How to tell if your wheel cylinders are bad.
Brake system problems are nothing to ignore. You need every bit of stopping power your brakes have to offer if you are to keep you and your passengers safe. That's why you need to be diligent when you feel like there's an issue with your drum brake wheel cylinders. A squishy brake pedal coupled with unresponsive braking usually means there is a hydraulic problem. That could be somewhere in the lines, near the master cylinder, or near the drums. At this point, all you have to do is check for a leak and that will tell you where the problem is. Any leak near the drums will likely be an indicator that the wheel cylinders need to be replaced. Sometimes they can be rebuilt with kits that include new springs, end caps, and boots. If you have a project car that isn't your daily driver, this is an inexpensive alternative. However, it's much easier and quicker to just simply replace the wheel cylinders. This way you know you are installing new parts that will last just as long as the originals, and will likely present fewer problems and less potential for failure in the future.
What are drum brake wheel cylinders all about?
The first uses of hydraulic brake systems on cars were in the early 20th century. When the driver depressed the brake pedal, it would pressurize the brake fluid in the master cylinder and send it through the lines to the slave cylinders at each wheel: the wheel cylinders
. They would then press the shoes against the inside of the drum and slow the vehicle. This process is still used today on some trucks and small front-wheel-drive cars. However most drum brake systems were phased out in favor of more efficient and effective disc brakes. Drum brake wheel cylinders usually apply more force to the top half of the shoes than the bottom, promoting uneven wear. Additionally, they do not perform well when the drums are wet, further contributing to their lack of efficiency. When disc brake calipers came along, the days of the wheel cylinder were numbered.
For the Saturday mechanic.
If you have determined your wheel cylinders have gone bad, then you will have to replace or rebuild them. It isn't a terribly complicated procedure, but should only be done by a mechanic with the proper experience.
- First, the car must be lifted and the wheels need to be removed.
- Once the wheels come off, you need to remove the drums and expose the internals and wheel hub. Remove the wheel hub as well.
- Now, it's time to replace the cylinder. You will have to unclip the shoe springs, retaining bolts, and any other hardware holding it in place.
- Re-install your new replacement wheel cylinder in place of your old one, and connect it to the brake line. Now attach the return springs and other hardware holding the shoes in as well. At this point, you may want to use new hardware.
- A bleed of your brakes is required, since some fluid may have leaked from the line. Using a bleeder screw, draw fluid into the line again. Then top off the reservoir as needed.
- Finally, re-attach the wheel hub, drum, and wheel. Do the other side and you are done replacing your wheel cylinders.
Stop in and get your new brake parts here.
Just because your car's brakes aren't working properly doesn't mean it's been given a death sentence. In fact, replacing drum brake wheel cylinders is as easy as changing a caliper. It is a common procedure that your local mechanic can do, and the parts tend to be less expensive. At Car Parts Discount, we carry new wheel cylinders for all sorts of vehicles. So whether your old classic needs a rebuild kit, or your truck needs two completely new cylinders, we can get you the parts you need at a great price right away.