Written By Car Bibles
Published Mar. 15, 2021

Every time you hit the road, there are thousands of parts working together to get you to your final destination. Just as important for keeping you going are the components responsible for bringing you to a halt, such as brake shoes. Similar to brake pads, brake shoes are a vital part of your drum braking system and will eventually need to be replaced. They are curved metal pieces that use friction to convert kinetic energy to thermal energy and enable brake drums to bring the vehicle to slow the car down.

For the safety of you and your passengers and other drivers on the road, you must choose quality brake shoes that will last. Discover the best brake shoe picks to continue running smoothly all year long and beyond.

The Best Brake Shoes

Right out of the box, this brake shoe set is ready to install and will not require any machining. This highly-rated brake shoe set minimizes noise and vibration with shims, slots, and chamfers that follow the Original Equipment (OE) design. These brake shoes are manufactured with a non-directional brake surface finish plus riveted and bonded variations to accommodate diverse vehicle applications for consistent and confident braking. Proper metallurgy and brake thickness is validated for quality. Drivers continue to choose the ACDelco 14514B Advantage Bonded Rear Brake Shoe set for its simple installation, along with its affordability and quiet operation. Each set comes with a total of two pairs, one for each rear drum brake. Most reviewers have been beyond pleased with their purchase and how quickly it arrived.

However, there were some reports of an improper fit, so it’s important you double-check for compatibility before purchase.

Key Features
  • Ready to install immediately
  • Shims, slots, and chamfers follow OE design
  • Non-directional brake surface
  • Riveted and bonded variations
Specifications
  • Brand ACDelco
  • Model 14514B
  • Weight 1 pound
PROS

No machining required

Minimized noise and vibration

Operates with various vehicle applications

CONS

Improper fit

The Wagner Z53R Riveted Brake Shoe Set is one of the finest brake shoe sets that car owners could choose for their vehicle. The manufacturer uses professional-grade friction materials, including precision ground material and the standard OE design, to provide an elevated braking performance with maximal friction-to-drum contact. Heat is dissolved from the braking system and results in smooth, safe, and quiet stops. To match the OE design on specific applications, attached levers and pins are included in the package. Drivers were impressed by the fact that the friction material is riveted and that the lining is abundant.

However, reviewers have reported sizing issues and an awkward fit due to the thickness of the brake set. Also, the timing of shipping was an issue for some. Once the set does arrive, the ease of installation with a spring kit, which is sold separately, is a significant redeeming quality.

Key Features
  • Made of precision ground material
  • Follows OE design
  • Maximal friction-to-drum contact
  • Riveted friction material
Specifications
  • Brand Wagner
  • Model Z538R
  • Weight 5.2 pounds
PROS

Dissipates heat from braking system

Attached levers and pins included

Follows OE design

Easy installation

CONS

Awkward fit

Thick material

Slow shipping

The ACDelco 17473R Professional Riveted Rear Drum Brake Shoe Set is a premium aftermarket solution that offers the highest shear strength, which reduces noise and vibration. For persistent braking, a non-directional brake surface finish is featured. A premium dipped coating covers the brake shoe set to prevent corrosion and excess wear. As with the other brake shoes, the OE design is followed for optimal performance. Rear-wheel lockup and chatter are avoided, thanks to cam ground or contour options. For some, these brake shoes even eliminated the problem of squeaking they had before installation, and many reviewers raved about how closely they align with the quality of the OEM components.

However, installation s not as seamless with this particular set compared to our other picks. To ensure a perfect fit, check that your specific model is compatible with this set, and don’t rush through installation.

