I spent the weekend working on Old Blue, the front passenger brake decided to freeze up on me a couple weeks ago and it finally got warm enough for me to venture forth.
For those of you who don’t know, Old Blue is a 1969 Ford LTD. Even more of you probably don’t know (or care) that most cars that age didn’t even have front disc brakes, whereas most cars these days have them on all 4 wheels. Old Blue has drum brakes all around, which means that when they freeze up, or pretty much any repairs or maintenance on them, it’s a lot more complicated to fix.
Such was the case this weekend. I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon tearing down the front end and then putting it back together. I got into the passenger side and couldn’t tell what was wrong so I had to tear apart the driver’s side wheel for comparison.
After I saw the other one I figured it out immediately – I was missing the retaining cable for the automatic adjuster. The thing that keeps the brakes from over-adjusting to the point they are permanently “on”. So I went down to Pep Boys looking for brakes parts for my 1969 Ford. “You want what?” Ok, he was a lot more polite than that, and he did suggest that I try NAPA, since they tend to carry a lot more parts. I trucked it over to the nearest NAPA and not only did they have it, but the guy immediately knew what I meant when I asked for that “cable thingy that hooks to the adjuster thingy”. $2.95, plus tax.
I got home, put the whole car back together and then took it out for a spin. I didn’t get more than 4 blocks away when I noticed the brake had froze up again. This is where the “F” word spewed out en masse. All the way home and into the garage where I got out to see smoke pouring out from behind the front passenger wheel. That’s what happens when you are essentially driving with a brake “on”. It was probably about 5:00 PM at this point, and I needed to calm down before tearing into it again, so I just shut the garage door and forgot about it.
Until this morning. I got up, had my coffee and newspaper and tore into it again. Both sides, to see if I could see something else that was different. And so there was. If you enlarge the two pictures of the brakes and look at the spring at the bottom, you can see that they are not in the same position. Seems like this couple of centimeters difference in the positioning can make all the difference. I rearranged the spring, put everything back together again and went out for another test drive. Nothing went wrong. So I tried again. And again. Probably put 15 miles on the car expecting it to freeze up again, and got a lot of weird looks from people in a few different parking lots.
You see, the adjustment takes place when you use the brakes going backwards. So I’d pull into a parking lot that was relatively empty and move forward, then back up hitting the brakes every few feet. And then I’d do it all over again. Of course that would get boring after a few milliseconds, so I go drive somewhere else and try again.
Well, fingers crossed, knock on wood, but so far so good. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Fun weekend, eh? At least I did get a good laugh when I was relaxing on the back porch and the cat decided to chase a fly up the screen.