Imperial Brake Drum Repair Information

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Tip from Tony on Interchanging BRAKE DRUMS (Hub and Drum Assembly)

According to my interchange manual, here's the scoop on brake drums for1951 through 1965 Imperials. My manual only covers those years, so I don't know what goes before or after that.

1951-1954 Imperial
Front - part # 1312859-60
(Same as '51-52 Chrysler New Yorker, 1949-55 DeSoto Station Wagon)
Rear - part # 1118866-7
(Same as '55 Imperial rear, '51-52 Chrysler New Yorker, 1949-55 DeSoto Station Wagon, 1955 Chrysler Station Wagon)

1955 Imperial
Front - part # 1671460
(Same as 1955 Chrysler Station Wagon)
Rear - part # 1118866-7
(same as '51-54 Imperial, '51-52 Chrysler New Yorker, 1949-55 DeSoto Station Wagon)

None of the following interchange with anything except Imperials...

1956 Imperial
Rear - part # 1633058

1956-1958 Imperial
Front - part # 1671346

1957-1958 Imperial
Rear - part # 1671507

1959-1962 Imperial
Front - part # 2265218-9
Rear - part # 1732296-7

1963-Early 1964 Imperial
Front - part # 2401546-7
Rear - part # 2401542-3

Late 1964-1965 Imperial
Front - part # 2530130-1
Rear - part # 2530132-2

Visit Philippe's website on how to remove '57 - '63 Imperial rear drums!!

Question from Ned (1948):

Unfortunately the right front wheel is locked up. I want to look inside to check the status of the brakes and can't remember how I got the hub cap off....I'm not talking decorative cap I'm talking the small cap on the hub. There is a nice description of brakes on the Website but it doesn't address removing the cap.

I think I took a screwdriver to loosen it but then I think that was a different car, maybe a '57 Ford. This cap looks like the a large wrench will screw it off but I don't want to attempt that until I know exactly what I'm doing. If it does screw off, when I look at the left drum should I assume it will have RH threads and not LH like the lug bolts?

Reply from Dick:

These caps are simply pressed on. The way I remove them is to take a very large set of Channellock pliers (with at least 12 inch handles) and grab the cap top and bottom with the tool. Then rock the cap up and down until it comes loose. You don’t need to squeeze hard enough to mar the cap, just hold it and wiggle it up and down, it will slowly work its way off.

By the way, this is what is properly called a “hub cap”. The large disks that cover the whole wheel are properly called “wheel covers”, not “hub caps”. You can win a bet with that fact next time you’re in a bar!

Question from Ned (1948):

I learned something new today and thought I'd let you know that that hub cap IS threaded on the '48 Crown Imperial hub. It came off fairly easily once I could see what it was trying to get me to do! I removed the cotter key, nut, washers and bearings but can't get the hub off. I've tapped gently all around the hub from the back with a hammer and it isn't loosening one little bit. Some grey/black powder has come out, obviously residue from the brake pads.

Are there any tricks I should know about? I didn't think it required a puller but it's acting like it does. I certainly don't want to crack the hub by hitting too hard. I'm not very excited about using a torch on it either.

I'll pack the bearings as long as they are out, when I put it back together but first I need to get that hub off so I can see what else has to be done. That manual I'm going to order once I get to AZ would have come in handy now. I'm sorry I waited but I wasn't expecting this problem.


From Dick:

If the drum won’t come off even after you’ve removed the bearings, I suspect the brake linings are in contact with the drum – perhaps rusted in place (if the wheel won’t turn at all). If you’ve backed all the way off on the adjusters and it still won’t release, see if there is a slot for inspecting the lining thickness on the inside of the backing plate – some cars have these. If there is a slot that gives you a view of any portion of a brake lining, try to insert a tool in that slot to pry the lining away from the drum. Heat will help, but don’t use more than a propane torch – you don’t want to warp the drum. Perhaps an industrial type heat gun would work also. Do not use a MAPP torch or an acetylene torch – they can get much too hot!

From John:

I have not looked at the way the linings mount to the backing plate of an Imperial that is older than mine, but I assume that they mount pretty much the same way most others do--with little "nails" and a coil spring and a slotted car that you turn 90 degrees to remove. If you take the heads off these nails from the outside of the backing plate, the linings will come out when you remove the drum, far enough that you can release the springs and take the whole assembly all the way off.

