Maybe not surprisingly, car brakes are pretty complicated pieces of kit. They utilise many different parts to function fully. Which can make identifying problems awkward for the untrained. And one of the least well-known brake parts is the brake shoe. So, what are brake shoes? And why is it important to make sure that they are in full working order?

Brake Shoes Explained

What are brake shoes?

Brake shoes are a part of a drum brake system. Crescent-shaped, they are lined with a friction-creating material on one side and sit inside the brake drum. When the brake pedal is depressed, it is the role of the brake shoe to push against the inside of the brake drum and help to slow the wheel.

Do all cars have brake shoes?

No. Brake drums and brake shoes are more commonly found on older vehicles. While some more contemporary cars tend to use them just on the rear wheels. Brake discs have been found to be more effective on the harder working front wheel brakes. But because they are easier to produce and are efficient for everyday driving scenarios, brake drums and brake shoes continue to be used on the rear by many manufacturers.

What’s the difference between brake shoes and brake pads?

Brake discs and pads do roughly the same job as brake drums and shoes. But they have become more popular in contemporary car manufacturing because they provide improved stopping distance and can deal with more force. They also work slightly differently. But brake shoes tend to be more durable than brake pads.

How long do brake shoes last?

Because most brake shoes are now used for the rear wheels only, they come under less pressure than brake pads. This means that in most instances they last longer. Typically, around 35,000 miles. But it’s important to be aware that this figure will dramatically reduce if dirt and debris find their way into the brake drum. The dirtier your brake shoes become, the shorter their life expectancy.

How do I know if my brake shoes need replacing?

As with all brake problems, in most instances, your vehicle will let you know when you have an issue with your brake shoes. There are several warning signs that you can look out for.

  • Vibrating or pulsing when you depress the brake pedal.
  • Screeching, rattling, grinding, or clicking noises when you apply the brake. These can signal other problems too. But if you’re noticing any of these sounds, it’s a good idea to get your brakes checked out by a mechanic.
  • If your car seems to be pulling to one side when you’re driving or braking, it can be an indication that one of your brake shoes needs replacing. If it’s not your brake shoes, there’s every chance that you have an issue with alignment, which will also need to be addressed.  

Brake shoes aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you are experiencing braking issues. But if they are not performing properly, they can have a serious impact on the functionality and safety of your vehicle. So, if you have any concerns at all, it’s integral that you get the problem sorted.

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