How To Diagnose and Repair Problems with Your Imperial's Brake Shoes

Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Brakes -> Brake Shoes

Tip from Mike:

I don't know if this is unusual or not but I stumbled across a shop that will reline your old brake shoes. This could solve the problem of not being able to find new emergency brake shoes, or hard to find sizes of wheel brake shoes. Check out Johnson Packing within the brake shoe relining page.

Tip from Joe:

For those of you using the incorrect terminology, here is the brake lining words for each;

Pads, a term used for disc brake vehicles 

Shoes, a term used for cars of the non disc brake vehicles.

A shoe usually refers to a drum type vehicle and normally 2 shoes are used at each wheel. This does not include the earlier disc brake vehicles that are very rare in the early 50's. Do not ask for pads if you are working on a drum brake type vehicle.

Question from Mike:

What is the advantage of asbestos brake shoes?


From Dave:

Back in the day, all they had were asbestos brake shoes- they will stop your car faster, better, etc. The new shoes that the government wants you to use are non-asbestos, most of which are semi-metallic. Semi-metallic are the majority of the shoes you will find in part stores at a cheap price. Over a period of time I have found that I go through brake shoes and drums at a very high rate. The constant use of semi-metallic shoes on steel drums will cause a glazing effect on the inside and this will increase stopping distance. The use of these semi-asbestos brake shoes will decrease that distance. Once you try them you will notice the difference right away and when you think about it semi-metallic shoes on a steel drum... that's metal on metal.

From Demetios:

If they use Asbestos in light aircraft, there must be a strong advantage. Also, 20 or 30 years ago they figured out that Asbestos is very toxic. Hopefully, the brake dust from the Asbestos linings will be in low enough concentration that will not harm the driver and your passengers (unless you drive like me, where you often smell the brake linings burning!). As it turns out, a good percentage of dust in residential areas close to large highways is ... brake dust! So, the removal of asbestos from brake linings may have been good for public health overall.

As for the increase in stopping distance. Well, it might increase braking effort, but I can't see why it will increase stopping distance (braking effort may be more important in light aircraft, as they usually do not have brake boosters). Usually, the limitation in braking is traction between tires and road, not friction between linings and rotors/drums. As for the accelerated wear, I have no reason to doubt your observation.

Asbestos is not the only material that works really great while happens to be incompatible with public health. Probably the best example of such a material is lead in gasoline. It works really great to raise the octane, and real cheap. Too bad it reduces mental abilities in children among other things!

Follow-up question from Quint:

Are these semi asbestos brake shoes made for 1953 Imperials! If so, where can they be purchased?

Reply from David:

Bush Power Brake Service, (619) 474-8906, 25 E 17th St, National City, CA 91950  They ship anywhere.

Question from Philippe:

I need to reface my front brake drums (seems that they are over-run). I have 12" drum. Does this dimension is the interior diameter of drum ? What is the max. removal of surface I can do ? My FSM says 0.030 (= 0.060 on diameter).


From Dick:

Yes, this is the inside diameter. The maximum diameter would be 12.060. Don't do this unless your drums are out of round or very badly scored. Be very sure before you let them throw away your metal. Brake shops always want the owner to have the drums (or rotors on newer cars) resurfaced, because it reduces complaints about "lumpy" stopping, and they don't realize or care that new drums may not be available. Once you have turned the drum to its safe limits, you have to, by law in the US, find a new drum. This is often next to impossible. Many collector cars are ultimately parked because the brakes can no longer be made safe. Tolerating a little unevenness in braking due to a slight "out of round" condition, or rapid wear due to some scoring in the drum surface is a small price to pay for continued enjoyment of your car. You have to promise the mechanic you won't complain about the feeling, or else he will send you away if you won't let him grind off the precious metal.

From Dave:

You will probably need also over sized linings as well.

From Bill:

The "rule of thumb" since the 50's on most American cars, was always the machine shops would never remove more than .060 (thousandth). In some areas this was actually the law for safety purposes.

Question from Martin:

My rear brakes lock up when I try and back-up in the car.  Any ideas what the problem is?

