6 Symptoms of Worn Or Bad Brake Shoes & Replacement Cost

The vehicle consists of different parts. Brake shoes and drums are important parts of the vehicle’s braking system. Brake shoes and drums are more common on older cars that don’t use the disc brake system to lower the speed of the car. Actually, the brake shoe works as a brake pad, and the brake drum works as a brake disc. As the brake shoes go bad, it gives different symptoms that alert the driver about the problem. This article explains the signs, causes, and replacement costs of bad brake shoes.

What are Brake Shoes?

Brake shoes are one of the major parts used in automotive drum brake systems that help to slow down or stop the rotation of the wheel when the brakes are applied.

They are normally used in older vehicles or in specific applications, such as the rear brakes of some trucks. The brake drum is a drum-shaped part connected to each wheel of the vehicle.

Brake shoes

As the driver presses the brake pedal, the hydraulic pressure is generated. This hydraulic pressure forces the wheel cylinders to push the brake shoes against the brake drum’s internal surface, creating friction that reduces the speed of the rotating wheel. This works the same as a disc brake system, but it is an older version.

The brake shoes are employed to lower the speed of the vehicle through friction and contact, so they wear out with time, and you need to replace them.

Bad Brake Shoes Symptoms

As the brake shoes go bad, they produce one or more of the below-given symptoms:

  • Weak Brakes
  • Loos Parking Brake
  • Brake Pedal Vibrations
  • Brake Noises
  • Reduced Stopping Power
  • Burning Smell

1) Weak Brakes

If you press the brake pedal and it takes a long time to reduce the speed of the vehicle, then there may be a problem with the brake shoes and brake drum. However, you may face problems stopping the vehicle due to other issues with the braking system.

Weak Brakes, Bad Brake Shoes Symptoms

However, if your car contains a disc brake system, this is the equivalent of a blown disc and pad.

2) Loos Parking Brake

The parking brake relies on the shoe’s ability to press the drum. Press the shoes firmly to press the drum for safe parking.

Parking Brake

However, if there is a problem with the brake drum or shoes, the parking brake will not work efficiently. This causes the parking brake to be too loose when you try to apply it. In addition, the vehicle can easily skid after applying the parking brake.

3) Brake Pedal Vibrations

As we discussed above, if you continuously use your vehicle brakes, the brake shoes will wear out over time. If it’s too worn, you’ll notice the brake pedal vibration as you put your foot on the brake pedal.

Brake Pedal

The vibration coming from the brake pedal is not a big issue, but if your vehicle has braking performance-related issues, you need to replace your drums and brake shoes.

Therefore, as you feel the brake pedal vibration, stop the vehicle and inspect it deeply. If you can’t find the exact reason for the vibration, then immediately contact the mechanic.

4) Brake Noises

Noisy brake is one of the main symptoms of bad brake shoes. In such conditions, the brake generates noise as you press the brake pedal.

Brake Noise

This noise usually starts to produce when brake drums don’t absorb brake heat. This can lead to the accumulation of heat and overload the braking system. If you then press the brake shoe against the drum, you will hear a scratching noise.

5) Reduced Stopping Power

If your car’s braking system takes more time than usual to stop the car, it is one of the clear signs of bad brake shoes.

Poor car stopping due to faulty brake shoes

Most drivers want that their vehicle stops immediately as they press the brake. However, they don’t know what happens when they step on the brake pedal. But when the brake shoes begin to wear down, your braking system will take more time than usual to stop the vehicle.

With time, this issue gradually worsens as the shoes continue to be worn. You will need an inspection to find the problem if your vehicle contains drum brakes on the back wheels and front disc brakes.

6) Burning Smell

Burning smell

If you monitor a burning odor coming from your wheels after braking, it may indicate that your vehicle’s brake shoes are dragging against the rotor or drum due to insufficient lubrication or misadjustment. This friction produces heat and may cause the shoes to overheat, resulting in a distinct burning smell.

Causes of Bad or Worn Brake Shoes

The brake shoes become bad or worn due to one or more of the following causes:

  • Wear and Tear
  • Overheating
  • Driving Conditions
  • Poor Adjustment
  • Contamination
  • Poor Quality or Incorrect Installation

1) Wear and Tear

The brake shoes of your vehicle are exposed to continuous heat and friction while braking, which leads to steady wear of the friction material. This friction material becomes thin with time which may lead to poor performance of the brake shoes.

2) Overheating

Constant or aggressive braking may lead to the overheating of the brake shoes. Unnecessary heat may cause glazing of the friction material and reduces its capability to generate enough friction with the brake drum.

Overheating may also lead to cracked or distorted brake shoes, causing poor braking performance.

3) Driving Conditions

Some drivers frequently drive their vehicles in harsh situations (like areas with heavy traffic or off-road terrain), which may accelerate the wear and tear of brake shoes.

Driving in harsh conditions may lead to premature failure of the friction material, causing diminished braking performance.

4) Poor Adjustment

For the efficient working of the brake shoes, they must be properly adjusted with the brake drum. The poor adjustment of the brake shoes may cause uneven wear or inadequate contact with the drum and cause poor braking performance.

5) Contamination

Different contaminations like moisture, grease, dirt, or oil may also lead to the failure of brake shoes. The contaminants may destroy the ability of the friction material to efficiently hold the brake drum and lead to poor braking. 

6) Poor Quality or Incorrect Installation

Poorly installed or low-quality brake shoes may lead to premature failure. A manufacturing defect may lead the friction material to wear rapidly or delaminate from the metal shoe, compromising braking effectiveness.

Read More: Bad Serpentine Belt Symptoms and Causes

Brake Shoes Location

The vehicle contains a wheel cylinder that operates the brakes on each wheel. However, two pistons (one at each end of the cylinder) are used to operate the shoes. The brake shoe in front of the wheel is called the primary shoe or guide shoe. The brake shoe on the back of the wheel is called the secondary or trailing shoe.

The rear shoes are usually longer and bigger than the front shoes. However, the front shoe is stronger than the rare shoe. Therefore, the rear shoe length increases according to the braking force. However, both shoes have similar construction materials and designs.

Brake Shoes location

Many latest models don’t have drum brakes at the front, but some vehicles still have them at the rear. The drum brakes are more commonly used because they have low manufacturing costs than disc brakes.

How to replace Brake Shoes

FAQ Section

What is the function of the Brake Shoes?

The brake shoe is one of the most important parts of the braking system. The brake shoe uses a frictional material on one side. The friction material is placed toward the brake drum. When you step on the brake pedal, the brake shoe moves outward and pushes in the brake drum, causing the vehicle’s wheels to brake.

What is the replacement cost of the Brake Shoes?

The replacement cost of the brake shoes varies according to the area where you live, the car model, and the type of brand. The average replacement cost of the brake shoes is from $220 to $310. In this cost, the labor cost is between $70 to $140, while the cost of the parts is between $150 to $170

How do I know if I need new brake shoes?

When the brake shoes of your vehicle become faulty, it produces different symptoms, such as loos parking brakes, weak brakes, burning smell, vibrations in the brake pedal, or noise while braking. If you notice any of these symptoms, it means that you need to replace your brake shoes.

How do you know when brake drums are bad?

One of the primary indicators of deteriorating or faulty drum brakes is an abnormal brake pedal sensation. When the brake drums have experienced excessive wear, they may generate vibrations that are perceptible through the brake pedal. Additionally, worn drums can lead to shuddering sensations that become evident when you apply pressure on the pedal.

What does a bad brake shoe sound like?

As brake shoes become worn, a metallic grinding noise may occur due to the contact between the backing plate and the drum or rotor. Moreover, brake pads are equipped with a metal wear indicator that produces a squealing or grinding sound when the pads are worn out, and the indicator begins to scrape against the rotors.

Why do drum brakes make noise?

In the case of drum brakes, insufficient lubrication at the contact points between the drum and the shoes can be a potential cause of squealing noise. When there is insufficient lubrication, the brake shoes can rub against the backing plate, resulting in a noticeable squeal.

What are the signs of bad brake shoes?

  • Reduced stopping power
  • Weak brakes
  • Loos parking brake
  • Burning smell
  • Vibrations in the brake pedal
  • Noise while braking
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