Replace brake shoes on a 96 Dodge Dakota.
New Back Brakes:

Replacing Rear Brake Shoes On A
1996 Dodge Dakota With Rear Drum Brakes

May Also Apply To Full-Size Dodge Trucks


In This Article:

The adjuster star-wheel is turned to retract the brake shoes and the drum is pulled off. The return springs are removed and the brake shoes are taken off. New hardware is installed on the new shoes. The new brake shoes are installed and the self-adjuster mechanism is adjusted.

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Skill Level: 3 (Intermediate) Time Taken: About 3 Hours

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor


The brakes on my 1996 Dakota were working fine, but the parking brake had been seized up for several years. Since replacing the rear parking brake cables involves removing the brake shoes, I decided to replace the shoes instead of re-using them. That was a good decision, because much of the brake hardware was so badly rusted that it would've been impossible to re-use.

First I raised the vehicle, placed it on jack stands and removed the wheels. Dodge Dakota with rear wheel removed.


Removing rubber plug for rear brake adjuster access . I removed the rubber plug at the lower rear of the backing plate.


Inside the hole there is a "star-wheel" that is part of the drum brake self-adjusting mechanism.

You normally can't see this device, but it's easy enough to find by probing around with a brake spoon (brake adjuster tool).

Rear brake starwheel visible through access hole, Dodge truck.


Brake spoon or brake adjuster tool.

This is a brake spoon, also called a brake adjuster tool. This is basically a double-ended bent screwdriver.

In fact, I have made one of these tools by bending a cheap flat screwdriver in a vise.


I placed the brake spoon in the hole and probed around until I found the star-wheel. Then I pulled the tool down to move the star-wheel up.

This rear brake design uses am adjuster lever that lifts the outboard side of the star-wheel to move the brake shoes outward. Since I'm working on the inboard side of the star-wheel, I simply had to lift the star-wheel upward from this hole to make the brake shoes move inward.

Using brake spoon to back off brake adjuster.


Removing brake drum on rear wheel. After backing off the adjuster about 50 "clicks", I was able to remove the brake drum.


Brake Lining Thickness:

In some spots the brake lining was still reasonably thick (between red arrows).

The minimum thickness is 1/32" beyond the heads of the rivets, or, for bonded brake linings, 1/32" total thickness.

Thickness of brake shoe lining.

Before removing any old brake components, I used compressed air to blow the dust off the brake assembly. To make sure the dust stayed out of the garage, I placed a large fan downwind of the wheel area to expel the dust out the garage door.


Removing The Old Brake Shoes:

Using brake pliers to remove brake return springs, Dodge truck.

I used a pair of brake spring pliers to remove the front return spring.

I just placed the end of the tool over the anchor post and rotated the pliers until the spring hook lifted off.


Then I removed the rear return spring. Removing rear brake return springs, Dodge.


Rear shoe return spring and adjuster cable guide, Dodge. The opposite end of the rear return spring wasn't easy to remove from the hole in the brake shoe. After some twisting, the spring came out along with the adjuster cable guide plate.


Then I removed the adjuster cable from the anchor post. Rear brake adjuster cable connection to anchor post, Dodge truck.


Rear brake shoe hold-down spring.

This is the rear shoe hold-down spring (arrow).


While holding the head of the pin with one hand, I used the brake tool to remove the cap on the hold-down spring.

This can be kinda difficult, especially when everything is rusty.

Removing rear brake shoe hold-down springs.


Removing rear brake shoes, Dodge truck.

Then I grabbed each brake shoe and pulled apart at the top to remove the shoes.

At this point, the only thing holding the brake shoes to the truck is the parking brake lever, which is hooked into the rear shoe.


The brake shoes after I removed them.

The adjuster screw is still attached, and the shoe-to-shoe return spring is holding the shoes together.

Rear brake shoes after removal.


Parking brake lever with brake shoes removed, Dodge Dakota.

The parking brake lever (red arrow) was still attached to the cable.

The red circle shows the hook that engages the rear brake shoe. This will be important during re-assembly.

