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Adjusting 521 drum brakes


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This is a "how to" adjust 521 drum brakes.

First, find a level place to park the truck.  Adjust the front wheel first. they are the easiest.



You do not want the truck to move while you are working on the brakes.  Set the parking brake, put the truck in gear.   I like how Datsun set up the hand brake so that if you try to drive with the hand brake on, when you shift to first gear, your hand pretty much hits the hand brake handle.



Lets do the left side first.  Turn the steering wheel all the way left.  This makes it easier to reach the back of the left wheel.



Jack the left wheel and tire off the ground.



Remove the dust cover.  If yours are missing, I was able to get new ones at a local Nissan dealer, but that was in 2013.



You can see the star wheel inside the brake backing plate. 



I have found an ordinary screwdriver works best on the front wheels.



Stick the screwdriver in the hole, and pry the star wheel DOWN to spread the shoes.   the star wheel should turn easy at first, and then get tight, after a while.  When the star wheel starts getting tight, try rotate the tire and wheel forward and backwards.  If you can rotate the wheel and tire, keep tightening the star wheel, by prying it down.  When you cannot turn the wheel and tire, go and step on the brake pedal hard.  Try to rotate the tire and wheel again.  If you can, pry down on the star wheel some more.


Once you get to where the tire and wheel cannot be turned, loosen the star wheel 10 to 12 clicks.  Rotate the wheel.  It should spin freely, without drag.  A light scraping sound is OK.   Put the boot back on, turn the steering wheel straight, lower the left side of the truck. 



Jack up the right side, turn the steering wheel hard right, and adjust the right side the same way as the left.  The star wheel still turns down to move the brake shoes closer to the drum.



OK, front brakes are adjusted.  Block both the front wheels, forward and back. 



Release the parking brake, and take the transmission out of gear.



Jack up the rear wheel on one side.  Shake the truck a bit, so you know it cannot fall off the jack.



Remove the rear dust cover.  This view was taken from in front of the rear tire.



The slot to adjust the rear brakes is slightly forward of the center of the wheel.  It is easier to get to from the front of the rear wheel.



It is hard to see the star wheel on the rear.  You have to just feel for it, in the hole.  For the rear wheels, I use this pry bar.



Another view of the pry bar.



Just like the front wheels, you turn the star wheel down to spread the shoes, until you cannot turn the wheel any more.  This is why you have to block both front wheels.  The truck can roll, and possibly fall off the jack.  After you cannot turn the wheel and tire, loosen the star wheel 10 to 12 clicks.  Put the dust cover back on, and do the other side.


Take the truck for a test drive.  Brake lightly at first.  If the truck pulls to one side or the other, the side the truck pulls to, has the brakes adjusted tighter than the other side.  Loosen the star wheel on that side, or tighten the star wheel on the side it pulls away from.  If the truck stops in a straight line, without pulling to either side,  Do a medium stop, and a few hard stops, AWAY from traffic.


If you have not adjusted the brakes in a while, you will notice the brake pedal higher than it was.  If there is a big change you will need to readjust the brakes again, soon.  


Driving a 521 without the brakes adjusted will wear out one end of the brake shoes very quickly, and you will have to replace shoes much more often.   The brakes also do not work as well, when they are out of adjustment.

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  • 2 months later...

I just had to deal with this program on my rear..


Had to be replaced, after soaking in vinegar I couldn't free it.

So you must remove things to get it out.



So get it out. Put it in a vise and see if you can get it free. If not soak, and try again.


The adjuster piece that looks like you can turn it with a screw driver well that may turn the other direction so remember that when taking it apart.

The gear is basically a cylinder that get stupid rustey.. put some anti seize on after cleaning


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Yes there is a left and a right.

Pricey but they show having both sides new.

Scroll down about a third of the way




50       ASSY-ADJUSTER RH            41200-32200           $25.84            Nissan Parts Deal

51       ASSY-ADJUSTER LH             41201-32200           $25.84            Nissan Parts Deal


Call Nissan Parts Deal and verify that they can still get these.


The same adjusters are used on 520 521 620 and early 720 2wd Non self adjusting brakes.

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Is their something I can do if the star wheel or adjustment peace is stuck?

Put them in a vice, lube generously with wd-40 or kroil, pound and twist with very large hammer and channel lock pliers. This won't be easy and may take a while. Be careful the aluminium is soft. If you get them apart wire wheel the living hell out of them. Good luck.


Before pounding and twisting push out the star wheel lock plate. You can tap it out with a flat tip screw driver and hammer.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you need the adjusters for the rear Rock auto has them.  But they are closing them out.


These adjusters fit 1968 to 1980 520, 521, 620, 720 trucks 1968 to 1983


BECK/ARNLEY Part # 0850024   Rear Adjuster LEFT           $8.68


BECK/ARNLEY Part # 0850032   Rear Adjuster RIGHT         $8.68

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  • 8 months later...
  • 1 year later...

Thanks, Daniel. Drove my 521 about 100 miles today with no brakes :[. Got to where I could work on it, adjusted all the brakes and bled all the air out of the lines. Stops nicely now.


One thing to note...not all of my adjusters turn the same way to tighten.

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If the adjusters are installed on the correct sides you should always be able to bring the shoes in(loosen) by rotating the adjuster up, and to spread(tighten) the shoes rotate the adjuster down.

Loosen Up, Tighten Down.

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