What Are Brake Shoes? How It Works, Maintenance And Repair Cost

Published: August 8, 2022
Last updated: February 21, 2024

Your brake system is incomplete without brake shoes and metal brake pads. Maintaining them in perfect condition is essential to maintaining the effectiveness of your braking system. There is a different purpose for brake shoes on your vehicle. Even though brake shoes are not found on all cars, they play an integral role in some braking systems.

What Are Brake Shoes?

In drum brakes, the brake shoe acts as the friction contact point and is located inside the brake drum. Drum brakes work by pushing the brake shoes outwards against the inside surface of the drum when you depress the brake pedal.

This causes friction between the brake shoe linings and the brake drums, eventually stopping the vehicle. Retention springs pull the brake shoe back into a resting position when the brake is released, allowing the vehicle to move again.

Drum brake components, such as backing plates, wheel cylinders, the brake rotor, and parking brakes can quickly wear out if the brake shoe isn't functioning.

What Are Brake Shoes Made From?

Brake shoes are organic and metallic materials and durable enough to withstand friction during braking. Under intense heat and pressure, these materials will not shed or break if they are bonded together. The brake shoe is packed with this material, designed to fit precisely into the brake drum and piston contact surfaces.

Your vehicle's brake shoes are likely to be located only on the rear wheels if it uses brake shoes. Parking and emergency mechanisms are often integrated into drum brakes.

Signs Of Worn Brake Shoes

Checking your brake shoes for wear can help you decide whether or not you need to replace them:

Grinding Noises

Do you hear a grinding sound if you press down on your brake pedal? You can tell when your drum brakes aren't performing at their best by the grinding noise they make.

It's important to remember that brake shoes are made from friction material that is layered on a curved metal body. The drum brake adjuster advances as the friction material wears down to maintain contact between the brake shoe and the drum.

In the end, the metal part of the brake shoe contacts the brake drum once the friction material has been removed. This produces a metallic grinding sound. If this painful sound is heard every time you apply the disc brakes, your vehicle needs a brake inspection (and the drums need to be cleaned of brake dust).

Rattling Sounds

Rarely some brake lining peels off old brake shoes due to excessive wear. The brake drum will make a rattling sound as these bits roll around. The backing plate is also fitted with springs and retainers that hold the brake shoes in place. Rattling might also be heard if one or more of these brake components are loose or missing.

Reduced Parking Brake Grip

During stationary use, the parking brake, also known as the hand brake, prevents the vehicle from moving forward. It is common to mount the parking brakes on the back wheel, similarly to the brake disc. The parking brake's effectiveness will be affected directly if a brake shoe is not functioning properly.

Parking on a slope will make this especially noticeable. Even after engaging the parking brake, your car will continue to roll.

Vibrations Under Braking

The brakes can vibrate when you brake, and sometimes you may not even feel much braking force when the brakes are cold. The brake shoes are worn so thin that they can't apply sufficient pressure to the brake drums.

The Easiest Fix For Brake Shoe Problems

You should take your car to the mechanic when you notice a problem with your brake shoes. It would be even better if a mechanic came to you. If you are looking to hire a mechanic, make sure they have the following skills:

  • Certified by ASE.
  • Replacement parts and tools should be of high quality.
  • Provide a service warranty to you.
  • The easiest thing you could do is call a repair shop and have them handle it for you.

How Much Does A Brake Shoe Repair Cost?

Brake pad replacement or that of the quality brake shoes costs between $257 and $293 on average. Approximately $124 to $157 will be spent on labor, while $133 to $136 will be spent on parts. You may also need to perform related repairs.

The range represents an average of all vehicle types on the road. A Fair Price Estimator will give you a more accurate estimate based on the vehicle and location you provide.

How to Ensure Your Brake Shoes Last Longer

Although having your brake shoes periodically replaced is always a good idea, you would like them to last as long as possible, wouldn't you? You can do that by following these tips:

Slow Down Gently

Among the most common causes of brake shoe problems and problems with brakes, in general, are harsh, erratic braking. You need to apply more force to your brake shoes when you brake while driving fast. Thus, your brakes will incur premature wear and tear due to the increased workload.

To prolong the life of your brake shoes, it's recommended that you slow down gently - allowing the friction material to work less.

Keep Your Car Weight In Check

It is important to avoid overloading your vehicle with excessively heavy items, even though modern vehicles are built to carry large loads. When stopping, your brakes must handle the extra kinetic load if your vehicle is heavier than usual. This leads to premature wear and tear since they have to work harder.

Incorporate Engine Braking When You Can

Take your foot off the accelerator when driving a manual car at low speeds to disengage the engine. The friction materials in your brake shoes can last longer because you aren't relying on your brakes to slow down your car. The transmission in an automatic car can be damaged by engine braking.

Always Maintain Your Brake Shoes

It is important to consider various factors when choosing a brake shoe that will last a long time. Most of those things are such that you can control, for example, your driving speed, your everyday driving style, and the weight of your car. Therefore, it is important to check your brake shoes regularly and invest in a good set of brake shoes whenever they need to be replaced to prevent brake failure.

Have you ever wondered how cars work and how they are maintained? Visit KeepDriving to learn more about replacing the rear window wiper blade.

Founder, Editor-in-Chief Carmelo Pickel is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Keep Driving, with almost 20 years of experience working in the industry. Before founding Keep Driving, Carmelo held leadership roles for over a decade on top automotive dealership corporations across North America, handling various leadership roles in Sales, Marketing, and Incentives.
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