Here’s how bad rusty drum brakes are

The drum brakes might be exposed to moisture and debris, which leads to rust formation. The rust on the outer casing might not be a huge deal like the ones on the inner parts.

So, how bad are rusty drum brakes? Drum rust causes issues when it forms on the braking surface and the bolt pattern as it impacts the vehicle’s ability to control acceleration.

Faulty brakes can make the car prone to accidents, and you should replace rusty drum brakes. Read on about the impacts of rust on your brake system.

How Much Rust Is Too Much For A Drum Brake?

Rust will form on almost all vehicle parts exposed to moisture and made of rust-prone metals. The drum brakes will rust, but you should know when to replace them.

For instance, you should replace drum brakes with rust flakes that can chip off a skit, indicating serious damage to the brake components.

You should not worry if the rust is barely noticeable as it indicates little damage to the brake system. In most cases, you would need to clean the rust off the drum brakes and use an anti-rust fluid like Rustoleum, which prevents further damage.

Sometimes you might not notice the rust immediately, but the brake pedal may feel unusual, which indicates severe rusting, which causes excessive wearing out of the components.

The rusted drum brakes may cause excessive vibrations, shuddering, and pulsating, which results from too much rusting.

The excessive rusting may result in abnormal sounds such as scratching and scrapping when you depress the brakes. The sounds indicate excessive rusting of the brake components.

Eventually, the brakes will not work effectively, leading to loose parking brakes. The loose parking breaks make it impossible to stop the car as you wish.

Your car might slip after you engage the parking brakes. The rust impacts the friction needed to bring the car to a stop when you engage the brakes.

Can You Remove Rust From Drum Brakes?

Although the rust can impact the drum brakes, making it hard to control the vehicle, it is better to check the brake systems frequently.

You can remove dust deposits on the drum brakes, especially if the rust has not yet damaged the brake system. You would apply an anti-rust after removing the rust on the brakes to prevent future damage.

Unfortunately, you should not apply a lubricant or permanent coating on the rotor surface as it reduces the friction needed for proper drum brakes’ function. You should be careful with the anti-rust you use on the rotor surface.

How Can You Remove Rust From Drum Brakes?

Rust will form on the drum brakes if the car is stationary for an extended time, and you may need to keep the car moving to avoid extensive rust formation.

Thus, you can curb the superficial rust by driving the car even if you don’t need the car frequently. You can drive the car and check the roots physically for rust signs.

However, if your car has been in the parking for a long time, you can drive it to an empty parking lot and engage in dust removal strategies.

For instance, you may wish to accelerate the cart to 10mph and brake hard. Braking will remove the superficial rust, ensuring the drum brakes are in good condition even if you don’t need to drive the car frequently.

You can conduct a rotor cleaning prep if driving the car does not work for the superficial and deeply embedded rust. You will place chocks behind the axle of the wheel you are not working on to anchor the vehicle safely.

Then loosen all the nuts on one wheel and use the jack to uplift the wheel. A floor jack will add safety and make it easy to work on the wheel. Finally, expose the rotor by removing the wheel and inspecting the damage’s extent.

Although you might clean the rotor with the pads and the calipers, it may be wise to remove them to ensure you reach the difficult-to-reach parts.

You will use the box-end wrench to unhook the caliper and pads. You should be careful removing these as you can damage the brake line. It is better to use caliper hangers to hold the pads.

After cleaning the brake rotor, you may wish to inspect the pads for surface glazing and ensure the pad is of the right size. Most vehicles need a pad not less than 4mm depth, and you will replace it if the pad is less than this.

You will check the piston boot and the guide pins for any tears and loss of integrity. The loss of integrity exposes the moving parts to moisture, and dust alleviates corrosion, leading to future drum brakes issues.

Therefore, it is better to replace any faulty pads. Use an effective brake cleaner recommended for the drum brakes and catch any trays. Then, let the rotor dry and wipe with a clean, soft cloth ensuring the cloth does not have oil.

You may use a wire brush or stew wool if the rust does not come off with the brake cleaner. The wire brush removes the deep rust and corrosion.

Then wipe off the rotor, spray the brake cleaner for a final shot, and apply an anti-rust. Finally, assemble the rotor, pad, and the whole wheel properly.

Should You Remove The Rust Or Add A New Drum Brake?

The decision to remove rust or replace the drum brakes will depend on the extent of corrosion. You will remove the rust from a rotor in good condition and replace one exposed to extensive corrosion.

After cleaning, you will replace the drum brake if the rotor has deep rust and a pitted surface due to corrosion.

Can You Paint A Rusted Drum Brake?

You should not paint the inner surface of the drum brake as it impacts its functioning. However, it is safe to paint the outer drum brake for aesthetics. Painting the drum brake does not prevent rust formation on the inner rotor plate.

You might not know the extent of rust damage on the rotor drum brake until you inspect the wheel physically.

It is better to remove the rust by brushing with a wire brush, washing with an appropriate cleaner, and applying an anti-rust. You should keep the vehicle on the move to avoid further damage and inspect it for proper drum brake care.

How Much Does it Cost To Replace The Drum Brakes?

Expect to pay at least $400 to $500 for the parts and labor. Costs can easily go up depending on your car’s make and model.


Cars with drum brakes are very few on the streets nowadays. Manufacturers used them in cars back in the days, but because of the more advantageous disk brake system, drum brakes are now a thing of the past.

They still are cheaper than discs, but because of their inferior performances, they are left behind.

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