • Bash the drum, the big bowl that sits on top of the whole deal, off your vehicle.
  • Hose everything down with brake cleaner to get rid of the dust and rust you just shook loose.
  • Take a picture of the spring-loaded bomb-looking thing you’ve opened, for future reference.
  • Start removing springs.
  • Pull the shoes off, which get pushed out to make friction with the drum to make with the stopping.
  • Remove the wheel cylinder. It’s that little chode thing that will be the most substantial component you find inside the drum. This is what your brake fluid fills to push the shoes into the drum.
  • Now just put everything back in the opposite order!

But since I just glossed over a litany of essential details, I’d suggest you go ahead and watch the video if you actually want to learn how to do this job right. And hey, it’s not as hard you’ve been led to believe!

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About the author

Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL