Drum Brake Tools
Article by Mark Trotta
Many of you have probably worked on disc brakes, but may have not worked on drum brakes before. Several specialty tools are required, not only to do the job, but to do the job safely. This article covers the tools needed to service drum brakes.
Years ago, I worked with a mechanic who lost his right eye doing a brake job. He wasn't wearing safety glasses and a brake spring popped out. Twenty years have passed since that happened, and I never forget to wear glasses every time I go near drum brakes.
Brake Spring Pliers
Trying to use needle nose pliers or vice-grips to remove and install brake springs is dangerous. Brake spring pliers are necessary when replacing shoes or wheel cylinders.
Shop: Brake Spring Pliers Tool
Brake Drum Adjuster Tool
These are also called brake spoons. You could probably get away with using a flat-blade screwdriver, but brake spoons are curved to make it easier to get into the adjuster window.
Shop: Drum Brake Adjusting Tool
Brake Shoe Hold-Down Tool
This is the tool to remove and install drum brake retainer springs. They are also known as a brake spring compressor tool. Another way to compress and remove the springs is with needle nose pliers, but this inexpensive tool makes the job quick and easy.
Shop: Brake Hold-Down Tool
Sometimes the brake shoe hold-down springs can be stubborn to remove. Having the correct tool will give you the leverage to remove and install them easily.
Brake Drum Puller
I'll admit it, I've pounded on brake drums with a hammer trying to get them to come off. This should only be a last resort technique, unless you're planning on replacing the drum anyway, since you may ruin the drum for re-use. A correctly-sized brake drum puller is the path of least resistance. Aside from removing drums, pullers can also be used to remove hubs and brake rotors.
Shop: Brake Drum Puller Kit
TIP: When trying to remove a brake drum, remember to back off the self-adjusters, or they will continue to hold the shoes to the drum.
Brake Tool Set
I bought all my brake tools one at a time as needed, but it would have been cheaper if I'd bought them together. A nice bonus is you usually get a storage case to keep them organized and secure.
Shop: 8-Piece Brake Tool Set
This OTC brake tool kit includes three different brake spoons and several different brake spring tools. Also included is a drum brake adjuster. The plastic storage case is also included.
Brake Line Flaring Tool
Making your own brake lines requires a few specialty tools, most importantly a flaring tool, of which there are three common types. All should come with several dies to accommodate different size lines.
The simple wing-nut style double flaring tool is the most common. It mounts in a vice and sells for about $30 to $50.