How to Clean and Lubricate Automatic Adjuster




Introduction: How to Clean and Lubricate Automatic Adjuster

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Video tutorial on how to clean and lubricate an automatic adjuster for a drum brake assembly. Automatic adjusters, also known as a star wheel or self adjuster is found on a drum brake assembly. Designs of the adjuster, along with location of where it’s found on the drum brake assembly will vary. For this vehicle, it is found on the bottom of the drum brake assembly. Both the passenger and driver side are different, so one will be clockwise and the other counterclockwise. If you find your brake pedal travels further to the floor and there is a loss in braking performance, then it is a possibility the adjuster has seized and is not adjusting the brake shoes correctly. Whenever there is maintain on the drum brake system, these should be checked and lubricated if needed.

Tools/Supplies Needed:

  • brake specific cleaner
  • wire brush
  • brake pin lubricant (used in the video is Permatex Synthetic Brake Lubricant #09125)

Step 1:

Luckily the adjusters on this vehicle are in perfect working order. If yours are seized, then they can be disassembled using interlocking pliers or a pipe wrench, along with the assistance of penetrating oil and in an extreme situation, heat such a propane torch. If they are damaged or you are unable to disassemble the adjuster, new replacement adjusters can be purchased from the dealer, local auto parts supplier, or online.

Step 2:

First start by cleaning the outside, either using a cloth or a wire brush. Do not disassemble it just yet as this will reduce the risk of any dirt debris entering the threaded or rotating holes. Once satisfied, then remove the rotating button, being careful not to lose the washer. Clean off any debris or old lubricant. If you find it has a mild build up of dirty that isn’t easily removed or a light layer of rust, then clean up using an abrasive pad. Moving onto the threaded adjustment screw, remove and clean up removing any old lubricate or dirt. If the threads of the screw need further cleaning, use a wire brush. Finally apply new lubricant, applying it to the holes will reduce the risk of any lubricant on the outside of the adjuster. We do no want any lubricant on the outside as this gives an area for the brake dust to stick.

Step 3:

Considering drum brakes are a closed assembly, the dust doesn’t really have anywhere to go so there is a greater risk for build up. Now reinstall the adjuster screw and ensure it does turn freely. Reinstall the rotating button, give it a twist when pushing back into the hole which will help the grease work around. Wipe away any access grease. Once done, you are now ready to reinstall the adjuster, then adjust the brakes accordingly.

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    5 years ago

    WOW I haven't messed with drum brakes in a few years. Last time I did drum brakes was on my neighbor's travel trailer. And of course they were all locked up frozen from dirt and rust. But after cleaning everything up to like new and replacing the shoes, it all worked out very well. Don't see too many drum brakes anymore with the exception of the dual brake setup on some rear disk brake vehicles with the emergency drum brakes.


    Reply 5 years ago

    They're certainly becoming a thing of the past. I can't say I'm a huge fan of them, not really user friendly and braking performance isn't as good as compared to disk brakes. I have the inner drum setup for parking brakes, I definitely prefer that than compared to the eccentric for the calipers like I had on my VW. They were known for seizing up and causing problems. Only remedy was replacement.