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I had some free time this weekend while I was visiting the rents in NY, so I decided it was time to inspect and adjust the rear brakes. Yes the drum brakes have automatic adjusting cams, but they don't always work 100%, and the moving parts tend to get gummed up with dirt and brake dust after a while. In addition, I needed to check the status of the pads and drums to see if everthing was wearing like normal. I figured I would document my experience for those of you that are interested.

I've adjusted the brakes a few times using the little hole in the front of the drum, but have never taken off the drum. Now in theory, the drums are supposed to just pop off when you remove the wheel, however this rarely ever happens. Most of the time they get rusted to the hub (like mine) or the brake shoes are too tight and need to be released. This is the first time the drums have been off in a long time, so it took a little coaxing with a BFH and some bolts. The drums have two small threaded bolt holes near the center where you can insert some bolts and press the drum off the hub by tightening the bolts. Of course the FSM is vague when it comes to this, and makes no real mention of how to remove the drums. After a few trips to the local hardware store, I found the threaded holes take M8 1.25 TP bolts.

After I got the right bolts, I tightened them down and the drums broke free. To my surprise, both sides were in great shape, and I can probably hit 120,000 miles on the original shoes. The shoes and drums were wearing normally with no scoring. I used a whole can of brake cleaner to get everything all pretty again, and lubed the adjusters.

Once I had everything all clean and lubricated, I put the drums back on, and started the trial and error process of adjusting the shoes. When I put the drums back on, I lightly tightened down all of the lug nuts temporarily to get the drum centered on the hub while I was adjusting the shoes. Basically, I adjusted the sprocket cam one or two clicks at a time, and then hit the brake pedal to center the shoes. Whenever you adjust the shoes, you have to press the brake pedal periodically to recenter the shoes, otherwise one shoe may be moved more than the other, and give you a false indication of when things are properly adjusted.

Once I got the shoes to where they were just barely contacting the drum, I put the wheels back on and took the Rav4 out for a test drive. I went for about a mile without using the brakes, and then coasted to a stop with very light front braking. Then I checked the temperature of the drums to see if they were hot, which would happen if I had adjusted the shoes too tight and they were dragging. Everything was good to go, so I was done. Now my E-brake is tight in 4 clicks, and the overall braking has improved a bit since the rears are doing more of their share of braking.

Here are some pictures:

Driver's side





Passenger's side



 
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That's a really good walk thru. I did know about the
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The drums have two small threaded bolt holes near the center where you can insert some bolts and press the drum off the hub by tightening the bolts.
But never knew of this...
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Whenever you adjust the shoes, you have to press the brake pedal periodically to recenter the shoes, otherwise one shoe may be moved more than the other, and give you a false indication of when things are properly adjusted.
That's a great tip. I rather doubt the hourly mechanics go to that much trouble. I used to do all the work on my cars but these days, I'm pretty much just do oil changes, filters, (which reminds me, I need to do the cabin air filter) tire rotations and brakes. Of course I check and top off all fluids at each oil change.

I think I'll adjust the read brakes this weekend. I noticed the frontend sort of nose dives when braking. I think that's do to the rear brakes needing adjustment :?:
 

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The tip about periodically tapping the brake pedal I found out the hard way...

Adjusting the brakes is not hard to do, it's just one of those things that you learn best by doing it a few times to develop your own method for it. If you were to ask a dozen mechanics how to do it, you would come up with a dozen slightly different responses, just like you would with just about every other automotive question. The most important thing is to not overtighten them, because then they will drag causing heat to build up, which results in a loss of braking and having to replace the shoes.

On a side note, I just wanted to mention how important it is to be safe when putting the vehicle up on jacks to work on it. After I finished working on the brakes this weekend, I was lowering the rear end off the jack stands, and the rear of the Rav slid to one side, causing the Craftsman aluminum racing jack I was using to tilt over and drop the vehicle. Luckily this happened slower than you would think, so the vehicle did not slam down, but kinda slid down as the jack went sideways.

No damage to the Rav because there was just enough clearance between the differential and the sideways jack so it didn't land on it. I think the drop was caused by the fact that there is no totally flat part of that particular driveway, and the vehicle shifted when I was lowering it. However my brother was pissed that I broke an acorn nut off the front roller of his fancy aluminum jack when it landed sideways. I guess this is one of those incidents I will never live down, because I can guarantee that my brother has told all of his car buddies already.

If you're wondering, I've worked successfully with jacks for years, and I had the front wheels chocked with the transmission in gear. That just goes to show that you can't get too confident when it comes to stuff like this, so you always have to keep you guard up when working with lift equipment, because sh!t happens sometimes.
 
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