How to Determine Brake Drum Size by VIN? The Ultimate Guide

VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is more than just a mere number! You may have scratched your head to figure out the brake drum with it. Of course, you can do that instantly! But without knowing the meaning of VIN digits, you may feel confused about the brake drum size. In this blog, I will discuss how to determine brake drum size by VIN step by step.

Brake drums are the cylindrical components attached to a vehicle’s wheels. They can slow down the car when you press the brake pedal. Hence, the friction pair of these drums slow down the wheel’s rotation with the brake shoe (source). They also absorb and release heat generated when you brake the car. However, you must use the right size brake drum to maintain vehicle safety.

On the other hand, VIN is a unique code assigned to any vehicle when a brand produces them. It serves as a fingerprint of the car. You can get info from a VIN like the vehicle’s manufacturer, engine size, and other parts’ details. Similarly, you can learn the brake drum size to maintain a proper braking system. You only need to decode the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – Definition

Before I discuss determining brake drum size, I want you to understand the definition of VIN. Typically, it is associated with any car you buy or drive.

Whenever any manufacturer (like Ford, Toyota, BMW, and others) makes a vehicle, it assigns the VIN to that vehicle. It’s like having an ID, like any official does. However, VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is a 17-character unique alphanumeric code.

Any VIN has 17 digits to give you info about several essential details of the assigned vehicle. You can decode the number to learn about the make, model, year, and manufacturing origin. Likewise, the number helps to separate the car from other vehicles on the road.

There are more things about VIN. It serves as an essential tool for many purposes. For instance, you may need this number during registration, insurance, warranty claim, and car recall (source). Besides, it is helpful to identify specific vehicle components like brake drum size.

One more thing – the 17 digits are segmented with specific meanings. Certain characters or sequences represent specific types of information. After reading some resources (1, 2, 3), I have found a lot of interesting information regarding VIN. Mainly, the characters are divided into three main segments: WMI, VDS, and VIS.

World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI):

The first three characters of a VIN are known as WMI. It indicates the production location and manufacturer’s identity of any vehicle. Here, the 1st character means the place where the vehicle was made. Typically, it is the country of origin (you can check your car’s too). 2nd character refers to the manufacturer, and 3rd one is the vehicle type or division.

Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS):

From 4th to 9th, these characters tell you about the vehicle’s different attributes. These are usually the vehicle body style, brand, engine size, type, model, and series. However, the 9th character is unique as it refers to a security code. And this code assures you that the manufacturer has already authorized the VIN.

Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS)

The remaining characters (9th-17th) represent the vehicle’s unique serial number. This serial number separates the car from other makes produced by the same manufacturer. In this segment, the 10th character tells you the car model. 11th character gives you information about the plant where your vehicle was assembled. The rest of the characters indicate a specific vehicle production number.

Role of VIN in Determining Brake Drum Size

Now, you may doubt how VIN relates to brake drum size. As it turns out, the VIN can be a valuable tool in defining the correct brake drum size for a vehicle. Yet, it does not directly provide information about what you are looking for.

You need to decode the information lying in the VIN. It will help to identify the specific brake parts that come by default from the manufacturer. And this info may include the size of the brake drums.

In this case, you may need to consult other resources beyond the VIN number like brake rotor (see this). These resources can be the official website of the car manufacturer, manual, physical inspection of the brake drums. You can even check the online databases that store info regarding vehicle’s specs. In some cases, a professional assistant may also help you.

Why Brake Drum Size Matters

The brake drum is a part of vehicle safety but often it does not get the attention it deserves. They should be in the right place with the right size.

Suppose your brake drums are too small for your car or truck’s (whatever vehicle) weight and usage. In such cases, they may not dissipate heat efficiently. As a result, you will get a faded brake and reduced stopping power. According to Wikipedia, a heat buildup in the braking surfaces can be a reason to brake fade and loss of stopping power.

Again, I guess, you have oversized brake drums. Then, they can negatively impact the car balance and handling. It will possibly compromise the safety of vehicles in emergencies. For example, your drum size is 0.060” oversize with a standard lining. Then, when the initial lining to drum contact loses, it will cause a premature brake fade. Also, you may find the vehicle hard to control or stop (source).

When you can decode the vehicle identification number, you can learn the factory-made size of brake parts. So, there will be no problem in knowing the right size of the brake drums.

Step-by-step Procedure to Determine Brake Drum Size Using VIN

I have already given you a hint of how to determine brake drum size by VIN. Now, I am explaining them elaboratively. In this case, I have used some resources (4, 5, 6) to share the information.

Locate Your VIN

You can find the number on a plaque near the driver’s door. It may also be found on the dashboard on the driver’s side. After seeing it, please write it down in your notebook for reference.

Decode Your Vin

You can use a VIN decoder to break down the information encoded in your VIN. Also, pay attention to the characters that represent the vehicle’s specs, including its brake system.

Check Manufacturer’s Information

Once you decode the digits, match them with manufacturer’s specifications. It may help to know the physical measurements (like diameter and width) of the brake drums. However you should know that different manufacturers may use varying coding systems. However, most manufacturers have specific info about the size of brake drums based on the VIN.

Use Online Tools or Databases

Many websites, online databases, tools are there nowadays to output the brake drum size based on the VIN. Just locate it on your vehicle and input the number on the database or helper. You will see every detail about sizing. Some even provide compatibility checks and suggestions based on your VIN.

When Do I Need to Replace Brake Drums?

Like the necessity of brake drum, it’s also essential to know when to replace it. Like other components, brake drums have a limited lifespan. Usually, a brake drum has a lifespan of 200000 miles (source). But they may not last that long!

Now, you may think, my brake drums are still fine after driving the vehicle for many years. Still, there is a chance that those drums have already been worn-out, but you don’t know.

Some notable signs for a brake drum replacement can be:

Visible Wear

Check the brake drums for any visible signs of wear. They can be grooves or deep scoring too. However, wear on drums can impact the braking performance negatively.

Reduced Braking Efficiency

Does your car take longer to come to a stop? Or you may experience a loss of braking power. These are the indicators that you need to think about the parts. It’s time to replace them!

Vibrations and Noise

Unusual vibrations or noises, like grinding or squealing, during braking can be indicative of worn brake drums.

Uneven Brake Wear

If your brake shoes or pads are worn unevenly, it can be a sign that your brake drums fail to provide consistent contact. It may require thorough inspection and possible replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I know what size brake drums I have?
  • You can see the vehicle manual, VIN, check manufacturer website, online databases, and tools to know the drum size. You may also check it on YouTube.
  • How can you read the drum size?
  • You can read it by stating the depth compared to the diameter. For example, your car drum has X” depth and Y” diameter. Then, you can refer it as an X” x Y” drum. But you can read these numbers in a reverse way, too.
  • What is the best brake drum size?
  • In most areas, 20” drums are more popular than others. But you may find many variations.

Final Words

How to determine brake drum size by VIN – still do you think about it? I guess not! It’s because I have explained everything regarding VIN decoding and identifying the drum size.

In this blog, you have learned a lot of things about the vehicle identification number or VIN. Also, you have known the importance of brake drum size and how to determine it step by step using VIN.

I hope you will be privileged to read this post thoroughly. Thanks for reading it!

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