Refurbishing medium-duty truck drums

February 1, 2016 | By Staff


I am writing for help, as I can’t recall anyone asking this before and no one will help at a counter unless you have a VIN with at least 17 digits. As a bit of background, I have a 1959 Chevrolet Spartan 100 (model 10503), which is a 2.5-ton medium duty truck. It has, as far as I can tell, two Eaton Axles, front 485F and rear 1790A with hydraulic brakes. The brakes are Wagner type “F” with 15x2.25 linings for front and Wagner type FR3 with 16x5 linings for the rear. The wheels are Dayton-style cast spoke with three-piece rims. I will be changing the rims to one-piece tubeless in the near future, which will be much safer. Overall I want to keep the Dayton, which really looks perfect on this truck.

As we all know, not much is re-popped for the bigger trucks. We are lucky that the cab and some sheet metal is the same as the lighter duty and I can have most other components rebuilt so keeping the truck going was not a problem. One complaint I have though is I am not too fond of the Hydrovac assist for the brakes. I wish it had Hydro-boost or full air brake, which I think performs better.

Now to the problem, which is with the brake drums. I can’t find any replacements, and there are no casting numbers visible on my originals, so it is a burden talking with salvage yards, as they all want that cast number or the VIN. So as I see it, unless I have a solution the truck will be taken off the road in the near future, for good.

A few suggestions I received were to use oversized linings. That will work, as I do have enough meat on the drum and should be safe, but will be back to square one sometime in the future when they wear down more or get to a point of not being safe. Second suggestion would be to take the existing brake components to various shops, yards and suppliers and try and find something that will fit together. Third suggestion was to swap axles and try to keep the Dayton look. A lot of the later ones are now obsolete and way too many types to choose from for the best fit. But that would be possible.

I think if I could swap the hubs and brakes for something that is more readily available in parts I would be in good shape. Is this possible? Could I go with full air brakes? That was an option back in 1959. Whatever the solution, I will stockpile at least one full set of drums to last for another 50 years of driving (if I live that long).

Please help. Any suggestions would be great, as I would like to solve this sooner than later.


How about it truck buffs? Does anybody have any suggestions as to wheels and brake systems for these trucks? Air brakes are certainly good for safety reasons, and if you could get all the parts you needed from a junked truck that would be great. Of course you would want to rebuild the components for safety reasons.

As for wheels, you would certainly be better off with single-piece wheels as you know because the old two-piece types were quite dangerous when you had to mount and demount tires, even though they could carry a lot of weight. These days some tire shops won’t touch them; but the bigger shops have cages in which to place the tires and wheels when they install new tires. Inflating the new tires is especially hazardous because the retaining rings can pop off with explosive force.

There were services that would spin your drums and weld in a new surface and grind it down but I have not been able to locate one in my research.

If there is still enough meat left on your existing drums to be safe, you could go to oversize linings, but if the drums are getting thin, the brakes will fade much sooner upon application making for a very dangerous situation. There is a firm that actually glues in new drum linings and pins them in place so they won’t slip around, but I don’t know how well that would work for medium truck applications. Here’s their contact information:

J&G Brake drum Relining 212 N. Green St. McHenry, IL 60050