Key Features
  • Highest shear strength
  • Non-directional brake surface finish
  • Premium dipped coating
  • Cam ground or contour
Specifications
  • Brand ACDelco
  • Model 17473R
  • Weight 9.1 pounds
PROS

Reduced noise and vibration

Decreased wear and tear

Avoid rear wheel lockup and chatter

CONS

Stubborn installation

Improper fit

For drivers that often go off the beaten path or enjoy having the option to do so, the highly-rated Raybestos 314PG Professional Grade Drum Brake Shoe Set is designed to provide superior braking performance on a variety of terrains. Combined with quality brake pads, this set of brake shoes deliver balanced braking with little to no noise or vibration. A premium dipped coating enhances the lifespan of the product by providing durability, reducing the amount of premature wear and tear over time. These brake shoes follow an OE design with high-grade materials to maintain consistency and are shipped with matched levers and hardware to ease the installation process.

One downside of these brake shoes is their relatively high price point. Also, the set does not come with a spring set, which may be a significant issue for some.

Key Features
  • Supports all terrains
  • Noise-reducing materials
  • Premium dipped coating for durability
  • Application-specific hardware
Specifications
  • Brand Raybestos
  • Model 314PG
  • Weight 10.95 pounds
PROS

OE design standard

Premium dipped coating for durability

Easy installation

CONS

Higher price compared to other sets

No spring set

Most Comprehensive

With a precision-ground radius and attached levers plus pins included, the Wagner Z747 Brake Shoe Set can successfully be installed on your model without hassle. OE-matched friction materials ensure a secure, optimal braking experience. Riveted and bonded configurations are utilized to align with the various needs of drivers. Available for both foreign and domestic nameplates, this brake shoe set of four offers comprehensive coverage across the board. Overall, drivers that purchased these brake shoes were pleased with their quiet yet powerful braking ability.

Keep in mind that the installation process is not as seamless as other brake shoe sets, so be sure to set aside enough time to guarantee a proper fit. It is also recommended that when you purchase this set, you add a spring set to your shopping cart for a complete setup.

Key Features
  • Precision-ground radius
  • OE-matched friction materials
  • Riveted and bonded configurations
Specifications
  • Brand Wagner
  • Model Z747
  • Weight 3.20 pounds
PROS

Attached levers and pins included

Quiet braking

High quality at a low price

CONS

Installation can be complicated

For a drum brake shoe set that is equally affordable as it is reliable, look no further than the Raybestos 832PG Professional Grade Drum Brake Shoe Set. This particular set of brake shoes offers full coverage to vehicles that require an enhanced level of duty performance, such as fleet vehicles and trucks. Premium new steel enforces shoe-to-drum contact, and an improved level of strength provides bond integrity. These qualities make coming to complete, sudden stops with little notice or stops on uneven terrain more smooth and safe. To cater to the unique needs of drivers, application-specific materials provide balanced braking. Minimal noise, stable braking, and affordability are other reasons that drivers choose these particular brake shoes.

Unfortunately, there may be issues when trying to fit with certain models, so check out the compatibility before purchase. Furthermore, take your time throughout the installation since minimal instruction is included.

Key Features
  • Premium new steel
  • Application specific materials
  • Ideal for fleet vehicles
Specifications
  • Brand Raybestos
  • Model 832PG
  • Weight 2.38 pounds
PROS

Enforced shoe to drum contact

Bond integrity

Reduced noise and vibration

CONS

Poor fit

Minimal installation instruction

Best Brake Shoes Buying Guide

When the time comes to replace any component under your vehicle’s hood, you must take the time to evaluate your needs and research until you find a perfect match. Within drum brake systems, brake shoes keep the brake lining in place, cause friction between the lining and drum, and enable the vehicle to come to a complete stop. 

They are not a “one size fits all,” and the number of variations may become overwhelming. Below, we’ll take a look at the importance of this essential part, the different types, and what to look for to get back to driving safely.

Why Do You Need Brake Shoes?

If you drive a vehicle with a drum brake system—usually found on older models—you need brake shoes. Brake shoes perform the same job as brake pads but are fitted on the rear axle, whereas brake pads fit on the front axle. Aside from the obvious benefit of stopping a moving vehicle, brake shoes have other key advantages.

Some notable benefits of brake shoes are that they are more affordable and can be recycled for future use. Also, they have a relatively long lifespan since friction material prevents corrosion better.