If I was just doing a simple brake replacement, I would leave the parking brake lever alone, but I'm also replacing the parking brake cable, so I'll need to remove this later.


The parking brake strut was just laying in there.

I'll need to re-use this later.

Parking brake strut, Dodge truck.


Adjuster cable connecting to rear brake shoe, Dodge truck.

The adjuster cable attaches to the lever...


...and the end of the spring just slips off the lever like this. Self-adjuster mechanism.


Shoe-to-shoe return spring, Dodge. The shoe-to-shoe spring can be removed.


Then the adjuster just pulled apart. Each end of the adjuster was stuck to a brake shoe (red arrow).

If I was re-using these adjusters I would take this off and clean it up.

Brake self-adjuster stuck to brake shoe.


Brake adjuster mechanism being removed, Dodge.

To remove the adjuster lever, I lifted up the adjuster spring and slipped it over the lever.

Then the lever just came off with a twist.


Cleaning Up The Backing Plate:

Normally I would use the tip of a file to scrape off the 6 brake shoe contact points.

But since this backing plate was so rusty, I used a die grinder with a sanding disc to clean up the contact points.

Removing rust from rear brake backing plate, Dodge.


Brake grease applied to contact points on backing plate, Dodge truck. Then I applied a light dab of brake grease to the 6 contact points.


I pulled back the boots on the wheel cylinder to check for leakage.

A slight dampness is normal, but any liquid behind the boot means that the wheel cylinder seals are leaking and the cylinder needs to be replaced or rebuilt.

Checking rubber boots on wheel cylinder for brake fluid leakage.


New Brake Parts:

Before the new brake shoes can be installed there are some things that need to be assembled.

This is one-half of the rear brake hardware kit that I bought along with the new brake shoes.

I always buy a hardware kit when replacing back brakes, because there's always a chance that some of the old hardware is too rusty to re-use. This hardware kit has a list price of $15 at my local NAPA parts store. The NAPA stock number is 2297.

Part of NAPA #2297 brake hardware kit for Dodge truck rear brakes.


Rear brake adjuster kits from NAPA.

I also bought this adjuster replacement kit, which includes the adjuster screw, adjuster cable, cable guide, adjuster spring, and the pin that the adjuster pivots around.

The list price for this kit was around $24 per side. The right-hand side uses NAPA stock number 80676, and the left side is 80675.


Note that there is either an "R" or "L" stamped on the end of the adjuster screw to designate whether the adjuster is for the right or left side of the vehicle.

The right-hand (passenger) side adjuster has a right-hand screw thread, while the left side adjuster has a left-hand thread.

Marking stamped on end of threaded adjuster, rear brakes, Dodge truck.


Difference in brake lining amount, primary versus secondary brake shoes.

The new brake shoes for one side. (I've already installed the new shoes on the other side of the truck.)

Note the difference between the primary shoe (right) and secondary shoe. I added the curved red arrows to demonstrate the difference in lining length between the primary and secondary shoes.

The secondary shoe (which goes toward the rear on this vehicle) has a longer brake lining, and the lining is thicker.


I installed this adjuster pivot pin in the secondary shoe.

This pin fits tight! To install it, I placed the web of the shoe on a bench vise and used a hammer and a large punch to drive the pin into the hole.

DO NOT hammer on the pin unless there is some support underneath the metal around the hole, or else the web may get bent, which can affect the operation of the brakes.

Adjuster pivot pin on secondary brake shoe, Dodge truck.

The new brake shoes included a pair of these adjuster pivot pins, and they were also included in the adjuster parts kit.


Adjuster spring mounted on pin, Dodge.

I placed the adjuster spring over the pin.

Note the orientation of the spring... the "legs" are against the backing plate of the brake shoe.


Then I placed the adjuster lever over the pin and used a screwdriver to lift the leg of the spring over the adjuster arm. Adjuster lever installed on secondary shoe, Dodge Dakota.


Brake grease applied to self-adjuster screw threads. I applied a thin layer of brake grease to the threads of the adjuster screw, and also to the small piece. This should help keep the adjuster turning smoothly.


I set the adjuster in place. Note that the threaded end goes toward the front (primary) shoe, which has the shorter lining.

