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99 Honda Civic drum brake problem

99 Civic drum brake problem

I was trying to replace the brake shoes on my 99 civic LX and having a hard time getting the drum off. It was very rusty so I had to resort to using two 8mm bolts. I started driving them in a little at a time and heard a couple of pops. I though this was just the drum coming loose, but after it came loose I still couldn’t pull it off and there were two very corroded broken pins on the back side of the back plate. This isn’t normal is it? Now I’m wondering should I keep trying to pull off the drum? Or is it possible that the shoes had rusted to the inside of the drum and when I drove the 8mm bolts in I was pulling on the shoes themselves, or something else inside, as well as the drum?

If something has gone wrong should I keep trying to get the drum off to address the problem or should I just put it back together and take it to a professional?

Any help would be really appreciated. Thank you.

This is a very common problem on an aging vehicle. You most likely have a rust lip on the outer edge of the friction surface of the brake drum which is preventing the drum from being removed. I suggest reaching in through the access slot on the backing plate with a brake spoon or flathead screwdriver and spinning the star wheel back. This will back the shoes away from the drum, allowing it to be removed more easily. If you continue to try to remove the drum as it is, you could cause damage to more brake parts, including the wheel cylinders. The pins you see are the hold down pins for the shoes. New ones will be included in your brake hardware kit, which I presume you already have if you are replacing the shoes (never reuse the old hardware!)

Thanks for the fast reply, Mark! Is the access slot on the top of the back plate and covered with a rubber plug? And should I just stick the screw driver in and wiggle it to spin the star wheel?

It will be covered by a rubber plug and I believe it is near the top on the Civic. You will see the star wheel through the opening if you peer in there with a flashlight. You may need a second screwdriver to push the tab back to allow the star wheel to be spun backwards. If you hear it ratcheting cleanly, you are going the wrong way and tightening the shoes against the drums. If you are loosening it, you will either hear a coarse, harsh ratcheting sound and/or have a difficult time turning it. Pushing the tab away from the star wheel will make it go easier.

I’m finding it impossible to look into the access holes as they come straight in from the back and the car’s suspension is in the way. I’ve probed around blind with the brake spoon, but don’t feel anything that I can move. Does the drum need to be in a specific position to access it? If I can’t get at it from the access holes, can I drive the 8mm bolts back in to form a small opening between the drum and the backplate and then manipulate the starwheel through there?

You’re going to have to stick with the access holes. The ratcheting mechanism that mark referred to should actually keep you from being able to turn the star wheel. Its also the case that if its been a long time since those brakes were apart those adjusters can get very hard to turn. Right now might be a good time to blow $20 on a repair manual for the car. (And maybe another $1 on one of those mini-telescoping mirrors for getting a look at things like this). Or at the very least you could try Autozone’s online repair info - just register an email address & plug in the car’s info. It would be helpful for you to find a basic diagram of the adjuster system & some instructions.

I have a Haynes manual for the car, but all it says about adjusting the star wheel amounts to “just do it” and there are no accompanying photos for that specific problem. The mirror is a great idea though as I’ve just been poking around blind. These breaks probably haven’t been apart since the car was bought and I live in Upstate NY so the corrosion is significant. My real problem is not having a picture of it in my head. Once the tab is pressed down to allow the star wheel to move are you moving the star wheel itself or an adjusting mechanism that then turns the star wheel?

You will be turning the star wheel itself. There is a tab that rests against the star wheel that allows it to turn in one direction only (a ratcheting mechanism) to prevent the brake adjustment from backing off. You actually need to back the brakes off to get the drum off, which is what I was referring to in my earlier post. It’s difficult to describe how to do this without being able to teach it hands-on. Once you have dealt with it a number of times, you can do all this without looking at anything or even thinking about it much. I just stick the brake spoon in the slot and go to town, but I’ve done this hundreds of times.

This might sound like a dumb question, but have you released the parking brake? If you haven’t, release it now, and rotate the wheel. If it rotates freely, it should come off.

When I do brake jobs on my 1998 Civic, I always have to use the bolts. Make sure you are using two, and make sure you tighten one a couple turns, then tighten the other a couple turns and go back and forth.

Make sure you are using the right size bolts and keep doing what you are doing, and make sure you only work on one side at a time once you have the drums off so you have a reference to get everything back together.

I’ve never had to bother with the star wheel to get the drums off. In fact, the way it is shaped, you can’t turn it in the proper direction to loosen it from the access hole. If you mess with it, you will only tighten the pads’ hold on the drum, making it harder to get it off.

The parking brake was off from the outset. I used two 8mm bolts to get the drum off and cranked them to the point where the hold down pins broke and the drum was almost to the the ends of the lug nut studs, but it was still stuck on. I removed the bolts and tried hammering between the studs to loosen any rust that might be holding it and it was still stuck on. The wheel rotates but it takes some effort. So there is space between the drum and back plate, but something inside is still holding onto it.

The Haynes manual agrees with what Mark had said about backing off the star wheel, but I haven’t had any luck yet. I doubt I have moved it at all in either direction.

Is this the first time, since you have owned the car (or since the car was new), anyone has attempted to remove the drums? If so, the pads may have worn down to the point where the bolts that hold the pads onto the shoes have worn grooves into the drums. These grooves, with the bolt heads in them, could be what is preventing you from getting the drums off.

Try removing the lid on the brake master cylinder. This release of pressure in the brake lines may allow you to compress the pads by wiggling the drum around.

You can also try putting the drum almost all the way back on, and have a friend tap the drum while you spin it. If you do this, while gradually spinning down those two 8mm bolts, it may be enough to pop the shoes back and release the drum. Can you get a screwdriver or other pry tool in there to

I think we’re all agreed the shoes are trapped. If you have to drum pulled that far away from the backplate, you might even be able to use a flashlight and see the star wheel. IF not, you could even try to pry the bottom of the shoe off the holder, which may pop the whole thing apart. Be careful it you try this so as not to damage the backplate…although if you’re still have problems, you may just want to consider cutting through the self adjuster and replacing it (if you can get at it). It’s about $12.

The backplate can be cut if required, and I can’t give you an approximate replacement cost on those, but the dealer can. They may be available at other locations, I can’t confirm that.

From what I’ve read, it appears to me that you’re looking at an almost complete replacement job here, anyway. Drums, shoes, self-adjuster (if you cannot get it off in decent shape and get it screwing/unscrewing smoothly and easily), and maybe even backplate.

It may be possible to turn the drums and use them again, but be careful of how much metal is removed to make them smooth again. A machine shop will have to do this for you - you can’t just sand them. If they’re damaged too much, they’ll have to be replaced, but it may be quicker and cheaper in the long run to replace them at ~$14 each.

Good luck!

So if I cut the self adjuster spring it should relieve the tension on the shoes? If so it seems to be the most straight forward thing to do.

I managed to get it off finally. Just gave up and used brute force and a pry bar. Will need to replace wheel cylinder and brake shoe adjuster, but it looks like those would have needed to be replaced anyways because of corrosion. These upstate NY winters really do a number with rust.

Thank you everyone for the help. I would have been lost without you guys.

You may want to just replace the backplate, too. While you’re in there, you might as well do everything as come back later just to do one part.

Great opportunity to pull the hub and clean up/grease the bearings, too.

I’m on a really tight budget and can’t really afford to replace parts that could last a while longer. Its one of the reasons I opted to do this job myself instead of bringing it to a professional (I knew it was going to be a pain, but I didn’t think it would be this much of a pain). While it is a bit rusty the backplate looks solid. Why would I need to replace it?