Brake shoes: how they work [Full guide - 2023]

Everyone who drives a car is familiar with brakes and their importance in a car. For the average Joe, it doesn’t extend further than that. As more people get interested in their cars now, they want to know how their brakes function. And most importantly, what components make them do so.

Brake shoes are a vital part of brakes, but what really are they? In this article, you will understand what brake shoes are, why you should use them over brake pads, and how they work.

What are brake shoes?

Brake shoes

Brake shoes are responsible for carrying the lining inside the brake drum system and helps in converting your car’s kinetic energy to thermal energy through the use of friction. They are a curved shape like a piece of metal that aids friction in the brake drum system due to a friction material affixed to a side. These components of a vehicle are made from metallic and organic materials. They are certainly not as popular as brake pads, which is the rage of most auto cars.

However, it cannot be denied that they have a slightly higher advantage over pads. They are combined, which keeps the frictional material in it from breaking or shedding under heat or pressure.

The shoe forms the guide for the friction material to fit into the drum brake. They push towards the drum system, causing friction. This friction reduces the car's speed and brings it to a halt. They are essentially the cause of friction, which can bring the car to a grind when you step on the brakes.

It is also used in trains to slow down the cars. They are of great importance to any vehicle and are typically found in trucks, four-wheelers, trailers, and rear-wheel drive vehicles. Also, they are designed to last up to 35,000 miles. This way, you don’t have to be scared of having a brake malfunction while taking those long road trips. Even though terrain can reduce that distance by some miles.

How do they work?

Brake shoes function

They do not require technicalities or any special methods to make use of. Brake shoes are applied when a driver or cyclist steps on the brake. They are usually positioned inside the brake drum and are attached to the backing plate, which holds it down.

A wheel cylinder, that is always present in the drum brake system of a car, forces the brake shoe outwards against the drum's insides. Due to their affixed frictional part, the force of the brake shoe against the drums inside creates friction. It creates friction between the lining and the drum, causing the car to slow down. Whenever the brake pedal is pressed, they are forced outwards, pushing against the drum and slowing down the wheel. These shoes are often used for the rear.

This is because most modern cars brake more sharply on the front wheels than the rear. Also, the temperature may get too high for the front wheels. These brake shoes are placed inside the drum as opposed to outside it like pads.

Why get brake shoes over brake pads?

Brake shoes vs brake pads

There have been age-long debates about which is better between pads and brake shoes. Based on how much technology has grown with pads taking over the auto industry, arguments for brake shoes have reduced. However, brake shoes are highly rated over pads.

But first, what are brake pads? They are a flat steel piece instead of the brake shoe's curved shape. These components have a thick friction material on one of their sides to help ease a car to a halt. They are found more in modern cars than brake shoes. But brake shoes are generally preferred over brake pads, and here is why.

Brake shoes are highly efficient, highly durable, and come with a more simplistic design. They should be chosen over brake pads because they are recyclable. They can be transformed into new shoes or other mobile parts. Brake shoes are cost-effective compared to brake pads. Due to their recyclability, the cost of new brakes is half the cost of brake pads. This reason makes them a more cost-effective choice than brake pads.

Brake shoes vs Brake pads

Further differences

Brake pads

Another major difference between these components and brake pads is how each of its forces is directed. In contrast, brake shoes stop the car by pushing outward against the drum brake while the pads move inwards together. Brake shoes, unfortunately, do not possess as much stopping power as pads do. The pads provide more stopping power and much quicker than brake shoes allowing the car stops much quickly.

Brake shoe

Brake shoes have a higher life expectancy than brake pads due to their location in the vehicle rear. Due to it being housed inside the drum brake system, they are protected from rust, dust, and other corrosions while driving on unsteady roads., whereas, pads are more exposed to more unfavorable elements, which drastically reduces their life expectancy.

Replacing brake shoes?

Brake shoes replacement

Although they are known for higher life expectancy than brake pads, they, unfortunately, like all things, do not last forever. They fail from many things such as wear and tear caused by friction and their friction area's contamination. Routine changes are recommended for them due to how frequently you used them. And also how far they’re being used while you drive.

Symptoms of failing brake shoes

When you hit the brakes, these are some things that show if they are beginning to fail.

  • Darker friction surfaces,
  • A burnt odor, and
  • Unusually loud squealing.

Healthy practices

Dropping in regularly with your mechanic during oil changes remains a good practice. It will help keep in check the health of the brake shoes and determine how frequently you should change them .Also, you will know the instant a change becomes required. All of these will avoid brake inefficiency and wild driving conditions or, worst still, accidents due to failure.

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