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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
How to Adjust Rear Drum Brakes

This writeup was inspired by this thread:

http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/34-1-4l-turbo/6326-brake-catching-sound.html



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.

Tools needed:

- Jack
- Jackstand
- Flathead screwdriver
- T30 Torx wrench/bit
- Lugnut removal tool


How-To:

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.


Observations:

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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I told you a clean & adjust would take care of that noise. :)
You did indeed! Thanks for that!

I figured this writeup would be necessary as I'm sure more people will run into this problem and it's not always convenient to drive 30+ miles to the dealer for something one can do in 1.5 hours no matter how mechanically un-savvy one might be.

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The guys at Discount Tire told me that whenever you have a wheel off you should polish the surface of the drum to keep the wheel from coming lose from an uneven surface between the inside of the wheel and the drum.

Thanks for this. I think my drums were adjusted when I had my handbrake adjusted. My overall braking improved after that adjustment.
 

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Xtreme Thanks for the write up I'll do this right now!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have described the adjustment of the parking brake a while ago….
It is true, you added excellent details!:eusa_clap:

http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/9-ch...90-parking-brake-no-adjustment.html#post42089
Nice! I didn't even notice that, lol. Well, at least we have a dedicated how-to for it now that we can point people to when they come in complaining about the "brake catching" noise.

Hi5 for taking pictures as well.

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Thanks for the right up. I'll have to take a look at mine. I haven't noticed any noise but drums could not be touching at all.

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I need to do this but I'm a little confused about the "locking plate" and exactly how to slack off the adjustment if I go too far. Maybe you could add another picture and point to the place I need to press to release the lever that prevents rearward rotation of the adjuster.

Too bad the rubber plug on the backing plate doesn't line up with the star adjuster. I pulled it on mine but saw it wasn't anywhere near the adjuster so I put it back. I wonder how a mechanic would get the drum off in a high mileage car when the drum develops a lip at the edge. Somehow that rubber plug must come into play but it kind of baffles me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I need to do this but I'm a little confused about the "locking plate" and exactly how to slack off the adjustment if I go too far. Maybe you could add another picture and point to the place I need to press to release the lever that prevents rearward rotation of the adjuster.

Too bad the rubber plug on the backing plate doesn't line up with the star adjuster. I pulled it on mine but saw it wasn't anywhere near the adjuster so I put it back. I wonder how a mechanic would get the drum off in a high mileage car when the drum develops a lip at the edge. Somehow that rubber plug must come into play but it kind of baffles me.
When you take the drum off, you'll see what I mean. The locking plate is spring loaded against the adjustment nut. You can easily lift it with a finger. It doesn't so much as lock as it just keeps the adjustment nut from reversing on its own, identical to the "locking" mechanism on a ratchet.

I've seen videos of other cars having adjustment options when removing a rubber plug, so perhaps this was simply a reused part for a different drum brake set on another gm car.

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Drum brakes should be self adjusting, easiest way to do this is to back up on a decline, and constantly tap on the brake pedal, fully releasing each time. You should feel the pedal come up, or in other words, when applying brake pedal pressure, the brake pedal won't go down as far.

I have no choice in this matter, have a relatively steep driveway down to the road and have to step on the brake pedal every time. Brake adjusters only work in reverse, if constantly driving and only using brakes in the forward direction, brake shoe wear will increase the gap, lower the brake pedal, and thus adjustment is needed.

When doing a brake job, always set the adjusters on the loose side, back up and about every ten feet or so, don't have to drive fast, hit the brake pedal, when applied pressure gives about an inch of freeplay in the brake pedal, I know for sure the adjusters are working properly.

Noise normally occurs if the shoes don't want to self center. Lubrication of the shoes is important at three points on the shoe. At the cylinder, a rub point on the backing plate, and most important area is at the anchors at the bottom. If the shoes cannot self center, the automatic adjusters won't work properly. Yet another cause is over tightening the parking brake level, it has got to be against the stops. If even partially engaged, the shoes can't expand enough for that ratchet to get a click.

