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3rd & 4th Generation (19921996 & 19972001) Toyota Camry Discussion for years: 1992-1996 & 1997-2001 Topics of discussion range from fuel economy, safety, modifications, performance all involving America's favorite family car, the Toyota Camry.

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Old 10-28-2012, 12:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
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3rd Generation Rear drum brake adjustment How-To - nothing in owners manual?

I have read several threads on this forum about adjusting the rear drum brakes - usually in conjunction with a brake job - and most mention the rear brakes are adjusted by operating the parking brake, *not* by backing up and stopping like most old-school drum brake systems.

My question is: if this is in fact how the rear brakes are adjusted, WHY DOESN'T THE OWNERS MANUAL POINT THIS OUT? It is a pretty safe assumption, that those with automatic transmissions living in non-hilly environs may NEVER use their parking brakes, thus the rear brakes would never self-adjust! I'm not meaning to call anyone a liar about this, but just from a liability point of view, I would think "Use the parking brake once in a while" would be plastered over the owners manual more than once. Maybe I missed it, but my manual seems to say nothing on this issue - I was given an replacement manual when I bought the car; maybe I was given the wrong one.

I just had major brake work done, and the pedal doesn't seem too much different, so I'm wondering about the rear drum brakes, if they're out of adjustment, and how to get them to actually adjust. I've operated the parking brake a few times and it goes up too much (IMHO) before it starts working (resistance). I suppose I should just work it 20 or 30 times like a few of the threads mention, but I'm a little worried about the cables sticking in place and ending up with dragging rear brakes - wouldn't that be ironic?
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Old 10-28-2012, 06:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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What I did on my rear drum brake Camry to adjust was to remove the rear drums and turn the star wheel a few clicks at a time and test fit the drum, adjusting until there was slight resistance between the shoes and the drum.

Mine wasn't holding on a incline before the adjustment, after it had no problem holding.

I just bought this Camry and have not heard about the adjustment method you mention. I need to get me a factory service manual.
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Old 10-28-2012, 06:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Your drums should automatically adjust when you push the brake pedal. The post above by 9T6AvalonXLS is spot on, on how to adjust them. I dont know what this method is with the use of the E-Brake ?
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:54 PM   #4 (permalink)
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If you have a rear drum brake setup, then yes, they are *supposed* to adjust whenever you use your emergency brake. (pull and release activates the self adjusting mechanism)

IMHO, this mechanism does not work well. You could go 200,000 miles (or heck, forever) without ever changing rear brakes. I know, my Prizm was darn close to that.

After my last rear brake job on my Camry, I've started adjusting them every so often, manually. (anybody with an old Volkswagen Bug remembers this well). It becomes rather obvious that the mechanism falls short when you see how much they're out of adjustment and there are no more perfect rear drums brakes than in my Camry.

You just have to know that if you have rear drums brakes, you're most likely relying on your front brakes 90% of the time.
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Old 10-28-2012, 07:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perkins View Post
Your drums should automatically adjust when you push the brake pedal. The post above by 9T6AvalonXLS is spot on, on how to adjust them. I dont know what this method is with the use of the E-Brake ?
Do this at your own risk.
I don't know if this works on all vehicles that have a hand lever emergency brake. the proceedure is to pull the brake lever on and off as you go in reverse. You don't latch the lever just keep pulling and releasing as you back up. I would think you could do this on the level by accelerating slowly while in reverse and pulling the e-brake handle. . If successful, the e-brake level will not pull as many clicks as it did before when you apply e-brake.
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Old 10-28-2012, 08:28 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fj62 View Post
Do this at your own risk.
I don't know if this works on all vehicles that have a hand lever emergency brake. the proceedure is to pull the brake lever on and off as you go in reverse. You don't latch the lever just keep pulling and releasing as you back up. I would think you could do this on the level by accelerating slowly while in reverse and pulling the e-brake handle. . If successful, the e-brake level will not pull as many clicks as it did before when you apply e-brake.
Pulling the parking/emergency brake lever method is "supposed" to adjust the rear brakes. But, I've never found this method to work well. The method 9T6AvalonXLS describes is correct. You're don't necessarily have to remove the drum/disk. There's a rubber plug that you can remove and access the star wheel. The trick is to not over tighten the adjustment, as this will make the brakes drag and make trying to take the brake drum off next to impossible. If you do over tighten you will have to lift/push back the "Lever/Ratchet Pawl" in order to back off the star wheel.
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I don't feel the parking brake does great either but I rarely use it anyway. I just raise the wheel, remove the rubber plug and adjust the star wheel while spinning the tire. (Doesn't need to be fast.) When it just starts to drag that where I stop. Basically I listen for a kind of shhs shhs shhs sound as the shoe begins to contact the drum.
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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If the drum brake mechanism is working correctly, the parking brake will ratchet the self adjuster every time. Often the ratcheting mechanism is filled with brake dust and crud and doesn't rotate easily, or the ratchet itself is worn.
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Old 10-28-2012, 10:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
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ALWAYS USE YOUR PARKING BRAKES, or turn your license in for public transportation