From Ron:

And, by saying stuck lining to drum, I would ask if the person doing the work has backed off the brake adjustment to permit the drum to pass over the expanded shoes?

Many times the wearing of the drum will cause a lip to form on the back of the drum causing interference when
you try to remove it.

Question from Mel (1959):

The brake drums on my '59 LeBaron have external springs on them that go all the way around the drum (probably the same as many others). The parts book lists them as part number 22-04-11 and further defines them as either 342 coils or 379 coils. The springs are 3/8" in diameter. I understand they are meant to minimize brake drum noise and/or chatter when the brakes are engaged. My springs, which I counted as having 373 coils, are rusted all together and therefore no longer usable. I tried Andy Bernbaum and they do not have them nor did he know where I could find any. Anybody have any advice?

Reply from Kenyon:

Soak your springs in vinegar for 72 hours. remove and scrub with a soft wire brush or steel wool. Repeat as needed. I got mine to look like new this way.

I didn't figure out how to scrub the insides of the coils because I didn't think about it till they were done and wept rust when I hit them with the hose after the outsides were painted up and looking nice when they were already installed on the car.

Vinegar dissolves rust. Be ready for the checker at the store to ask why you're buying 10 gallons when you decide to do your brake drums too.

Question from Richard (1960):

It's happened again, stuck drums on a car that sat for 20 years. I searched through all the club archives and came up with bits and pieces of info. but nothing definitive. The wheels turn freely its just the drums will not come off. I broke one wheel puller, bought another and bent a stud. This was all done while heating the drum with a propane torch, cooling, heating, cooling, it just would not come off. My father and I gave up. My shop said not to worry they would get the drums off. Well guess what? They can't! Any ideas??


From Don:

Tip an old mechanic gave me: Loosen the castle nut( that holds the drum to the axle) just enough so there is a little play on the washer. Drive car around block slowly. When the washer is tight again, the drum has moved/broken free. Loosen castle nut again slightly, drive some more till tight against washer. Try hub puller again. Works if car runs and you are patient.

From Sherwood:

You need a large puller. Put pressure on it by tightening the screw handle with a sledge. Hit the drum from the side all the way around. Tighten again. Hit the drum again all the way around. Tighten again. Leave like this for an hour. It will come loose. It's rusted to the shoes. Repeat until you get it to pop. Mine took two hours...

From Paul:

Sherwood is absolutely correct. Please be careful and use the axle nut as a safety on the axle so that when the drum does "POP" it won't fly off the car and hurt you! This can be very dangerous. There is no drum that will not come off, some just take longer and need more "pull". My mechanic friend and I cracked two hub pullers doing this job on my '56 last September. We finally got it off with a bigger tool.

I would highly advise against using a torch to heat the axles, and or the drums.

I have always managed to get the drums off without heat. I have six cars with these axles, and had them all apart several times over the last 30 years. The keyword here is patience.

One thing that I really liked about Sherwood's post was the idea of applying the pressure (assuming that you in fact are using the correct type of puller) and walking away from it for an hour or two. Not only does this give the puller time to do it's job, but it also keeps one from becoming over-zealous and damaging the car or themselves.

From John:

I agree that the torch is a no no. I know we've covered this subject to death before & this will be my only post regarding it. The puller needs to be the type that fastens to the studs on the drum. If you use the type that clamps to the outer edge, the drum will break apart from the hub rendering it useless.

If you are going to use ANY heat at all, it needs to be only enough to swell the drum & not transfer any heat to the axle, or your wasting your time. Sufficient heat for this purpose is produced by a heat gun, a torch is too hot.

From George:

I've recently had this problem with My '54. It took me the better part of four weeks to find the appropriate puller (according to Chrysler) only to find out that OTC makes a Universal Hub Puller that would do the job. You can find the OTC Universal Hub Puller on their web site. The puller attaches to the hub using the lug studs. Trying to use a puller which grips the outer edges of the hub will only distort it and cause it to break.

From Kerry:

You need a SERIOUS puller. Don't know what you are using. They can be rented. There is a photo of one and my experience getting the drums off my '57. Toward the front as I recall. It took 2 DAYS, heat from a large rosebud torch, and considerable hammer licks.