Front calipers also need to self center, otherwise get brake drag on one or the other pad, this can warp a rotor.

In road salt country, hate that **** stuff, both the pads slided and brake shoes get rusty, preventing self centering, always a spring time job for me. Found putting a thin coat of Permatex anti-seize on first, like painting it on the moving parts, followed by black brake grease, the anti-seize acts like a coating to retard rust buildup.

GM is doing a tad better job using anti-corrosion brake parts, but still not up to par in my experience. For years was raw cast iron. Seen shoes rusted on so bad, with the drum removed, can step on the brake pedal as hard as you can and not budge those shoes. You are not suppose to do this by the way, the pistons will pop out of the cylinder and all of your brake fluid will leak out.

Getting those seven clicks should have been accomplished by backing up the vehicle, and hitting the brake pedal seven times. If not, have other problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Nick, I and XtremeAaron tried this method of backing up and flooring the brakes, at least a dozen times each. No dice. It didn't do anything to solve this little problem of ours. The only way was to manually adjust the brakes.
 

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Ya know what's funny, I grew up driving old Detroit monsters with drums at each corner, so none of this is new to me. I was doing drum brake relines and adjustments on my mom's '64 New Yorker (jaHEEzus that was a beast), dad's '72 LTD Wagon/Family Truckster, and my '73 Nova before I even got my license. You kids these days...
 

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Nick, I and XtremeAaron tried this method of backing up and flooring the brakes, at least a dozen times each. No dice. It didn't do anything to solve this little problem of ours. The only way was to manually adjust the brakes.
I found the same thing. The drums got manually adjusted on my car within 1000 miles of getting it. That reminds me, it's time I did it again on both cars. It takes very little time the second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) time adjusting them.
 
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Nick, I and XtremeAaron tried this method of backing up and flooring the brakes, at least a dozen times each. No dice. It didn't do anything to solve this little problem of ours. The only way was to manually adjust the brakes.
Something is wrong causing the self adjusters not to work, by self-centering, I mean the shoe assembly has to be able to float. Should be able to put your hands on the opposite shoes, move it up and down and sideways. If not, something is binding or needs lubrication.

From what I can see, the Cruze got away from that real heavy about six inch diameter heavy spring to hold the two shoes together. Took pure muscle force to put that spring back on. But are now using locating pins in the lower anchor.

For all I know without examining it, using made in China non-tempered springs to pull those shoes together. Ran into other problems like that with non-tempered springs. Binding in the lower anchor always has been a problem, can only relate to history on this subject. But the shoes have to be able to self center for the adjusters to work, Need that play.

As I mentioned, the parking brake has to be fully retracted, one thing easier with disk brakes, can see the lever and the stop from the outside. With drums, that lever is on the inside. If too tight, won't get that play for the adjusters to work.

With problems like this, not afraid to address these problems with my dealer, usually one mechanic knows something about them and what the cure is, if there is even a cure. Ran into that also.

Also all kinds of offset brake adjusting tools available, flat bladed screwdriver is history.

Ha, my wife wonders why I don't like to buy anything new, thinks new is better. These new computer whiz kids don't know a **** thing about history and come up with new problems. But then they become your problems.
 

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Chevy says the brakes self adjust every time you use them and the owner's manual doesn't talk about braking while in reverse as a method to accomplish the adjustment. I think the self adjustment system can be built to work in either forward or reverse but I can't actually visualize how the Cruze works - maybe I lack mechanical imagination.

I think GM might have built the self adjusters deliberately to stay on the loose side as a fuel economy item. My brake pedal is so low that occasionally the right side of my shoe hits the gas when applying the brakes. I have a 2010 GM pickup that also has drums at the rear and it works much better, so I know GM can do it right - but not on the Cruze.
 

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I've also repeatedly tried the reverse trick on the self-adjusters, per SOP with drum brakes, and it hasn't helped a thing... I figure I'm going to have to do this, sometime soon... E-brake all the way up won't hold the car, by itself (not in gear), on a hill, any more... 19k miles...

Mike
 
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