CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Difference between back and front brakes

I have been told that my back brakes need replacing and the place suggested it would need to include replacing the drums. They wanted about $400 for new drums and pads and such. I have never in all the years I have owned a car had to ever have anything but pads replaced on any of my cars brakes. I have had the car checked a number of times and no one till this last place who was also replacing my front wheel baring said anything about needing new drums and such. If the drums were that bad would you not hear something or feel something while braking?

My car: 2002 Kia Sedona Mini van/149,000 miles on it, I got it with 135,000 on it and have not had any break work done to this point because I was told it wasn’t needed.

Here we go again… :slight_smile:

That is a good price for a full brake job with new drums.
They could very well be original and worn to thin
Very possible you could have needed new ones and not felt anything.

From pricing out drums/pads I am finding about $150 in parts, so it’s $250 in labor?

Drums just like disks get worn out, and since most guys don’t own the equipment to resurface the drums, they replace them. Can you get away without doing them, yeah probably… Unless they are VERY thin or warped (very hard to do on drums)… Will your new shoes (not pads on the rear), ware out faster if you don’t get new drums… Again yes, but since they are only $20-$30 any way I would not worry about it too much

Wear out faster? Like how much faster? Also how tough is it to replace a set of drums and shoes on a car/van?

Why did they say that the drums need to be replaced?

You can’t price parts yourself and assume that’s what you pay a shop for them. For one thing, you can almost always find cheaper parts than a shop would use - and they wouldn’t use them for good reason. And shops will mark up parts - as well they should, so long as it is within reason.

If you don’t like what you’re hearing get a second opinion.

They just said they needed to be replaced. I also understand there is some mark up in parts, found that out when they did my wheel barring replacement, just wasn’t sure what a fair markup is…

At my store I pay cost +10% the customer pays cost +30-50% depending on what the part is and the used car dept pays cost +40% on EVERYTHING !

Drum brakes is auto repair 101, not a hard job, but you have to take your time and do it right…

Shoes are a lot more complicated to replace than pads. You have several springs to deal with, plus the parking brake. It’s just way more complicated.

If the shoes are worn down enough to have scored the drum…then they’ll need to be turned/replaced. If there’s still padding on the shoe then they may not need to be replaced.

If they’re worn totally off and you’re running metal-to-metal, you’ll hear and probably feel something (grinding and poor braking). If they’re just thin and on the verge of going metal-to-metal, you may not.

He’s jus telling you that you need a standard brake job in the rear. Ecerything he’s saying seems perfectly reasonable and normal. Brakes are a critical safety item. Get it done.

In future, when you’re given edvice of this nature, ask them to show you. It’ll be a good learning experience for you and you’lll feel more comfortable about the recommendation.

Usually I do, as I usually stay around and watch, but this was a drop off return after the weekend type deal so I am just taking their word this time.

I’d pull the drums off myself and inspect them for damage. If there’s no scoring, cracks or excessive wear I wouldn’t replace them. Not likely you have any scoring unless the shoes are worn out and there’s metal to metal contact. My '88 Escort has 518,700 miles and still has the original drums on it. Some shops recommend replacing drums and rotors every time the the car gets new brakes, but it’s often not necessary. The drums have to come off to replace the brakes so there shouldn’t be any extra labor involved in replacing them and on front brakes once the caliper is removed the rotor just slips off so it’s an easy way for shady operations to make extra money on parts. Neither front or rear brakes are extremely complicated as long as you can remember where all the springs go. If you’re not sure of how to get everything back together put the rear on jack stands and remove both wheels and drums, but only remove the shoes on one side then you can refer to the other side for reassembly.

Quote Fordman1959: “If you’re not sure of how to get everything back together put the rear on jack stands and remove both wheels and drums, but only remove the shoes on one side then you can refer to the other side for reassembly.”

Note that the brakes will be mirror images on the opposite sides. Since you have access to a computer, I’ll bet you also have one of those new fangled phones. Umm, whater they called? Oh yeah, cell phones. Most of them also take pictures. I’d suggest taking a good set of pictures of each side before taking either side apart. Get close-ups of the spring lengths and locations. You may also be able to blow the pix up by transferring (or emailing) them to your computor. You should also get a shop manual for your car. A “good enough” one for brake work will be available wherever you buy your parts. See if the parts store has a tool loan program. Many do. Shop there, and borrow the brake spring tools you’ll need.