Question from Kenyon (1960):

My 1960 drums have a spring that wraps around the drum like a garter. What purpose does this spring serve? Dampening of vibration/bell like noises?

Reply from Dave:

I think that they are for anti-vibration & sound .

Question from John (1960):

My '60 LeBaron has something bouncing around in the drive shaft brake drum at low speeds that sounds like a small pebble. The brake works fine and there's no pebble noise or dragging sound while driving. Based on the picture of the innards in the shop manual it looks like any number of retainers or springs (or a piece thereof) might have a broken loose inside the drum. I'm curious if anyone else has had the same problem and what was found once the drum was pulled.

Reply from Philippe:

One of my friends, who has a '59 Coronet, had a similar problem some years ago: he removed the drum and found that the springs (the "brake support grease shield spring" and the return spring) were broken and had made some damages in the drum. It seems that when my friend overhauled the hand brake he didn't install properly this grease shield spring: it must be pressed in the grooves of the grease shield / trans. extension. If the grease shield is not slide all the way on the rear trans. extension, the grooves of the grease shield are not in line with the grooves of the extension so the spring couldn't be all the way seated ; he jumps, then with vibrations, the return spring jumps also... and does some damage to shoes. My friend replaced the shoes because broken parts of the spring were wedged under the shoes.

Question from (1960):

My 1960 drums are going into the vinegar bath today to soak the rust off. When they come out, I will have them turned.

How should I finish them? 100% painted on the outside? Bare metal?

I am currently thinking that I'll get hi-temp black paint and spray all surfaces besides the threaded lug bolts, probably painting them before they are turned so that the machining takes off the paint on the brake surfaces but everything else is done right up to the edge of the machined surfaces.

What process have others used?

Reply from John:

Eastwoods "Chassis Black" works well for this purpose.

Question from James (1960):

Can brake drums be resurfaced?  How much should it cost?


From Larry:

Brake drums CAN be resurfaced, and the cost for a drum that is taken to NAPA (or a jillion other parts stores) is about $5. If you can do your own work it is not at all costly to get the drums resurfaced. I have done ONLY the fronts to get rid of the shudder that plagues old Chryslers, and have been happy with that result.

Some 'good' brake shops can re-arc the brake shoe lining to fit perfectly in the drum. ......That makes for the best job,..... as it produces 100% contact between the drum and lining. In the days when we used to bond new linings to the shoes as part of the (in shop) brake job, this was done every time. That is an 'art' gone down the tube, along with sweeping the customer's car out and washing the windows with every little job that came in the door.

If this 'turning of the drums' is done with a complete brake job it should add only about $20 to $30 to the brake job. I would do that resurface with all brake jobs just to make it the best. Rarely is a drum, that has worn out a set of linings, good enough to be put back in service without turning it.

Brake drums must remain a certain thickness, to meet certain (DOT) specifications, and after they are worn and resurfaced a few times, they become to thin. This is why the mechanics tell us that the drums can notbe resurfaced again, (the drum has that maximum inside diameter) stamped on it.

Drums 'could' be resurfaced beyond this diameter, but the shop that does the work COULD be held responsible in case of a failure that could be 'directly' related to this over-sizing.

Just for what it is worth to you, I have had my friendly, mechanic, buddy go beyond this size (within reason of course) and no bad effect is ever noticed. I conveniently 'forget' who did that over-sizing. I am not recommending this for you, but I thought you may want to know that 'bit of fact'. It works for me.

Ask the mechanic to show you the recommended maximum size (on the drum) and then 'you' can make a decision whether an additional resurfacing will go TOO far beyond this dimension. (I personally have seen the case where a drum is condemned because of its unsightly looks). A small amount of oversize 'could' be tolerated. Probably an older mechanic that understands this theory will be more apt to help you out. Also, sometimes it is possible to leave tiny imperfections rather than go beyond the 'safe' dimension.

From Nancy: 

We don't recommend turning drums on the old cars unless it is really necessary because of of the difficulty of getting other drums and the fact that there are only a finite number of brake drums for these cars in the world so every time one can no longer be used there is one less to keep the car going. As a result used brake drums for Imperials are also expensive.

Question from James (1960): 

What worries me is that I've had 3 different mechanics say that my front drums could not be turned again. If I understand your response correctly, I still may need to find another set of drums, so I guess I need to buy a new set of drums.


