The Studeblogger

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Parking brake reactivation; or, What to do when there's no "there" there.

Buckle up, friends - it's time for another Studebaker "how to" article!

The parking brake on our Lark did not work when I took possession of it. It pushed in and out of the dash with no effect whatsoever, and so I proceeded to diagnose the problem. E-brakes on Studes from the mid-50's to end-of-production use a two-cable system: the front cable is actuated by a proper handle located under the dash to the right of the steering wheel. This pulls on a lever attached to the frame about midway under the car, which in turn pulls an equalizer assembly that pulls a rear cable to activate the handbrake levers in each rear drum. On our car, the entire equalizer assembly and rear cable were gone - not there! I can speculate that the previous owner's daughter may have done some off-roading in the car (the oil pan was dented, the trans pan caved in badly, and lots of dirt in the frame rails), during which she snagged the rear cable on something and mangled it. Portions of the rear cable were still attached, running from the backing plates to the frame guides on both sides... but the entire midsection had been neatly cut out.

Having obtained the proper replacement rear cable from Studebaker International, I set about finding the rest of the equalizer hardware. There are several pieces: an equalizer rod with a clevis which attaches to the parking brake lever mounted on the frame, the boomerang-shaped cable equalizer, a lock nut, washer and adjustment nut, and a clevis rod. The completed assembly is shown in the pic at right. The rod is still available from SASCO; the nuts and washer are hardware store items. The equalizer is not reproduced; I located a suitable part on eBay. The hardest bit to come by, believe it or not, was the damned clevis rod! The manual specifies a rod 5/8" diameter and 1/2" long. Nobody, and I mean nobody in my area stocks these; I finally found them online from a sailboat supply shop (see my post on this subject here).

Having got all the parts together, I borrowed a hub puller from my friend Kirk and pulled off the rear wheels, expecting to have to pull the hubs from the tapered axles to get to the brake mechanism. But somewhere along the way, someone did right by this little car: they separated the hubs from the brake drums and swaged in new studs, making the brake drums removable without having to pull the hubs!

You will probably not be so lucky. Most Studes with tapered axles have not been modified in this way and will require a hub puller to free the rear drums.

With the drums off, I cleaned off the dirt and grease and removed the severed rear cable bits from the brakes, pulled the clips holding them to their frame mounts and unscrewed the sheetmetal guides on the rear frame rails, liberating the remains of the cables. You can see that they were severely twisted and then cut. This is the automotive equivalent of "meatball surgery"!

I began to install the new cable by inserting the end through the left rear backing plate and attaching the retainer. Uh-oh... problem. The new replacement cables from SI did not fit the retainer! Where the original cables have a straight metal collar with a 1/8" machined groove that is held fast by the retainer, the new cables have an extra "collar" cast in that interferes with the retainers. The required grooves are present, though. It quickly became apparent that in order for the new cable to fit, this extra metal would have to go.

Out came the trusty Dremel tool with a grinder bit. Luckily, this is pretty soft metal, so the grinding took only about 40 minutes to do both ends. Look at the picture to the right to compare the cable end as it comes from the supplier with the "massaged" end with the offending metal collar removed.

After this bit of driveway machining, the cable end was the correct diameter and the retaining bracket fit around it perfectly. I slid the cable end through the backing plate, fit the bare cable with its retaining ball into the parking-brake lever's U-shaped channel, and secured the retainers to the backing plates. The cable was then fed under the frame guides, which got tightened back down. Be careful when tightening the bolts that hold the cable guides to the frame! These bolts actually screw into a nut held inside the boxed frame; too much torque could break one loose, and there's only a finger-sized hole for access to the interior of the frame rail. Break the nut loose, and you've got a spinning bolt with no way to re-tighten it or get it out without grinding.

Don't forget to install the spring-steel clips that hold the cable to the brackets just in front of the rear axle. They slide on with a persuasive tap from a flat-blade screwdriver and a small hammer. These clips are included with the new cable.

Important note: the rear cable goes over the exhaust pipes, not under them! Having the engine out of the Lark and its exhausts tied up to keep from dragging, I initially routed the cable under the pipes until I realized that this arrangement would not work once the engine was back in and the pipes reconnected. At this point, I had everything buttoned up and both wheels back on. I hate having to re-do work because of stupidity!

