Guide to Defender Handbrake Shoe Renewal

Nov 4th, 2010 | By |Category: Defender How To Guides

Defender Handbrake

Most of us take our car brakes for granted. We use our brakes as much as any other piece of safety equipment in our car, and when something goes wrong with our brakes, most of us are dead in the water. Not literally dead in a body of water, but this is in the realm of possibility if your car can’t stop when driving near a lake.

First off, when your brakes become worn out, they generally will give you plenty of warning signs and indicators long before they simply go out and leave you with no stopping power. Heed these warning signs and keep yourself and everyone else on the road with you safe by getting some brake repair as soon as possible if you notice something wrong.

Warning sign number one is when your car brakes grab when applied. Grabbing is a warning sign that your rotors have been either improperly scored or your brake pads themselves are too thin. It is also possible that other fluids have gotten into your brake shoes or lining and is interfering with your car’s braking power. While there are multiple brake repair solutions to this problem, it is a fairly simple job that can be done by trained professionals in your local garage.

Another warning sign is a car that pulls to one side. If you have eliminated the other causes for a car to pull, such as low tire pressure or a misalignment, your next step is to have the brakes checked by someone who knows what they’re looking at.

An additional warning sign of bad brakes that need repair is slow stopping power. If your brakes are slow to respond and you can’t safely stop when you try, your brakes are showing definite signs of damage.

If your car squeals when you apply pressure to or release your foot from the brakes, you’ve got another warning sign. The noise has been compared to fingernails on a chalkboard – very loud and very annoying. This is the last real warning that your brakes will give you before your brakes are gone completely. By this point, your car brake pads are so thin – probably less than 2mm – that they are wearing against the metal rotors of the brake system.

If you are experiencing any of the above warning signs of bad brakes, you should really consider replacing either your brake pads or shoes depending on the age/type of your Landrover.

The Defender handbrakes are drum based (There are disc conversions available if you do a lot of wading) and are affixed to the propshaft rather than the actual wheel assembly. The Defender’s handbrake has much bad press, however this is more to do with incorrect adjustment and lack of maintenance than anything else.

Here’s how to replace/renew the brake shoes.

First You’ll need to jack up one wheel and stick an axle stand under the axle. Then chock the other wheels.

Then using a 9/16 spanner you’ll need to remove the nuts around the prop. Position the prop out of the way. (The reason you jacked up the wheel now becomes apparent because it lets you turn the prop to get at all the nuts.)

Next you’ll need to slacken the handbrake cable and then the adjuster on the back of the brake.

Then remove the two screws holding the drum on and remove the drum.

Once you’ve done this you will now see this.

Now make a note of which way the shoes are fitted.

Once you’ve made a note of the shoe position you can remove them.

At this point you can give the drum and back plate a clean however the two bottom pistons may fall out of the adjusters, don’t panic.

Next if your using the old springs from the old shoes you can fit them to the new ones (It’s worth getting new springs though as you have the brake assembly in pieces).

A good tip is to stick strongish lengths of wire (Coat hanger wire) in the springs to stop them falling out when picking them up and refitting, Makes handling them easier.

Here’s a quick photo of the label on the box for part no. reference.

Next it’s time to clean and grease the adjuster pistons and replace them back into the piston assembly (A good tip is to thread some fishing line or a cable tie around them to hold them in place). The pistons on the left adjuster have a slope, when sticking them back in make sure the highest part of the slope faces outward. The pistons on the other adjuster (right hand side) have a groove on the end that has a slope, make sure the highest part of the slope faces towards the back plate… and be careful don’t loose the roller that sits in the groove.

Then it’s just a case of sticking a small smear of grease on the ends of the shoes and fitting them.

Time to remove the fishing line/cable tie and replace the drum.

Use the 2 screws you removed to resecure the drum.

Tighten the handbrake cable a little and give the handbrake lever a good pull to centre the shoes. Now the drum should turn freely after the handbrake is released. Quickly adjust handbrake to suit.

Once the adjustments have been made its just a case of refitting the prop and bolting it back in place.


[review pros=”Nice tight handbrake that you aren’t afraid of using on hills” cons=”Getting the adjustment right can take a few tries to get right” score=65]

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4 Comments to “Guide to Defender Handbrake Shoe Renewal”

  1. Ian D says:

    Thanks for this post, its been so much help as had to sort out handbrake and replace the prop with a new one on my old Defender 90.
    Fishing line was a good touch as kept trying to hunt for the rollers every time they fell out :)

  2. Chris says:

    Hi very clear instructions thanks.
    Only problem I’m having is adjusting it afterwards. Iv tried the adjuster on the cable and the one on the back of the drum and I either get locked wheels with or without handbrake or no brakes with or without hand brake? Any ideas? As far as I’m aware the shoes and pistons are installed correctly

  3. Brian Murdock says:

    Hi Ian, thanks v much for excellent description , and outstanding photos re handbrake shoe replacement. Makes it simple to get right parts in the right place, especially the cams. I live in Australia, and handbrakes are v useful in many recovery situations off road, especially Toyota fourbyes.
    Regards Brian Murdock

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