@MG McAnick,

or you could lay out the parts in the rough position that came off as you disassemble. This is the technique I genereally use to keep the springs in the correct place. Also, whenever you disassemble drum brakes, make sure the brake adjuster is cleaned and greased with brake grease to make sure it doesn’t seize or bind up. This is important for long brake life. and to keep the brakes properly adjusted.

It’s not that there’s $250 in labor, it’s that the price of the parts is marked up. If shops didn’t mark up the price of the parts, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business. If you don’t want to pay a price markup, do the work yourself.

Since you got the vehicle with most of it’s mileage on it . . . 135,000 of it’s 149,000 . . . you can’t assume that the previous driver drives like you. If you’ve never replaced a set of back brakes, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to do it for the previous driver. My wife is on her 3rd set of front pads, 2nd set of rotors on our 2010 Civic, only 35,000 miles. I don’t even talk to her about her driving style anymore, not worth the argument. Some folks drive with one foot on the gas, the other on the brake . . . and you can be sure that something will wear-out faster that way. If you trust the mechanic who recommended the brake job, get it done. If not, get a 2nd opinion. The price seems reasonable, as others have pointed-out . . back brakes are not hard to replace, they just take a lot more (shop) time due to their design. Good luck! Rocketman

Drum brakes are very different than disk brakes. Also rear brakes are generally smaller than front brakes since the front brakes do about 80% of the work of stopping a car. Yet, rear brakes do wear out. I had a '98 Volvo wagon that simply ate up rear brakes like every 10K miles, so some cars do go through rear brakes quickly.

You got the car at 135K miles and the only way to know the condition of the rear drum brakes is to pull the wheels, pull off the drums, and visually look at the shoes and drums. Since you got 15K more miles from them they were OK then, but now the shoes are getting worn. In the old day shoes had rivets to secure the brake material to the metal base of the shoes. When you wore the shoes down to the rivets the metal rivets quickly scored the drums beyond repair. Drums that are not damaged can be turned, smoothing the surface. But you can only turn a drum maybe 2 times at best then they need to be replaced.

If you learned you needed new rear brakes because you were getting grinding noise from the rear brakes then new drums are likely needed. If no grinding perhaps the drums have been turned before and are now thin, or perhaps the garage simply wants to sell you new drums.

Another part of a good rear brake job is dealing with the wheel cylinders. They need to be either replaced or honed smooth. If you don’t hone them properly the wheel cylinders can leak brake fluid, which contaminates the shoes and you have to redo the job. Some shops don’t like to hone cylinders and just replace them.

The last element with drum rear brakes is they also are your parking brake. This is a mechanical set up and it adds to the job when parking brake parts are bent and rusted which is very common. All this adds to the labor. So, labor costs to do rear drum brakes is about twice as much work as a simple pad/rotor replacement on front brakes.

One of the other bad things about drum brakes is they can be very difficult to remove. My wifes Honda’s and my pathfinders and now the drum/disc for my 4runner all have these two little holes facing outward that you put a couple of bolts into and keep turning them to pop the drum off. I bought a couple of these bolts years ago for my wifes accord…They are the same bolts for my pathfinder and now Toyota and wifes Lexus.

I know how to put gas in my van, and check fluids, that is the extent of any and all work I do on my car. I believe we have trained professionals for a reason. As for the brakes I hear no noise nor feel anthing. When I got the van I took it to the local Kia dealership and they did a full check of all items including brakes and at that time made no mention of needing brake work (Oct 2010). Then come mid summer last year I heard a small noise from the front brakes, had them checked adn the place told me I still was fine on those. When I had the van in about a week or so back to get the front barring replaced, I asked this place I was having the work done to check the brakes also. they are the first and only to state my back brakes need replacing. I think I might look into a second opinion on exactly what needs to be done.

You cannot go by noticeable symptoms when determining if the drums need to be replaced or not. That requires a visual inspection and possible measurement of the inside diameter.

I have no idea if your vehicles needs new drums or not but will add this.
When performing a proper brake job (disc or drum) the rotors or drums should always be serviced either with machining or replacement. The DIYer in the driveway at home can eliminate this step if they choose but a professional mechanic who has to stand behind their work should not cut corners.

Getting a second opinion is a good idea and if at all possible it’s something that should be done with most repairs.
From the mechanic’s standpoint, this can be a bit of an aggravation because a mechanic gets paid for work performed. If a mechanic spends his time checking things out for free only to have someone go and have this work done elsewhere or by doing DIY the attitude of the mechanic can be a bit foul because a mechanic can check things out for free all day long and earn zero dollars by the end of the day.