How to Maintain and Adjust Drum Brakes

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To facilitate maintenance or brake adjustment, you should always place the bike onto its center stand.


How to Maintain and Adjust Drum Brakes

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To facilitate maintenance or brake adjustment, you should always place the bike onto its center stand.


To facilitate maintenance or brake adjustment, you should always place the bike onto its center stand.


When working on the front brake, removal of the brake lever will be necessary to clean and lubricate the pivot (A). Start by backing off the cable adjuster (B), but be sure to align the slot (C) with the front of the holder, as this will facilitate removal of the cable. Next depress the lever with one hand as you pull hard on the cable. As the lever is released, the cable will come out of the adjuster housing. Remove the cable completely by pulling the round nipple from the lever.


With the cable removed, the lever pivot bolt can be untightened, the bolt removed, and the lever lifted out. All of these components should be cleaned in a suitable solvent (brake cleaner from an auto store works well), then dried with compressed air before lightly coating with grease. Reassemble is a reversal of the disassembly. However, before refitting the cable, it is good practice to lubricate the inner cable. There are a number of manufacturers who supply affordable cable lubricating tools such as the one in the photograph.


Refitting the cable is made easy by locating the cable end into the lever, pulling strongly on the outer cable, then placing the outer cable onto the adjuster locknut. Once you’ve done that, you can release the lever, pull again on the outer cable and slip it into the adjuster. The adjuster should be screwed out until there is approximately one half inch (12 mm) of free play. For best results the front brake should be applying its heaviest force when the fingers on the right hand have passed 90 degrees. Locating the brake plate (the plate where the shoes are located) in relation to the wheel/drum assembly is important. Ensuring the plate is positioned precisely in the center of the drum will allow the wheel to rotate without rubbing on one of the shoes. To achieve this centralization, the front spindle locknut should be loosened, and the brake applied. With the brake in the on position, the spindle locknut should be retightened.


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