From Nancy:

It could well be true that your drums cannot be turned again but you have never said why they need to be turned now? If you replaced your brake linings before they were down to the metal, which I hope all IML members do, your drums should not need turning. Ask the mechanic why your drums need to be turned. If he just says its because they always do it that is not a good reason especially on an antique car like yours. Besides the early Imperials like yours had very hard brake drums not soft ones like the later models. As a result you could probably get away with changing just the brake shoes, every brake job, as long a nothing was allowed to damage the drum like very worn brake linings. 

From Gene:

To metalize a brake drum will require machining to roughen the surface so the the metal spray will adhere. If there is enough material for that then there should be enough to true the drum. A metalized drum will not have the structural strength required if the drum thickness is too thin to machine. I believe that the process would be expensive and also risky.

Question from Per (1964):

There is a mention of early '64 and late '64... Excuse my ignorance, but what does that exactly mean? (I'm still learning a lot about my Imperial). Hopefully somebody can explain this for me.


From George:

According to my 1964 parts book, the serial number where the drums change to the later style is as follows:

VY1-M after ser. no. 9243-109791 VY1-H after ser. no. 9343- 109791

It also says it is a "flared" drum, whatever that means.

From Dave:

Here is a tip about obtaining front brake drums on Imperials. Since the front brakes do about 80% of the stopping, they wear out far faster than the rear. One can often find good rear drums but the fronts are very difficult to find. Maybe this tip will help. I don't know what years it works on except 1964, but probably any with the cast rear center hub and tapered rear axle and maybe some later models as well. Rear brake drums can sometimes be used on the front on some cars by pressing out the lugs and center hub on the rear drum and replacing them with those from the front drum (with new lugs, of course). I know from experience that it works on 1964: my Ghia limo has rear drums on the front! Rear drums are obviously easier to find in usable condition.

Question from Johan (1965):

I went to the parts store to pick up some break shoes for the '65 Lebaron and they asked if I had 11 or 12 inch drums. I have looked all over the website and all the literature I have, but cant find out what the size of my drums are with out taking the wheels off. Perhaps some one would be able to assist me?

Reply from Don:

Those drums are 11" and the shoes are 11" by 3".

Question from Mark (1965):

My '65 Crown is currently getting the suspension and springs redone. My mechanic informs me that the car really could use for 4 new drums because mine are rusty and too "thin?" The mechanic informs me that one in the rear absolutely needs to be replaced but the 3 others should be. I will try Lowell Howe as a source but what do I need to look for as far as replacements?


From Arran:

If you need brake drums get the dimensions down, diameter, width, etc., find a new set of similar size, and have a machine shop drill new holes for the Imperial's 5 on 41/2 bolt pattern. It may also be prudent to cross reference the Imperial drums with those of some of the larger trucks, I think G.M.C and Ford had the same bolt pattern on some of their one and two ton trucks and the drums can be had new. Many used drums may already be past their prime so checking them out in person is best before buying.

From Paul:

Also check Imperial Heaven. Bob Hoffmeister should be able to help you out as well.

The drums on your car may be "thin" from having been previously machined. A good drum is one that can be machined again without becoming too thin. Drums that are too thin do not effectively dissipate heat, stop the car, or retain roundness. They can not be machined, and could actually fracture during a panic stop.

Bob H. will only sell drums that have been machined and he knows are within spec when they leave his shop. I expect Lowell would be the same, but I have no experience with his merchandise.

Question from Bob(1966):

Does anyone know where I can get brake drums for my '66 Crown? I am looking for replacement drums rather than used. I thought some mentioned Ford truck parts to match the bolt pattern.

Reply from Paul:

Have you thought about using GOOD used drums? Imperial Heaven can probably provide them, and Bob will only sell them after they have been reconditioned within specification.

Follow-up from Bob:

I have used now. They have to be taken to a machine shop to be brought up to spec. The problem with the old drums are the method in which they were manufactured. They mixed different type of metal that caused hard spots which create grabbing when braking. I have sent them out to be done but if I could fine new better quality drums I would put them on.

Reply from Pete:

The hard spots that you mention are "heat spots" that result from overheating the drum. I don't think that they have anything to do with mixed metals. I've seen brake shoes that come with a wide groove down one shoe to alleviate the problem.

