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Old 05-18-2022, 12:26 PM   #1
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Drum Brake Visual Inspection

On a 2004 National Tropical t350 XC freightliner, can the brakes be inspected visually from the backside to gauge remaining life? Drum brakes on each corner.
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Old 05-18-2022, 01:03 PM   #2
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I’ve never seen a drum brake that can be inspected without pulling the drums off - I would suspect because road trash that might get in there would be far more detrimental to brake operation than what it is on disc brakes.
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Old 05-18-2022, 01:17 PM   #3
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My front brakes don't have a backing plate , so lining is visible .

Rear has backing plate and I don't think there is a view window .
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Old 05-18-2022, 03:29 PM   #4
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In my 2006 Freightliner chassis. the brakes can be checked for thickness and or leaking oil seals from below. The edge of the shoes are completely visible.
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Old 05-18-2022, 03:58 PM   #5
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On standard S cam air brakes, the backing plates have slots to look at the shoes or can be remover by taking out two 3/8th bolts per half. They are just dust shields.
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Old 05-18-2022, 04:23 PM   #6
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Iíve never seen a drum brake that can be inspected without pulling the drums off - I would suspect because road trash that might get in there would be far more detrimental to brake operation than what it is on disc brakes.
May I qualify the above in that other than our previous P30 chassis (front disc/rear drum), and our current Workhorse (4 wheel disc brakes) - Iíve never worked on a more heavy duty truck chassis of any kind.

So, not saying it doesnít exist - just havenít seen it.
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Old 05-24-2022, 02:28 PM   #7
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Yes you can see the thickness of your brake shoes but it won’t show if it has any cracking from excessive heat! National RV Motorhome Owners group on Facebook is the place for information on your motorhome.
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Old 05-27-2022, 01:24 PM   #8
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Yes you can see the thickness of your brake shoes but it wonít show if it has any cracking from excessive heat! National RV Motorhome Owners group on Facebook is the place for information on your motorhome.
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Old 05-27-2022, 02:17 PM   #9
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Picture added.
Thank you! Hopefully Iím not the only one that picture will hav enlightened!
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Old 05-28-2022, 09:26 AM   #10
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Thank you! Hopefully Iím not the only one that picture will hav enlightened!
When I was a kid, I hauled gravel and had to adjust the brakes weekly for safety. I thought it was easy to see to make routine adjustments. But that was a long time ago so I could not remember for sure. I hope others find it helpful!
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Old 05-29-2022, 08:02 AM   #11
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Yes you can, but it won’t show heat cracks !
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Old 05-29-2022, 09:47 AM   #12
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Yes you can, but it wonít show heat cracks !
I guess heat stress cracks do occur in drum brakes - but not nearly to the same extent as happens in disc brakes.

Whatís your experience with cracking on drum brakes?
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Old 05-30-2022, 06:47 AM   #13
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I have a 2001 National Marlin DP and I was changing my ball joints and when they pulled my drums on the front suspension I noticed excessive heat cracks on the drum brakes and I decided to put new brakes instead of putting on the old ones even though I had plenty of brake thickness left.
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Old 05-30-2022, 07:27 AM   #14
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I have a 2001 National Marlin DP and I was changing my ball joints and when they pulled my drums on the front suspension I noticed excessive heat cracks on the drum brakes and I decided to put new brakes instead of putting on the old ones even though I had plenty of brake thickness left.
You replaced the brake shoes, or the brake drums? There is a difference.

As my memory of all the drum brakes Iíve worked on over the years has faded - I do seem to remember a cracking or crazing of the friction material on some rake shoes. But considering the bonding used to bond the friction to the metal of the shoe, that crazing doesnít necessarily have an impact on braking capability. And it would be quite difficult for a chunk of friction material to slip away - assuming there was a backplate.
Dick brakes are a different beast - heat stress cracking of the friction material can cause brake squealing and possibly loss of a chunk of the friction material (assuming the adhesive of the friction material to pad backing plate fails).
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