Reply from Paul:

Martin, the fact that your rear brakes are self-energizing when backing up gives me this idea. Both of your rear drums have been turned, probably as much as possible or more to get through the hard spots that occur on these drums. Now, after turning, they are over twelve inches, getting on to twelve and a quarter in diameter. If the new brake shoes were then put in without being shaved, only a small portion of each brake shoe will contact the drum because the shoes are designed for exactly twelve inches. Look through your receipts and try to find if there was a charge made for shaving the shoes to fit the outsized drums. If they were never shaved or "fitted," that would cause your problem, and the solution would be to go back to the brake shop and have them do it. After that, they should work great, and others on the list have told you how to adjust the shoes.

Question from Timothy:

 I've been busy over the last three weeks puttering away on a brake job on the sixty in my "spare" time (I  have none hence 3 weeks for a 1.5 day job...). Here's  the situation... No pedal! no matter how many time you pump it. We have replaced the front shoes and hoses, rebuild the  front wheel cylinders, took apart the back drums and realized that the have already been done in the not to distant past and left it at that for the moment and adjusted everything, then gave it a try. When that  didn't work we checked for leaks and air and decided  that the master cylinder was leaking out the back. Yanked it and rebuilt it, reinstalled, re-bled,  readjusted, and still nothing. The car slows down and  will sort of stop if it's not on high idle or pointed downhill. I have a new rear hose which I am still meaning to  install but both BJ and I can't see how a hose that's  not leaking could cause the problem. I am rather frustrated and having trouble coming up repair ideas  that don't include a stick of dynamite. Anybody got any less volatile ideas??? 

Reply from Paul:

Here is what I think. After all that you have done, try going back and readjusting all the brake shoes. If you turned the adjusting cam in the wrong direction on just one shoe, then your brake pedal will go to the floor as you have indicated. Use a 7/16 inch six sided socket, of 3/8 drive to adjust the shoe cams. Six of the eight tighten in the forward direction of the wheels. The rearmost two, which are most frequently adjusted wrong, are tightened by turning in the reverse direction of the wheels. After you have properly adjusted the cams, that may solve the problem. But if it doesn't, then be sure to bleed the brakes in the proper order: right rear, left rear, right front lower, right front upper, left front lower, left front upper. Right and left are as you sit in the driver's seat of the car. Good luck and please let me know how you make out!

Question from Jeff ('56 -'62 interchange):

I need to replace/reline the rear brake shoes on my '62 Crown. The linings are glazed, and the car sounds like an eighteen wheeler/freight train when I make a hard stop. I'm thinking of buying a used set just to have some extra cores on hand that I can have rebuilt.

My question is this. Are the brake shoes the same for front and rear from 1956 to 1962? I was reading in my 1959-1960 master parts book, and they list an 11 x2 1/2 shoe for '59 Imperials......then they also list a 12 x 3 shoe for 59 Imperials with "platform brakes".

I've got 5 Imperials from 1956 to 1962, and I was wondering if all these shoes are interchangeable.


From Kerry:

My 61's have 12x3 on a 4 corners. The 12x2 1/2 are on lesser Chryslers like my 60 Newport. Not sure the 62 is the same as the 61 but I'd bet they are.

From Steve:

No they will not interchange. I don't know about '56, but '57 and '58 used 14" wheels and the smaller shoes. Early production '59 also used the 14" wheels with smaller shoes. In mid '59 they increased the wheel size to 15" and increased the size of the brakes.

Andy Bernbaum has both sizes in stock for $36 plus core charge.

From John:

The shoes are the same front & rear on 60-62, perhaps the late 59 is the same also. The shoes are available from Andy Bernbaum. He charges a hefty core charge to be sure you send back your old ones, but his turn around time is usually fast on both the parts & the refund.

Question from Joe (1957):

Would replacing shoes on the rear of a '57 which now has a tendency to lock one wheel when left parked for a while the first time the brakes are applied eliminate the locking problem?

I think that the shoes were exposed to brake fluid from a leaking cylinder since replaced. I am afraid of damaging the differential or something else even though the problem will go away after the brakes are applied a few times.


From Dick:

This is a typical symptom from contaminated linings. Replace both sides, and make very sure the drum and all brake hardware is washed off with brake cleaner (special stuff, available at any auto parts place, and also make very sure that the grease seals and wheel cylinders are totally bone dry - no seepage at all.