At this point, it was time to install the new equalizer hardware. The clevis slips over the actuating lever and the rod goes in from the top; couldn't be easier. A Nylok nut gets threaded on first, then a fender washer big enough to cover the open channel of the equalizer - don't want that cable slipping out when you need it most!

The equalizer slides on the rod, and then the adjusting nut (a plain Grade 5 nut, not a lock nut). To install the cable, you'll want the equalizer and adjusting nut as far toward the end of the rod as possible.

At this point, you've got to do a couple of things. Inside the car, make sure that the e-brake handle is all the way in in the released position. Back under the car, grab hold of the actuating lever and pull it toward the rear of the car to remove the slack from the front cable. Then grab the rear cable and, pulling to remove slack, slip it into the equalizer. Tighten the adjusting nut until there's no slack in the rear cable.

Now it's time to adjust the brake. Back inside the car, s l o w l y pull the e-brake handle until you hear/feel 4 clicks, and stop. Put the hub/brake drum assembly back on the car and install the castellated hub nuts. Per the manual, tighten the hub nut to the first cotter pin hole beyond 170 ft.-lbs., and install new cotter pins. Put the rear wheels/tires back on the car and tighten the lug nuts to 75-83 ft.-lbs.

Now, grab a wheel and turn. You shouldn't feel any drag at this point, since the rear cable hasn't been adjusted. Go tighten the adjusting nut on the equalizer rod. Every so often, come back and turn the rear tire. When you feel a heavy drag — not locked-up rear wheels — you've got it right. The cable should be adjusted so that it's seriously hard to turn the rear wheels by hand, but so that there's no drag when the parking brake handle has been released. You may have to go back and forth a few times to get it just right.

Once you've gotten the adjustment right, tighten the equalizer lock nut and washer against the equalizer.

One last thing: lubricate the new cable! A little white lithium grease sprayed into the equalizer and the cable guides bolted to the frame will keep things operating smoothly.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tranny time.

It's been a long wait, but I've finally got my transmission back from the rebuilder. And look how she shines! Sure is a lot better than when she came out.

It cost quite a bit of cash, more than I expected to put it right. Frankly, I hadn't expected to have to do the trans at all, because it was operating well before I pulled it. It engaged all gears, didn't shift badly, went when I stood on it (which was only twice, when I bought it!). I figured it would be OK. But when it got opened up, well, that was another story.

The transmission pan was dented in pretty badly on the bottom. From this, and from the dirt and weeds I'm still digging out of the frame rails, it's pretty obvious that someone took the car off-road; it belonged to a teenage girl, so I'm guessing a midnight joyride through a field or something. Well, that whack to the pan caved in the rear suction tube so badly that it couldn't pass fluid to the rear pump, which went dry and burned up.

Also burned up were the clutch discs, all eight of which were welded together. The direct pressure plate was similarly smoked, the transfer tube below the throttle body smashed, and ALL the bushings were toast. Not to mention the torque converter, which had to be exchanged for a rebuilt unit.

All of that translated into 8 hours of bench time at the mechanic's shop... whew. As I said, I hadn't planned on that.

Along the way I've been sourcing other small parts, like the speedometer drive gear, which must have fallen out of the case and been dragged along for a while (see the pic and you'll see what I mean), the throttle pressure linkage (mine was bent at an incorrect angle), new transmission mounts, and new bolts to mount the bellhousing, torque converter and inspection plates.

By the way, when I was reading through the chassis parts catalog to find the right speedo gear to order, I found another clue to the car's past. The Twin-Traction rear end wasn't on the build sheet, so I thought perhaps it had been added by a dealer. But it's a 3:31, and the speedo gear that came out of the tranny was for a 3:07. A dealer install surely would have included changing that gear — another indication that a real "Stude guy" owned this car prior to the 17-year-old PO.

Next on the list is the front suspension. I've got some cashflow problems at the moment, so I've got to figure out how to get that hardware, which will run about a grand for new tie rod ends, inner and outer A-arm bushings, kinpins, steering bellcrank assembly, and new coil springs. I really want this car on the road!

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