Then I installed the shoe-to-shoe spring.

New rear brake shoes assembled before mounting on Dodge truck.


Installing The New Brake Shoes:

This is the parking brake lever.

Normally I just leave this attached to the parking brake cable, but on this job I replaced the parking brake cables before installing the brake shoes.

The red arrow points to the new cable.

Parking brake lever for Dodge Dakota, 1996.


Installing new rear brake shoes around axle hub, Dodge truck. I hooked the parking brake lever into the hole in the top of the rear shoe (red arrow), then I spread the shoes apart and wrapped them around the axle and set them in place. They actually stayed in place without any help.


This is the parking brake strut. It runs between the two shoes above the axle.

The end with the spring goes on the primary side. The other end has a wider notch so it can straddle the rear shoe and the parking brake lever. When the parking brake is applied, this strut pushes the front shoe outward so it holds the brake drum.

Parking brake strut, Dodge.

In case you care, that spring is called an "anti-rattle spring", which tells me that the brakes might work without it... there just might be some rattling sounds.


Rear brake shoe hold-down pin, Dodge.

I aligned the front (primary) shoe so the hold-down hole lined up with the hole in the backing plate.

Then I inserted a hold-down pin, with the flattened end (red arrow) aligned up-and-down.


I installed the hold-down spring and cup using the special brake tool.

(By the way... this task is difficult enough WITH the tool, it would be almost impossible without the tool.)

Installing rear brake hold-down springs, Dodge truck.


Parking brake strut and anti-rattle spring, Dodge truck.

With the front shoe attached, I installed the parking brake strut.

That new spring was a lot firmer than the old one, so the strut kept pushing itself away from the front brake shoe.


The rear end of the strut.

You can see how the forked end goes over both the shoe and the parking brake lever (red arrow).

(In this picture I had also installed the hold-down spring for the rear brake shoe.)

Parking brake strut, rear end .


Bend in parking brake strut to reach ovr axle, Dodge truck. Note how the bend in the strut (red arrow) is designed to ride over the axle area. I've seen this on many vehicles with rear drum brakes.


Before installing the return spring on the rear shoe, I slipped the loop end of the adjuster cable over the anchor post.

I also set the guide plate in place. It fits loosely and it kept falling out... it's held in place by the return spring.

Installing adjuster cable on rear brakes, Dodge Dakota.


Installing return springs on rear brakes, Dodge.

I draped the adjuster cable over the outside of the rear brake shoe. (If I placed the cable over that curved guide plate, the plate would fall out.)

Then I installed the rear return spring with the brake pliers.


Then I installed the front return spring. Installing front shoe return spring.


Self-adjuster hooked onto adjuster lever.

The last thing I did was connect the spring-end of the adjuster cable to the arm of the adjuster lever.

Note that only the hook on the spring goes over the arm.

Actually, I installed this wrong... that metal "cage" around the green spring was in front of the adjuster arm when I disassembled the brakes. In spite of my mistake, the brakes seem to be adjusting properly one month after doing this repair.


Some Bigger Pictures:

Lower part of rear drum brake assembly, Dodge Dakota 1996.

The lower area, showing the adjuster mechanism.


Rear section of back brakes after replacing brake shoes, 1996 Dodge Dakota.

The rear area, showing the secondary brake shoe.


Front section of back brakes after replacing brake shoes, 1996 Dodge Dakota.

The front area, showing the primary brake shoe.


After the brake shoes were installed on both sides, it was time to install the brake drums.

Brake Drums -
Replace, Turn, Or Just Re-Use?

My experience with my own vehicles is that rear brake drums don't seem to need resurfacing nearly as often as front brake rotors. It's commonly said that rear brakes only do 30% of the total braking effort on a rear-wheel drive vehicle, and 15% on a front-drive vehicle.

I've done at least a dozen rear brake jobs, and I can only recall one case where I needed to replace the brake drums, and that was because the drums were warped from overheating. (The overheating was caused by having the adjusters too tight after replacing brake shoes.)

There have been a few times when I've had the brake drums turned on a brake lathe to smooth out the surface. This service usually costs about $10 to $15 per drum.