From Teresa:

You can get them from these guys. out of Washington State. They are prompt, and easy to deal with. I bought some for my '56 DeSoto last year and I had them in a couple of days when paying by credit card over the phone.

Question from Dave (1958):

I'm trying to find brake shoes for my 1958 rears. Does anybody know a source?


From Paul:

I think that they are the same from '57-'62. I bought my last set at a local auto parts store. It may have been a fluke that they had them, but you should be able to get yours relined (they are bonded), or at least get some good cores from Imperial Heaven and have them done.

In any case, they are not difficult to find.

From Steve:

I have bought from Andy Bernbaum in the past and gotten an excellent product but have to fight to get core charges credited back.

From Marty:

They are 36.00 per axle set if you send in your cores. Without cores an additional $50.00 from Gary Goers.

From Philippe:

I bought my sets on ...ebay !!! Old asbetos stuff ... Braking is greater than with the "new non-asbetos" relined shoes I put on 2 years ago, with no squeaks, no problem about thickness or core, etc... Each week you can find a set for 1 axle (4 shoes) on ebay (around $40-60).

From Teresa:

Here is my source for vintage vehicle brake shoes. This is actually the source that our local parts stores use in Washington State (maybe others as well), but the parts guy at the shop where my husband works hooked us up with this, and we are passing on to you all. We haven't bought brakes for our Imp from them, but we did for our DeSotos, and they were fast and inexpensive. We paid $75.00 plus core ($50 I think) and I had them in like two days paying by credit card over the phone.

Even if you don't want to order shoes from these guys, there is someone there who can answer any question that you have about brakes shoes.

Follow-up question from Dave:

Does anybody know it the front shoe-set the same as the rears (1958)? Also, is one shoe larger than the other and if so which one goes in the front?

Reply from Chad:

Two sizes of shoes are only on duo-servo brakes, recognizable by the fact that there is no anchor at the bottom, the shoes float. In this application, the larger shoe always goes to the rear.

Reply from Steve:

The front and rear should be the same I belive. I also believe the shoes were the same size. Having one smaller and one larger shoe started in '63 and the smaller one goes toward the front of the car.

Reply from Philippe:

On '57-'59 Imperials, all shoes have the same dimension : 12 x 2 1/2.

Question from Dave (1959):

Why do some brake shoes have a wide groove running down the middle of the lining & can they be used with a standard plain shoe?

Reply from Pete:

I believe that the grooves are there to allow airflow for drum cooling. During braking pressure is greatest along the center of the friction material since that strip is directly over the metal "spine" of the shoe. An overheated drum will "heat spot" in a circle corresponding to that contact area.

Some shoe manufacturers seem to use the groove and some don't. IIRC only one shoe at each wheel (the primary?) is grooved. And yes, you can use non-grooved shoes at all positions.

Question from Gary (1962):

When the car is cold the brakes will work fine, but as the brakes heat up they begin to stick and rub. The car has already had new wheel cylinders-all six, new shoes all the way around, a re-built master cylinder, and all the lines checked or replaced. My mechanic friend seems to think that it is either a bad rebuild on the master cylinder, or a bad booster. Any thoughts? I know that I can find both a new master cylinder, and a re-build kit for the master cylinder, but what about the booster? Is there a re-build kit for the booster? If not , where might I find a re-built unit? Thank you to all that can give me info about this problem.

Reply from John:

Did you clean the platforms where the shoes ride & put a light film of grease on them? The end of the shoe that fits into the support plate also needs to be lightly greased. The platforms are the 3 flat spots on the backing plates where the shoes make contact. Also, what about the condition of the return springs? Do the support plates appear to have any bends in them & do they operate smoothly? When I did my brakes, I soaked the support plates in kerosene, since they were loaded with crud. After that, I cleaned them well with Brakleen, the solvent based kind & made sure everything operated smoothly. When you adjust them, snug them up tightly & back off very slightly. All tightening adjustments are in the direction of the forward rotation of the respective wheel, with the exception of the BACK shoe on the rear wheels which are adjusted in the direction of the respective wheel turning in reverse.