  • Brake shoes are affordable to produce than a set of brake pads.
  • Since most braking effort is sent to the front axle, brake shoes on the rear axle will not experience temperatures that they cannot handle.
  • Due to their durability and simple design, brake shoes can be recycled for future use.
  • Friction material prevents corrosion and allows for a lengthy lifespan.
  • Brake shoes can be as effective as a parking brake.

Types of Brake Shoes

Brake shoes are affordable to produce.

Brake shoes come available in two types: riveted and bonded lining. Depending on your type of vehicle, you’ll want to choose the appropriate brake shoe type for the best operation. 

Riveted Brake Shoes

Riveted brake shoes are much more ideal for heavy-duty trucks or high-performance vehicles. Rivets are typically made of aluminum or copper and have a more mechanical grasp between the brake lining and the shoe. They are also more tolerant of higher temperatures. Due to friction between rivet heads after significant wear, they will need to be replaced a bit sooner than bonded brake shoes.

Bonded Brake Shoes

Bonded brake shoes are a more cost-effective option and are better suited for lighter-duty vehicles. They are essentially glued onto the lining under high heat and temperatures to ensure that bonding is strong and effective. Since lighter-duty vehicles do not generate as much heat as their heavy-duty counterparts, the risk of failure due to excessively high temperatures is slim. 

What to Look for When Buying Brake Shoes

As you begin your search for a brake shoe replacement for your vehicle, there are some key things to look out for: the first step will be to determine whether you need a riveted or bonded brake shoe set. Followed by that, the key will be to find brake shoes that are compatible with your make and model and ensuring that they have essential features to keep your brakes in top condition. These features include being OE-matched, having a dipped coating for durability, and coming with levers and pins for easy installation.

The Most Important Features of Brake Shoes

Brake shoes come available in two types: riveted and bonded lining.


Proper Fit

Without properly fitted brake shoes, your vehicle is inoperable and unsafe. When researching for your next pair of brake shoes, be sure to check the manufacturer’s guide for the cars that the component fits. 

Reduced Noise and Vibration

Due to the friction between the rivet heads, improperly fitted or expired brake shoes may cause a scraping noise and brake fade. Be sure to look for high-quality components with a non-directional finish for reduced break-in and aging noise. Non-directional finishes have lines that go in many directions to ease friction and vibration.

Original Equipment Design

Sticking with manufacturers that follow the Original Equipment (OE) design is critical for quality and longevity. The components are designed and crafted to reflect the same quality and fit as the original equipment manufacturer’s part.

Best Brake Shoes FAQ:

You might still have some questions about brake shoes that we haven’t yet answered. Below, you’ll find answers to some of the more common inquiries regarding brake shoes. 

Q: Are ceramic or metallic brake pads better?

Metallic brake pads are a better choice due to their ability to handle higher temperatures and various weather conditions. They don’t require much pressure to stop and are moderately priced.

Q: What does the brake shoe do?

Brake shoes create friction between a wheel cylinder and brake drum to stop the vehicle. 

Q: Are brake pads and brake shoes the same?

Brake pads are found in disc brake systems and are on the front axle, whereas brake shoes are found in drum brake systems on older vehicles and are on the rear axle. Brake pads are also found on motorcycles and bicycles.

Our Top Pick

Our top pick is the ACDelco 17473R Professional Riveted Rear Drum Brake Shoe Set. This set encompasses all of the key qualities that make for a lasting brake shoe set. A non-directional brake surface finish allows for consistent braking, while cam ground or contour options keep chatter minimal. The premium dipped coating protects this set from premature wear and corrosion.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve been equipped with the nuts and bolts of brake shoes, you can feel confident in your search for finding the best set for your vehicle. Whether you choose the ACDelco 17473R Professional Riveted Rear Drum Brake Shoe Set or Wagner Z747 Brake Shoe Set, we wish you safe travels.

Sources:

  1. Brake Shoe – Wikipedia

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