About 6 months ago I bought a pair of new drums for my Astro van. Due to brake system problems I didn't know about, the rear drums were actually doing more braking than the front discs. Within a few months the new rear drums were heat spotted.

Mild heat spotting can often be removed during the drum turning process. If the spots are too deep, however, too much material must be removed and the drums are junk.

A good pair of used drums will do just fine so long as they aren't heat spotted.

Addition from Kenyon:

it is my understanding that if you run a car under hard braking and then park it with the pads still really hot, that they can create hardspots. Hardened metal has been changed metallurgically and when the shop tries to turn the drum, the softer material gets trimmed away, but the blade that cuts the drum does not cut the hardspots well.

Regardless, whether turned or not, drums with hardspots will result in grabby brakes as the drum surface surrounding the hardspots wears away while the hardened metal stays and becomes something of a speed bump in the swept surface that the pads jar over repeatedly.

Soooo... If you fail to find a handy replacement from another make that you can get over the counter, you may have to look at used drums. The good news is that hardspots are the exeption and not the rule. A good parts vendor will "spot" this defet and send good ones, but double check anyway.

From Paul:

Somebody fed you a line of _ _, Bob. The original drums for those cars were very well made. The hard spots are caused by overheating the brakes. To avoid this, I drive within the legal limit, and always try to pump the brakes, especially when stopping from highway speeds. Riding the brakes, or romping on them in a panic stop from 80 MPH will make them overheat.


How do you remove the rear drum brakes on an Imperial?


From George:

I know this sounds very shade-tree-like, but a grizzled old mechanic once told me a good trick to loosen the tapered and keyed rear drums. Remove the cotter pin, loosen the nut about 1-2 turns, re-install the cotter pin, then drive the vehicle without sudden accelerations or sudden hard braking until the drum comes loose. A rough, bumpy road works the best to jar it loose. Leave the hubcaps off so you can check to see when it happens. Of course, I would not exceed 30 mph., and don't go too far from port! 

From John:

The heavy duty puller that JC Whitney carries is a good tool for a reasonable price. I just got a new Whitney catalog (#598C) yesterday that includes 10% off coupons. The heavy duty "Professional" puller is on page 120: stock number 12FR8895A for $49.99.

An even better tool is OTC p/n 7394 (OTC Division, SPX Corporation, Owatonna MN 55060). Cost is about $125 and you have to special order thru a tool shop or auto parts store. This is the same tool shown in the '58 and previous Chrysler/Imperial shop manuals. It includes a puller screw wrench with ends you can hit with a hammer helping to loosen the drum if the brake shoes are frozen to the drum lining -- a desireable feature not included with the Whitney tool.

I have both the above tools and I prefer the OTC. Both are tough enough to damage an axle shaft if not used correctly. If the drum is frozen to the axle shaft, tightening the puller screw alone will not do the trick. The common misuse of these tools is just to keep tightening the puller screw more and more -- you look down and the drum hasn't popped but you've mushroomed the axle shaft end :-(.

Here's my method...

1) I start out by removing the shaft nut and shooting penetrating oil into the keyway while tapping the hub with a hammer.

2) I put the axle shaft nut back on setting it flush with the end of the axle shaft (this will help prevent mushrooming the axle shaft end threads as you tighten the puller screw).

3) I grease the shaft end and the puller screw end then tighten the puller fingers onto the drum studs making sure the puller screw is aligned with the axle shaft.

4) I tighten the puller screw until all the play in the puller is gone. Then tighten 1/4 turn at a time, rapping the puller screw head with a hammer and tapping the hub between turns. The drum should pop loose after a few turns. I spin the axle shaft nut periodically to make sure it still turns by hand -- if it starts to bind I know the end of the axle shaft is starting to mushroom -- the hub is frozen to the axle shaft and any more tightening of the puller will do more harm the good.

5) For the real hard cases, I heat the hub with a couple of propane torches while going thru the process of step 4). If still no luck, I'll walk away for an hour or so (with the puller still in tension) and let everything cool down then heat it up again, continuing the hot-cold cycling and hammering until until the drum finally breaks free. I've had to go to this extreme only once, on a car that had been sitting for twenty-some years.

6) Before you put the drums back on, coat the axle shaft taper with a thin film of wheel bearing grease of thread grease. This will make the job a lot easier the next time around.

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