Question from Stan (1962):

I'm in a heck of a bind. My '62, upon inspection, has cracked and scary looking brake shoes. They have also had fluid from the wheel cylinders leak quite a bit all over them. The time is now for a change. I went to the NAPA numbers and found TS-86 as the shoes that would fit. The fellow at the parts store told me that the number was indeed correct but that part has been made obsolete! Is there anyone out there that know where I can get some shoes? Gathering all the parts for this job was working out way too easy.


From Wayne:

Sometimes, the shoes can be resurfaced, if the backing stuff is not what's cracked.

From Bill:

You don't need to buy shoes, just look for a brake reliner in your yellow pages. If you live in a more rural area, most areas have a community nearby that has this sort of business. You simply take your brake shoes to them, and they will realign with either rivet or bonding type. (Your choice)...

From Scott:

L&M Friction on 14th Street in Riverside, Ca. did all of mine, plus the emergency brake. Don't let them get to where they ruin the metal and you can continue relining as needed. These folks also have or can get wheel cylinders or repair kits as well as hardware.

From John:

Andy Bernbaum is the guy to get these from. I've gotten several sets from him for my '60's, same shoes as the '62. He usually ships very fast, but charges a fairly high core charge to be sure you'll send back the old ones.

Question from Chris (1963):

I am looking for the dimensions on the 63 front brake shoes. I call Robert's and they said there are two sizes...what determines the shoes that I need? Is there not a standard size for the front?

And I am looking for a source for the front hub seals, my mechanic (father-in-law) said they are leaking and the result is the brakes grab irregularly.


From John:

The brake shoes are 11 x 3 same both front & rear. You should be able to find both item at a good local parts store. Buy the way, when I owned both a 77NYB & a 63 IMP at the same time, I discovered that the brake shoes & hardware were identical, although the shoes were listed as a different part number. That info may help in your search.

From Rodger:

The size is 3" x 11".  Have you tried NAPA?

Follow-up question from Chris:

I tried NAPA, but they didn't have the Imperial listed as a model for Chrysler or under Imperial. Do you have a part number for me, maybe?

BTW, any thoughts on the hub seals?

The only models they had in their database was New Yorker, 300M, and one more that I can't remember.

Reply from Bill:

NAPA is going through a change in their cataloging. The new "system" goes back a lot further that the old one for looking up parts. Ask the counter person to look in the "newer" catalog. Our '64 is listed in there. They could also look in the "book".... This is assuming your NAPA is a corporate store, and not an independent.

Last year we bought shoes for it at Advance Auto Parts (on the shelf), they are 11" x 3", probably the same shoes.

Question from Jim (1965):

The '65 has eaten another set of shoes. Has anyone tried getting thicker shoes to make up for the oversize drums? What would be the effect if I used two leading shoes on each wheel. I ask because the trailing shoe seems to be considerably thinner than the leading shoe. I'm thinking if I could get one of the local brake rebuilders to put a thick lining on both shoes. With the drums .125 over I would need .060-.075 thicker. Do you think it would work or cause problems?  


No problem in running 2 leading shoes on a wheel. The only problem is the excessive drum diameter. Having someone increase the thickness of the shoe material is going to be hard... the liability issue comes in to play.

Question from Larry (1982):

I inspected my brake shoes today and found cracks in the lining. On the rear shoes is this a problem? Should I change the shoes???

The shoe is the one that was not working until after I adjusted it. It has almost 100% left. But I did find brake dust in the wheel this time, so it is working. The other side is about 40% used?? I wondered if it was working after I adjusted it that is why I pulled the wheel to check. I don't remember seeing the cracks before.


From Paul:

Anytime that you find anything in the brakes that is of concern, repair is necessary. One thing that I noticed here is that it sounds like some of the shoes are 40% at least one is 100%, others may be different from that. Since the brakes work best when all of the linings are in the same condition (that being excellent), I would recommend a complete brake job.

From Phil:

Unless it's really extreme, dont worry about it. I should be fine. If it was a front pad, I'd be a bit more concerned, but not much. Its just that drum shoes have a lot larger area to work with. Now if the lining was pulling away from the shoe, then I'd be concerned enough to change it.

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