My owners manual says to use the parking brake when parking. It doesn't care if you're on a non-hilly environs or sloped surface. When parking, you use it. There is no statement on not-using the parking brake when parking. No exceptions! Its not a once-in-a-while parking brake. Its an always-used when parking brake.

I can't use the test fit drum method since every drum I've ever reused had a rusty no-wear edge lip. I even have a drum/shoe vernier which I've never use. New drums can be test-fit adjusted, but I prefer the 'shhh shhh shhh' method.

Even if the brakes adjust mechanically on their own, it has limitations on much and how fast they'll adjust, especially with short-sighted owners that don't use their parking brakes(which is also an emergency brake when there is an all out hydraulic failure). If the brake job is recent, you could wait some time before the adjuster catches up to all the slack. And, if you like endangering the public by never using your parking brakes, or stressing an easy to break automatic transmission parking pall, don't expect it to adjust.

I've always used Dave's method, and recently re-adjusted my rear drum shoes about 2 weeks ago(for my state inspection). Parking brake works perfectly now(was a little weak before) and is used always. Brake pedal has great feedback. My brake shoes will last another gazillion miles. I don't give the state inspectors a reason to pull tires.

Owners manual doesn't explain brake jobs. Factory service manual explains how to take apart, put together, fix stuff,... but doesn't go into any reasons 'why'.
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Old 10-28-2012, 10:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I keep telling my girlfriend, sister, roommate, parents, etc., to ALWAYS use the parking brake. It's called the parking brake for a reason. Hill or not, always use it.

Still, none of them use it. Oh well! At least my car is safe for another day.
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Old 10-28-2012, 10:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
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We live in hills. Enough hills that you'll need (want) the parking brake 75% of the time, thus - using it becomes instinct. I agree, just use it all the time.
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Old 10-29-2012, 09:46 AM   #12 (permalink)
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What I did with my 01 Camry was the same as some above. I took off the rear wheels, pulled the rubber plug out and turned the star wheel downward until the wheel began to slightly drag. The brakes are always fine after doing this. Just be careful you don't tighten the brakes too tight.
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Old 10-29-2012, 12:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Doing the reverse trick is an old school way of forcing the drums to readjust.

In a deserted/safe area, put the vehicle in reverse, achieve roughly 10-15 mph and apply enough pressure to get within the lockup range (this will depend on tires).

Check the e-brake to see if it adjusted. Usually it takes a few times. If the reverse trick alone isn't helping, then you actually have to variably engage the e-brake while in reverse (as stated by fj62 above) to make the rear wheels rock a bit. This will free up the adjustment mechanism that tends to bind up.

I've done this trick on my brother's 2000 Corolla (lever brake) and my 2005 Tacoma V6 (foot brake), which is a bit trickier. The e-brake rarely seems to adjust itself properly with drums snd I use it all the time. I hate drum brakes.
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Old 04-17-2013, 09:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Them drums, them drums, them dirty drums

Quote:
Originally Posted by fj62 View Post
Do this at your own risk.
I don't know if this works on all vehicles that have a hand lever emergency brake. the proceedure is to pull the brake lever on and off as you go in reverse. You don't latch the lever just keep pulling and releasing as you back up. I would think you could do this on the level by accelerating slowly while in reverse and pulling the e-brake handle. . If successful, the e-brake level will not pull as many clicks as it did before when you apply e-brake.
I gave this a try as I know the brake hardware is good back there and the deal appears to be working. I replaced the fronts and everything in there was in good shape -- just needed the akebono pads in there.So I was thinking the rear drum brakes are probably shot but the hardware is probably still good and I was right -- a spray of brake kleaner and everything looked new -- even the shoes! That's the main cause of a semi-low brake pedal - the shoe-to-drum clearence. No wonder the shoes are only 1/10 worn... doh!


Only thing is -- now the long-disused drums and shoes have to get used to each other again!

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Old 04-17-2013, 10:57 PM   #15 (permalink)
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general rule of a thumb for adjusting rear drums on toyotas in backing off 8 clicks from tight drum (no spin condition), it's not rocket science.
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