The drum brake on a car is one the most important safety features on any vehicle. This brake can get stuck for a variety of reasons. However, the brakes can be freed quickly by using a simple process that any do-it-yourself beginner can follow.
Step 1 - Block the Car
To get at the brake drums, you will need to raise the back end of the car in the air. Make sure the parking brake lever is fully down before you start any work. Place large blocks in front of the front wheels as this will stop the car rolling off when you raise the back.
Step 2 - Remove Cover
Lift the back of the car into the air using a car jack. Do this until you have enough room to get axle stands beneath the car and have enough room to work without being restricted. The brake drum backing plate should have a plug or cover that will be protecting the adjuster wheel and lever. There should be grooves that allow you to pull the cover away or visible large screws that can be removed to loosen the cover.
Step 3 - Turn the Adjuster Wheel
Now the hard work starts. The lever for the adjuster wheel should be snugly tucked away down the side of the drum mechanism. Gently prod and pull it out using a large metal bar or screwdriver. Hold it steady once it is free. Use a metal bar in your other hand to move the adjuster wheel anti-clockwise. Be patient as the grooves in the wheel could have rusted. They may take 3 or 4 pushes before they move. Do this until the wheel has fully rotated, clicks and stops. The brake drum should now turn easily.
Step 4 - The Holding Screws
The brake drum needs to come away from the wheel studs in order to fully operate. It may turn, but it needs sufficient space to function properly. There should be retaining screws that can be loosened with a strong flat head screwdriver. Turn the screws slowly until the drum slowly moves away from the wheel studs. This is important because there must be room for brake action, which will allow the brake to grip to slow the vehicle.
Step 5 - Garage
Some drums may never have had the holding screws loosened before. You may not be able to move them at all. Consider using penetrating oil to loosen them, but if there is nothing more you can physically do yourself, you may have to take your car to a garage. Mechanics will use a special puller which rotates the drum and a heavy duty hammer, which frees it. This will relieve the stuck brake drum in a matter of minutes. This service does not cost a great deal of money.
Step 6 - Clean and Maintain
Once the brake drum is free, give it a thorough clean. You can clean the drum with a large cloth and de-grease the areas that generate the most friction. This should stop it from sticking at any point in the near future.