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2007 Kia Rio Drum Brake Design Flaw? Rear brakes now ineffective after changing?


I’ve recently replaced the drum brake shoes and brake cylinders on my kia (as well as the drum hardware springs and what not). First of all it was way more difficult then I bargained for, but I did get it done eventually needing to use the other side as reference (and then obviously replacing everything on that side too). One thing I do want to mention is that I could not get the drum on without closing the brake adjuster COMPLETELY. So I basically just closed it all the way so I could smoothly fit the drum on. I figured this would be no big deal because there’s a lever there anyways that SHOULD adjust it exactly how it needs to be. Now I have 2 big questions:

The first I believe is literally with the design of these particular drum brakes. When putting it together I noticed that the really long spring seems to go right between the adjusting lever and the adjuster itself, so it would seem to me that the lever would have a very hard time actually adjusting the brakes. This is actually one of the main reasons I took a look at the other side to make sure this was correct and the other side was like that as well. I actually took a few pictures as well:
That’s the side I first put together and I checked the other side to be sure it was correct. Maybe the lever should go behind the spring even though that’s not how either side was when I first opened it up?

The second is I just want to know how the brakes are adjusted automatically? I put the wheels back on and drove around a bit and the brakes don’t feel like they’re effective at all right now. When I bled the new cylinders I could hear the brakes hitting the metal so they do seem to be functioning. I assume it’s just because I manually closed the adjuster as much as possible to get the drum on and now it just need to adjust. Does it just happen over time so I should just drive around a bit and see if the brakes get better? How should I really know if they’re being adjusted or not?

Anyways that got really long so sorry about that. After spending a WEEK changing these brakes I just wanted to finally be done with the problem. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Those brakes self adjust only when making a hard stop in reverse.

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Thanks for the reply. Will I have to do this several times if it needs a lot of adjusting? I will definitely try your suggestion. Did you look at the picture by any chance I’m really curious if anyone might know why the spring would be there where it may be in the may of the adjuster?

Did you have the drums turned? Was there a ridge?

I’m gonna be honest I’m not entirely sure what you mean by if I had them turned. I took the drums off to get to the brakes, and I did look at them and thought they would be fine to keep, but again I’m not too knowledgeable. I’m not too sure on what to look out for either, but there wasn’t any obvious damage to them.

I think you’re over your head. Brakes are best learned from someone who has done them before. Anyone you know that could help?


I probably was over my head but I wasn’t about to pay a bunch of money to have someone do it for me and I wish I had someone who could help. I DID get them exactly how they were before the only difference being that I don’t think they’re adjusted right and if that’s the only issue I take that as an absolute win especially if I can do it just by reverse stopping. If the drums are somehow the issue then I wouldn’t be opposed to replacing them as well hopefully they aren’t too expensive. I did check the inside of the drums for damage but it seemed smooth and fine to me but I really wasn’t entirely sure what to look for.

You use one of these . . . this one happens to be K-D brand . . . to do the base adjustment

Then you use a brake spoon to do the fine tuning . . . could be quite a bit of fine tuning to get it right, in some cases

As for those wheel cylinders . . . how certain are you the air’s all out of the system?

And how did you go about bleeding the brakes . . . I’m asking because there’s several different methods to accomplish the task

The wheel you backed off to get the drum back on is called the “star wheel”. It is considered proper practice after putting the drum back on to adjust the star wheel manually. You do this thru the slot in the backing plate by first holding the adjusting lever away from the star wheel with an ice pick. Then you use a tool called a “brake spoon” to turn the star wheel until there is a slight drag on the car wheel when you spin it by hand. Then you back the star wheel off two notches. Then you remove the ice pick and brake spoon. Then one or two hard stops in reverse.i wouldn’t know specifically how your self adjuster works without sitting there staring at it.


Alright well I’m prepared to manually adjust them again and open them up a bit if needed I have never seen one of those tools before. Well I don’t know. My dad had done that part before so I would pump the brakes and he would open and close the valve letting fluid come out. We did it maybe 4 or 5 times per brake until a consistent stream would come out.

With drum brakes wear causes the shoe to wear the drum, leaving a ridge on the outside lip of the drum. That is why if you don’t have the drums inside diameter turned on a brake lathe or put on new drums, you have to unadjust the brakes to get the drum back on.

Drum brakes also have a way to manually adjust them after you have the drums back on.

I hope you realized that the left and right rear brakes are mirror images of each other, not identical.

Most drum brakes adjust through a slot in the backing plate using a brake spoon or screwdriver, but I have no idea how your unnamed model Kia adjusts.

I encourage anyone that doesn’t know brakes to pay the money. They are key to your safety.

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Yes I noticed the difference between the two brakes thanks though. I am very very confidant that I put everything together correctly exactly as it was before but obviously with the new parts. The adjuster in the middle has a lever by it and is one of the things I was confused about when taking it apart it seemed the lever was partially blocked by a spring.

Will it still adjust properly (just using the reverse braking method) from a completely closed position? Or should I definitely open it up more manually first? I did try doing it closing it more and more trying again and again the get the drum on, but ended up closing it all the way to get it on.

Is the brake pedal just as high when applying the brake as it was before?

If so don’t panic, the new brake shoes will break in after a couple hundred miles. The friction surface on the new shoes is a bit course when new, there won’t be good contact until the shoes are worn in a little.

You need to adjust it manually now. It would take forever for the self adjuster to take up that amount of slack.


Have you googled “ how to adjust drum brakes”? I’d think there is LOTS of info available.

But first have the drums turned.

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I doubt that further adjustment is necessary, if the brake drums are in good condition and new brake shoes are installed the adjusters will need to be fully retracted as proven in this case.

Thanks if that’s the case it will make things much simpler, but using the brakes how they were the car wouldn’t come to a stop nearly like they used to (much much slower like the rear brakes were doing hardly anything). The brake pedal itself also feels different (less resistance). I haven’t tried the reverse stopping method to adjust them yet.

Edit: To answer your other comment I do think the starting position of the brake pedal is the same, just offers less resistance.

Press harder on the brake pedal. Normally we resurface the brake drums during a brake job, this gives the drum a rough surface that will cut into the shoes, the break in period is much quicker.

As to braking in reverse, that is something that some people each day without realizing, you don’t need to make a special effort to get the self adjusters to operate.