Trucks have been stopping proficiently with rear drum brakes for decades. Perhaps not the most effective form of braking available these days, but for many classics out just cruising the road, a pair of discs up front combined with a well-maintained set of drums in the rear will perform safely and just fine.
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Don’t get us wrong, when it comes to quickly bringing our trucks to a slow or stop, you can’t go wrong with disc brakes on all four corners. The clamping action of calipers and rotors are far more effective and consistent, while having fewer moving parts. If we were working on a great-handling, big-powered truck, four-wheel discs would be our only choice.
However, for this family hauler ’71 Suburban with a high-mile 5.3L LS, the factory rear drums will suffice. Actually, we’re lucky to be working on a ’71 as it was the first year Chevy put disc brakes on the front of their five-lug–equipped C10s, so for this old cruiser, the factory disc/drum setup provides plenty of braking action. (If this rig had four drums, we would have been doing a story about front disc brake swaps!)
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We used Duralast because they have a wide variety of classic truck and muscle car parts with updated technology from the 50-year-old original equipment. We found new Duralast brake shoes along with 11-inch replacement drums. Our experience using Duralast has proven that their products will perform as good or better than the originals.
We were also pleased to find that Duralast offers a complete hardware kit (PN H7018) to replace all the return springs, retainers, and clips. They also had kits to update the self-adjusting mechanism, including the star-wheel assembly to replace our worn-down adjusters. Note that there are two kits: H2508 for the driver side and H2509 for the passenger. Wheel cylinders were also available but ours had been changed a few years ago.
With all the parts in hand, it was time to get busy. Working on drum brakes can seem a little overwhelming with the number of different springs, levers, and retainers. One important part to remember is never take both sides apart at the same time! That way you always have a reference to go back to. It’s also good practice to take a picture of the setup before pulling it apart. It’s also a good idea to buy a drum brake tool kit; they’re inexpensive and will save you time and probably keep your knuckles from bleeding.
The Duralast parts fit just like the factory components, making the replacement of the shoes a breeze and the new hardware was a nice update to the 52-year-old parts. The braking action was definitely improved and we now have confidence in our braking system as we roll into the road trip and cruise season. CTP