But mostly I've been able to re-use the drums without turning them, but only after I have checked the surface with a steel ruler to make sure the inner surface is uniform and flat from front-to-back. The drawback of turning the brake drums is that it removes some metal, which makes the drum thinner and more prone to warping. The drums can only be turned a couple of times before the diameter is too big, and then they need to be replaced. I prefer to inspect the rear brakes occasionally, and replace the brake shoes before the linings have worn down to a point where the metal backing or the rivets are grinding into the drums.

For best results, get the brake drums turned, or replace them.


Brake Drum Touch-Up:

Brake drums with small grooves and ridge of rust around inboard edge.

The brake drums were in pretty good condition, with only a few shallow grooves.

The only problem with these drums is the ridge of rusted metal around the inboard edge. Removing this ridge will make it easier to install and remove the drums... it might not be necessary to back off the adjusters.


I placed the drum on the tailgate of my truck and used an angle grinder (I unscrewed the side handle) to grind off the ridge.

I occasionally ran my finger from inside to outside to see if the ridge had been completely ground away.

This grinding process took about ten minutes.

Grinding off ridge of rust on rear brake drums.


Scuff-sanding brake drums before re-installing.

Then I used an orbital sander with 60 grit sandpaper to scuff-up the surface inside the drum.

My goal is to get a satin-like finish with scratches that are circular or random... not parallel to the direction of motion.

Why Do This?

When new brake linings are installed, they need to wear down quickly until the linings have taken the shape of the metal friction surface. If new brake linings are installed and the drum is shiny and glazed, the new linings will take a long time to become matched to the slight irregularities in the friction surface.


Setting The Brake Adjusters:

Before completing a drum brake job, the brake adjusters need to be set to a position where the shoes won't be too tight, yet the shoes are close enough to the drum that they will actually grab and cause the self-adjusting mechanism to operate.

First, I manually rotate the adjuster until the brake drum just barely slides over the shoes, and the drum is very difficult to rotate by hand.

Then the adjusters need to be turned to BACK OFF the brake shoes so they are not too close to the drum.

One of my service manuals says the adjuster needs to be BACKED OFF ONE-HALF TURN. This seems to work okay on my GM truck.

But in my mechanic's training, we always backed off the adjuster about 8 to 10 clicks, which is much less than a half-turn... it's more like a quarter-turn.

On both of my Dodge Dakotas I have always backed off the adjusters about 8 to 10 clicks, and the brakes seem to adjust themselves properly, yet the back brakes don't grab or overheat (which can cause the drums to warp and create a pulsation in the brake pedal).



After replacing brake shoes, the linings may not be close enough to the drum to actually grab. The result is a very low brake pedal the first time you hit the brakes... and possibly no ability to stop. I've heard of mechanics that backed a car out of the garage and promptly crashed into a parked car.

Before moving the vehicle, you MUST pump the brake pedal until it feels firm and normal. If the brake pedal won't become firm, then there could be other problems, such as parts installed improperly or a brake fluid leak.


Another Warning:

In my mechanic's training the instructors stressed the importance of braking gently until the new linings have been "broken in". The instruction we got was to make about 30 stops from moderate speeds (30 to 35 miles per hour) with only light-to-moderate pressure applied to the brake pedal. After that, you can slam on the brakes to impress your friends with your mechanic's skill.

Apparently, hitting the brakes too hard before the linings have broken-in can cause overheating and damage to the linings.

Read our Disclaimer about brake repairs


More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Basic Mechanic's Tools
  • Brake Pliers
  • Brake Spring Tool
  • Vise Grip Pliers
  • Prybars
  • File
  • Die Grinder With Sanding Disc
  • Jack Stands
  • Floor Jack

Materials Used:

  • Remanufactured Brake Shoes
  • Rear Brake Adjuster Kits, NAPA, Right Side: 80676, Left Side: 80675.
  • Rear Brake Hardware Kit, NAPA Part #2297
  • Automotive Brake Parts Cleaner
  • Syl-Glyde® Brake Lubricant

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Written June 8, 2009