National average cost of a a Wheel Cylinder Replacement for popular vehicles:
What is a wheel cylinder and how does it work?
A wheel cylinder is a component of a drum brake system. Unlike a disc brake system, where a pair of brake pads squeeze together against the outside of a spinning disc to slow and stop your vehicle, a drum brake system relies on a pair of brake shoes suspended inside a bowl-shaped drum. When you press on the brake pedal, the wheel cylinder responds to hydraulic pressure, forcing the brake shoes against the inner wall of the drum to create friction. There is one dual-piston wheel cylinder in each drum.
Signs that a wheel cylinder needs to be replaced
While most late-model vehicles feature four-wheel disc brakes, a number of makes and models are still made with rear drum brakes. If your car or truck is fitted with drum brakes and you notice any of the following signs, you might need to schedule wheel cylinder replacement:
Your brake pedal feels soft or spongy due to an internal leak
The brakes do not respond as usual
You hear a scraping or grinding noise from a stuck wheel cylinder
You see an oily fluid leak on the ground just inside one of the rear wheels, on the inside of the tire, or on the drum backing plate
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When a wheel cylinder fails, it is usually recommended to replace the component on each side of your vehicle, especially when additional drum brake service is being done. To perform the repair, a mechanic will first need to lift and suspend your vehicle safely off the ground and remove the rear wheels and tires to access the brake drum system. Once that is in order, your mechanic will follow these general procedures to replace a wheel cylinder:
Remove the brake drum
Detach the brake shoe springs and retainers and remove the shoes
Disconnect the hydraulic brake line from the wheel cylinder, taking care to avoid damage to the tubing
Unbolt the wheel cylinder from the backing plate and dislodge the cylinder
Clean the wheel hub and backing plate
Install a new wheel cylinder and reattach the brake line
Install brake shoes, hardware, and drum
Bleed air from the brake lines
Install the wheels and tires and lower vehicle
Actuate the brakes and test drive the vehicle to verify the repair (and to bed in the new brakes if shoes and drums were replaced)
Note that, on some vehicles, it may also be necessary to disconnect the battery when servicing the brakes
Other questions customers ask
What happens when a wheel cylinder goes bad?
The brake system on your vehicle is made up of a network of tubes, called “brake lines” that run along the underbody to each wheel. When you press on the brake pedal, a pump (the “master cylinder”) puts pressure on the hydraulic oil in the brake lines. That pressure is used to actuate the wheel cylinders (in the case of drum brakes) and force the brake shoes against the inside of the drum. If a wheel cylinder fails, either there will be insufficient force to stop your vehicle properly or the brake shoes will not release fully from the drum and cause the wheel to drag. Either situation can become unsafe, especially since the brakes are the most important safety feature of your vehicle.
How do you check a wheel cylinder?
A wheel cylinder is hidden inside of the brake drum where the brake shoes are located. While there are some external signs that a wheel cylinder has gone bad - such as a visible fluid leak, a dragging wheel, or a failure to stop properly - the only way to tell for sure is to have it inspected. To do that, a technician must raise and support your vehicle, remove the wheels and tires, and take off the brake drum to access the wheel cylinder.
Should wheel cylinders be replaced in pairs?
It is technically possible to replace only one wheel cylinder. However, it is recommended that wheel cylinders be replaced in pairs, especially if you are having other drum brake service done at the same time, such as brake shoe replacement. If one cylinder fails, it is likely that the other will fail in time as well, or that the response of a mixed pair of old and new wheel cylinders might cause irregularities when braking.
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What parts are related to a Wheel Cylinder Replacement?
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