“The brakes are a little soft”…   Leave a comment

When I was originally talking to the evangelist about JP, he told me he had driven the truck about thirty miles from its PO. One problem he knew that had to be fixed for sure was the brakes. The brake pedal was a “little” soft and the brakes would sometimes catch and pull to one side. But he assured me as long as I pumped them up a couple of times before I needed them I should be fine to drive it home. Leaving the evangelist’s house after making the purchase, I made sure I pumped the pedal a few times as I headed down the short hill in his driveway toward the highway. Yep, the brakes were spongy alright.

Out on the highway, I was enjoying the thrill of the purchase and how well JP seemed to be driving when I came to the first turn I needed to make. I then went right on by it barely slowing down as the brake pedal went almost to the floor. Lesson learned, I drove on to the next spot in the median to turn around. I pumped the pedal several times in anticipation and when I applied the brakes for real I promptly went straight toward the median as JP pulled to the left pretty violently. I quickly let off the brakes, and combined with a lack of power steering, I almost missed another turn. Now JP really had my attention so I made sure to pump the pedal a few times and give myself plenty of room before I needed to stop. The rest of the drive home was fairly uneventful but I now knew what my top priority was as I got started on the restoration.

Of course before I could get to the brakes, I had to replace the dry-rotted tires (see Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes) that had subsequently gone flat on me. While I was getting the new tires, I had the shop take a look at the brakes and give me an estimate on fixing them. After waiting for a while until they could get JP on the lift, the manager came into the customer lounge and wanted me to follow him. We went out to the shop to have a little talk. “Basically the entire system needs to be overhauled,” he said. “The wheel cylinders are shot so they need to be replaced along with the hoses. On top of that, the cylinders have leaked on the shoes so much that they are completely soaked and will have to be changed. If that wasn’t enough, whoever worked on it last put all of the primary pads on the left side and the secondary pads on the right side. There should be one of each on all wheels. But the good news is, except for one, I think your drums are okay and won’t have to be turned.”

I stood there shaking my head like I knew what he was talking about as he handed me the estimate. What was a primary and secondary brake shoe? (After a little research I found out that the primary shoe is the short shoe on front of the drum and the secondary shoe is the longer one on the back of the drum, completely opposite of what I would have thought.) I looked at the estimate knowing what it was already costing for the new tires and knew that this would have to wait for a couple of weeks.

Later that day I was telling my Dad what I found out and told him how much the shop was going to charge to get the brakes fixed. That was all Dad needed to hear. “We can do it a lot cheaper than that. You buy the parts and we’ll do the labor. Besides, I thought you wanted to learn how to work on it as you went along,” Dad said. He was right on both points. I do want to learn and it would save about half the cost of fixing them. “Alright, let’s do it. Here’s my credit card for the parts. I’ll come over after work and we’ll get started,” I told him. By the time I got over to his house the next afternoon, all that was left to do was bleed the brakes. I asked him what happened to doing this together. “I just wanted to get started on it,” was his response. I guess so. But he did show me how to adjust the pads on the drums, one of which, by the way, did have to be turned at the local parts store. But I’m a heckuva brake bleeder when I’m the one pressing the brake pedal.

A few days later JP almost rolled away from me at the city dump so while we were at it, we fixed the emergency brakes since they were nonexistent. The cables were so rusted and kinked up that the brake handle couldn’t even be pulled. A few cables, a little grease, an adjustment at the wheels, and we were back in business. All done by Dad of course. I also figured while we had it apart and working on it, I would go ahead and paint over the rust on the brake drums. A few shots of black took care of that piece of business. Now it looks like the last item on the brakes is to troubleshoot a hard (even for non-power) brake pedal. The only thing we haven’t changed at this point is the master cylinder so even though it appears to be okay (the outside looks pretty rough as you can see by the picture but Dad says the guts are really clean) I may have to replace it. According to a couple of Slick ’60’s web sites, a bad master cylinder can cause a hard pedal so we’ll see. That may be the excuse I need to add a power brake booster while I’m at it!


Posted October 24, 2010 by jglee920 in Brakes

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