How to Use a Brake Riveting Tool

Image Gallery: Brakes Two hydraulic brake riveters side by side. See pictures of brakes.
Photo by Kristen Hall-Geisler

Brake riveting tools are kind of the Sony Walkman of the automotive shop -- thanks to newer, better, faster technology, these machines are nearly extinct. Most brakes these days are bonded to the lining, though a few are still riveted together. In the case of large machinery applications, like the overhead cranes that load and unload ships, the brakes are both bonded and riveted.

No matter what kind of brake-riveting tool you use, you're going to find these basic parts:

  • Anvil: This is the solid block of metal where the head of the rivet sits. Since rivets aren't very big, the anvil doesn't need to be, either. (It looks nothing like the cartoon anvil you're imagining being dropped on Wile E. Coyote's head.)
  • Roller: This is the cylindrical tool, about 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 centimeters) long in most cases, that comes down over the straight rivet and rolls its edges, kind of like rolling the top of a sock down your leg. The rolled edge holds the metal plates together.
  • Rivet: You can't use a riveting tool without a rivet. There's a head on one end and a tube extending from it; the tube is what rolls down.
  • Brake and lining: These two pieces of curved metal have matching holes drilled for setting the rivets.

The pressure of a hammer or a press rolling the edges of the rivet down and expanding the body of the rivet slightly holds the brake and lining together. Now that we've got the basics down, we can see how these things are used.

Brake Riveting Tool Uses

A pneumatic (left) and a mechanical or foot-stomp riveter side by side. They're nearly identical.
A pneumatic (left) and a mechanical or foot-stomp riveter side by side. They're nearly identical.
Photo by Kristen Hall-Geisler

Though riveted brakes are less common now than they once were, there are still several types of brake riveting tools out there.

Folks with a restoration project in their home garage will probably use a hand set. These tools are small and usually clamp to a workbench. The rivet is set on the anvil, the roller is poised above it, and a few well-placed whacks with a hammer roll the edges. While cheap and easy, this isn't very efficient, and it doesn't hold as tightly as rivets rolled by machines.

Foot stomp and pneumatic machines are larger, freestanding riveters. They work exactly like a hand set, but the pressure to roll the rivet comes from the machine rather than your arm. When you press a lever with your foot on the foot stomp machine, it sets gears and a chain in motion, which lowers the roller onto the rivet, which is placed on the anvil. A pneumatic machine works exactly the same way -- and even looks similar -- but a pneumatic system replaces the gears.

The latest riveting tools are hydraulic, which use pressure sensors for precise riveting. A rivet feeder allows for a quicker process, and it can even be set for individual brake types. Using a machine like this, a custom brake business can replace linings on 700 to 800 brakes a day, on anything from long-haul trucks to vintage passenger vehicles.

Though brake riveting tools are pretty straightforward, we do have a few tips to share on the next page.

Tips for Using a Brake Riveting Tool

Close-up of a pneumatic riveter. The anvil is held in the bottom of the riveter and the roller is above it. Brake and lining would slide between the anvil and roller to be riveted together.
Close-up of a pneumatic riveter. The anvil is held in the bottom of the riveter and the roller is above it. Brake and lining would slide between the anvil and roller to be riveted together.
Photo by Kristen Hall-Geisler

There are two types of rivets used in these tools, solid and hollow. The hollow rivets have a hole all the way through the center, even through the head of the rivet. The solid rivets aren't entirely solid; they have a short hollow section at the end for rolling, but the head and most of the shaft are solid metal. In either case, the brake riveting tool rolls the end and expands the rivet body to hold the brake and lining together.

Choosing the correct length of rivet is important. It needs to go through the brake and lining, obviously, but not too much. If there's too much metal above the brake, it will result in a double roll, which you can see if you look closely at a too-long rivet done wrong. If this happens, it won't hold the lining tight.

For most people, taking riveted brakes to a shop to have the linings replaced is the simplest and safest answer. But for small jobs on vintage vehicles, these basics will get your brakes mated to their linings and your car back on the road.

For more information about brake riveting tools and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Avery Tools. (Oct. 19, 2010) http://www.averytools.com/pc-168-48-brake-lining-rivet-tool.aspx
  • Steiner Tractor. (Oct. 19, 2010) http://www.steinertractor.com/MIS1131-brake-riveting-tool
  • Sweet, Chris. Ott's Friction Supply. Personal interview and shop tour conducted on Oct. 26 and 27, 2010.