Drum brakes have been around for more than 100 years, and they’re still in use on some modern-day applications, but for the most part, disc brakes have taken over for regular passenger cars and light trucks. This transition has encouraged gearheads to make the switch on old cars, and several companies offer front and rear disc brake conversions for most applications from the ’50s to the ’80s. The truth of the matter is that the average car enthusiast upgrades the front brakes and leaves the rear brakes in the stock configuration. This combination performs nicely on something that isn’t seeing track time or intense driving, but those rear drums need attention from time to time.
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Because of the factory brake bias that puts more emphasis on the front brakes, you’ll rarely encounter rear drum brakes that are badly worn. Usually, it’s more of an age issue than a wear issue when it comes to rebuilding rear drum brakes. Our ’77 Nova project car is a true daily driver, so we wanted to be proactive about the brakes. We upgraded the front brakes with Summit Racing rotors and new calipers, and we continued our brake service with OE-style brake service parts from Summit Racing. We opted for AC Delco brake drums (PN ADO-18B80), AC Delco brake shoes (PN ADO-1424B), Dorman wheel cylinders (PN DHB-W45999), and a Summit Racing spring kit (PN SUM-7104K). These parts were readily available and barely put us over the $100 threshold, so we could take advantage of Summit’s free shipping offer. We had already replaced the rear brake flex hose previously, so adding that to our order would’ve added a few bucks more.
This is a project you can tackle at home with standard tools, although Summit Racing does offer special brake tools to make the job easier. After the car was back together, we bled the brakes, starting with the passenger side and then the driver side. You will also need to adjust the brakes to take up any slack between the shoes and drums. This is accomplished by twisting the adjuster screw that rides between the two shoes at the bottom. This can be done with the drum off by taking pressure off the adjuster plate and twisting the adjuster. Or you can adjust with the drums on by using a flat screwdriver to grab onto the teeth of the adjuster through the small oval hole in the backing plate.
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We rebuilt the rear drum brakes in a couple hours in the driveway and had our Nova back on the road with all-new components to put it back to its original condition.
Follow along with the steps and put this on your to-do list if your classic Chevy is still relying on drum brakes.