How to Adjust Rear Drum Brakes
This writeup was inspired by this thread:
Why do my Cruze's drum brakes need adjusting?
The Cruze's drums are not adjusted very well from the factory. I believe the word "horrible" would describe it well. XtremeAaron and I had run into an issue where the brakes would create an audible and repetitive noise based on the rotation of the wheel when coming to a stop. The reason for this noise is that the brakes were only engaging during those noises, indicating that they were not adjusted correctly and were not even being used in most braking conditions to stop the car. They were only touching enough to create those noises.
Adjustment of drum brakes is very important for safe braking and stability. I highly recommend that anyone with a Cruze LS, 1LT, and ECO adjust their drum brakes.
This writeup will explain how to adjust these brakes.
- Flathead screwdriver
- T30 Torx wrench/bit
- Lugnut removal tool
To start, lift the car off the ground. Be sure that you have a jackstand as well as a jack. A jack is only intended to lift a car, not to hold the car up. This will need to be done on completely level ground as the parking brake will need to be disengaged this whole time. You will need to block off the front wheels to make 100% sure that the car doesn't roll). I simply left the car in 1st gear, but if you do this, be sure to take the car out of gear before starting it.
Once you get it off, you'll see something similar to this:
Using the T30 Torx bit/wrench, remove the screw that holds the drum in place:
Once the screw is removed, the drum should slide right off. If it doesn't, lightly wedge it with a flathead screwdriver in varying locations.
Once you get it off, you'll see the hydraulic piston and below it, the adjustment mechanism:
The adjustment mechanism pushes the brake shoes outward when the the adjustment nut is turned upward. I used a flathead screwdriver to turn it. It will only turn in one direction unless you pull back the locking plate.
On my Eco, I had to rotate the adjustment nut at least 7 clicks. Your needs may vary, so I would start at 2-4 clicks. Once you have made the adjustment, put the drum back on, making sure to line up the screw hole:
Lightly tighten the screw that goes in that hole, and spin the drum by hand. If you feel absolutely no resistance from the brake shoes, remove it and turn the adjustment nut a few more clicks. Repeat this procedure until you feel a small amount of resistance. You should still be able to turn the drum by hand without a whole lot of force. A small bit of resistance is fine, but if it's difficult to turn by hand, you adjusted it too far and will need to turn the adjustment nut in the other direction. To do so, you will need to lift the lock plate. You can do this either by lifting it directly, or pressing down on the opposite end of it.
Once you have a good adjustment, tighten the T30 screw. I highly recommend anti-sieze lubricant on the T30 screw that holds the brake drum. Place the wheel back on, lower the car, and repeat this procedure for the other wheel. Once all sides are done, take the car out for a drive.
If you hear the brakes rubbing while coasting, perform a few very hard stops from at least 40mph. If the rubbing noise does not stop, you've adjusted the brakes too far and will need to go back a few clicks.
After adjusting my drum brakes, I noticed vastly improved braking performance and brake pedal feel. The car exhibited significantly less nosedive during harder braking, and felt much more confident and secure while coming to a stop. Engaging the handbrake was also more secure and required less actual height on the hand brake lever. The previously heard brake noise is also now completely gone.