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Can not reach self adjuster/star wheel!


I am attempting to replace the drums and shoes on my 1995 Buick Century. I took out the rubber piece and, with various screwdrivers and brake spoons, tried for hours to get the brake shoes to contract away from the interior of the drum. My problem is that the self adjuster is off-set from the opening in the backing plate. I need more than a 45 degree angle to reach it. When I do make contact, only a corner of my tool is between the teeth of the self adjuster. And my tool tends to slip out. I can not really apply any force without my tool slipping…

If you have any advise, or if this has been discussed before, your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


I have a similar problem w/my truck. Especially the front wheels, a lot going on there b/c it is 4WD. What I had to do was bend a screwdriver about 4 inches from the tip, at about a 30 degree angle. Makes the perfect tool for fiddling with the star wheel. You may have to do something like that, modify an existing tool.

Could you have the self adjuster installed wrong? And to the best of my recollection the adjuster slots on GM vehicles were in the drums and required punching then out.

I’ve had to do as @GeorgeSanJose recommended. I think I have an assortment of 3-4 bent screwdrivers in the drawer. I also found that if you file a “V” into the screwdriver tip, it may work a little better.


There are a great many variations of angled ends and relief cuts in adjuster spoons available. When the opening slot is in the backing plate finding the proper spoon and angle of approach is easy since doing so wiith the drum off is possible.

Thanks for you help GeorgeSanJose, I will certainly try that tomorrow.

Thanks for your response Red Knox, but I do not think so. This is the first time any work has ever been attempted on these rear wheels.

Hey Rod Knox, you mentioned a great variety of spoons. Where do you think I could buy them? Thanks!

The adjuster tool I have is straight on one end and bent at the other and always worked on GM. The last one I did though was on the rear of our 86 Park Ave, but that car had no slot punched out. The shoes were not adjusted that way. The shoes were adjusted with a measuring tool before the drum went on, not like the old days. I wouldn’t have thought GM would have gone backwards on that for a 95.

I assume you’re trying to shorten the adjuster so the drum can be removed. I think you have to use an additional rod to push the actuator away from the star wheel on the adjuster to do this.

Look through these @mazar83.


It’s not just GM that requires using that tool you mentioned.

You pull on the parking brake cable, like your life depended on it

You put a special tool in the parking brake pedal, in just the right spot, to hold it in place, so that it stays “locked” in place, and the cable hangs slack

Now you use that measuring tool, and transfer the measurement to the shoes

I use that method at work, and it works quite well. Not to mention there are certain vehicles out there, where the hole to reach the star wheel is 99.99% inaccessible

The reason is that on some vehicles, the left and right backing plates are identical, and the hole is down on one side and up on the other. And on one of the sides, you’re going to be screaming and cussing, because the adjuster is essentially unreachable, because of suspension components and space constraints

Thank you Rod Knox, these tools have given me some good ideas about how to make my own.

Hi Bing, my tool is also like you described. But I am not sure about the other thing you said. I have an opening in the backing plate. Did you have to create you own? I would not be opposed to drilling/cutting to achieve my goal.

Hello insightful, you are correct. I am still trying to get the drum off, and that is my goal for now. I understand what you are suggesting, but could you elaborate? Do you thing I could use a coat hanger? I have looked through the opening in the backing plate with a mirror, and I can clearly see the self adjuster, but I unfortunately can not see the actuator…


Your drum may have a lip, and you can’t clear it right now

On some cars, you have to push the “arm” back, and then turn the star adjuster wheel

Without releasing the self adjuster the star wheel can only be turned one direction, tightening.
Use a piece of clothes hanger to push just above or below the star wheel, when you make contact with the adjuster you will feel a little spring tension. While holding the lever away from the star wheel you can then move the star wheel in the direction that loosens the shoes.


I am pretty sure that there is a lip. I have made a bent/angled screw driver (thanks @GeorgeSanJose ). I really want to push that “arm”/actuator. I am going to try using a coat hanger. Thanks for the info!

Thanks @Nevada_545.

With the off-set from the opening in the backing plate, how would you recommend that I find the level/actuator/“arm” ?

Does anyone know where to find schematics for a 1995 Buick Century rear drum brake?

Thank you everybody for your responses!

Have you tried to get the drum off first? Parking brake must be released. Don’t laugh; it happens.