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Technical Catastrophic brake issue.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Al T, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. Due to all the single brake reservoir cars we drive I need to share this to hopefully help someone else. This happened a little over a week ago, but I really can't not post this because of what could have happened.
    I took my '57 Thunderbird (power brake car) for a drive last week into the city. On my way back home, at a traffic light I had a weird brake issue. I pressed the brakes....... no brakes, then they kicked in. I continued on, picked up my daughter and proceeded back home (I live on an acreage just outside the city). As we were pulling up to our subdivision, I go to slow....... no brakes at all. Pump the brakes, no brakes. Go to pull the emergency brake handle and it's jammed (definitely an issue I'll address before I drive it again). Fortunately there is a back entrance into our subdivision with an upward slope which slowed the car enough to make the turn. Once in the subdivision it's uphill for the first stretch so I was able to crawl towards home, gravity helped a lot. We slowly drove to our entrance and fortunately there is an upward slope into our driveway and then about a 20 foot change in elevation down. I put the car into park, had my daughter go grab our quad and a tow strap. Hooked it onto the back of the frame and had my daughter use the quad as my brakes. This was a scary situation that fortunately ended well.
    The car was restored about 20 years ago and has about 9000 miles on the restoration since then.
    I put the car up on my hoist late last week and took a look. It has it's original Ford 9" in the rear. On the rear end housing there is a stud welded to it that the brake tee mounts to for the rear brakes. The welds on the stud had failed, leaving the tee unsupported.

    [​IMG]

    Over time, the movement of the rear caused the brake line to the driver's side rear to fail at the tee. I had had no leaks or brake issues prior to the incident to give me any indication of a problem.
    My advice, if you're running a single reservoir brake system, check your brake system regularily and make sure you have a working emergency brake. I "assumed" it worked because of the condition of the car and the quality of the restoration.
    I hope this proves useful to someone. It's not easy to post as I should have known better but.......
    Still can't stop thinking I had my 15 year old daughter in the car when this happened.

    Alllan
     
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  2. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 23,402

    Jalopy Joker
    Member

    Stop, Look and Listen - important info - Thanks - glad that you got to your home safely. yep, most all of us take too much for granted. was another recent post about brake shoes falling apart. many of us just jump in and drive our reliable rides and go without doing what we should do, which is some detailed maintenance & inspection. spend much more time making things look nice on outside.
     
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  3. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 4,280

    57JoeFoMoPar
    Member

    Single jar masters are fine for concourse restos, show cars, and occasional drivers. If you're going to log any real miles, take any serious trips, or if you live in a densely populated area, a dual master is an absolute must.

    The dual master in my OT daily driver years ago saved my ass in a big way. I never forgot that lesson. I'd rather spend an afternoon plumbing and bleeding brakes than spend a month in the hospital.

    This story takes place years ago before age and wisdom caught up to me. I had a '98 Mustang GT. 4.6 V8/T5/4.11 posi that was my daily driver I used to run 315s on a 17" Cobra wheel in the back with skinnies up front. My best friend had a brand new VW Jetta with a turbo that he had some work done to and thought his car was faster than mine. One night, after leaving a restaurant for dinner, we decided we'd run it out on a section of Route 1 that was a little over 1/2 mile straight, 3 lanes wide, in Edison, which is a very developed area. We both had front seat passengers. We pull out and stomp it from a 5 mph roll. First gear, second, third, fourth... I have 3 car lengths on him and shut it down. I'm going about 108 mph in a 50 zone, and there is a traffic light approximately 1/4 mile ahead. Hit the brakes.... Nothing. Yank the E-brake... Nothing. Now this car has never had any brake issues whatsoever, and was absolutely normal at the light immediately before we ran it out. Now I'm hurdling towards a crowded intersections at over double the speed limit and I'm running out of road fast. This is a nightmare scenario. I start furiously downshifting and pumping the brakes, at which point I get a hint of pedal at the very bottom of the travel. I pull off of Rt. 1 at the exit before the intersection and the car comes to a safe, controlled stop. I get out and try to figure out WTF just happened. My rear brake caliper fell off. Like, the entire caliper. Both bolts somehow backed out, and the entire caliper fell off the rotor. The caliper was just sitting inside the rim, attached only by the e-brake cable and the brake line. When I pushed the brake, without a rotor in between the pads, the piston pushed out of the bore and opened the rear system. It also caused enough slack on the E-brake to render it useless. All I had left were the front brakes, which thanks to the dual master, were untouched, even if the pedal travelled to the end to get there. Lots of lessons to take out of that one, a dual master being a necessity being one of them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
  4. Nostrebor
    Joined: Jun 25, 2014
    Posts: 747

    Nostrebor
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I had a similar failure many years ago on a 64 Chevy truck. Broken line support, work hardened line from vibration, sudden failure during a panic stop. Truck had just enough residual pressure in the system to let the tires bite for an instant and avoid the asshammer that pulled out in front of me and then nothing. The nothing was followed by me rolling right on down the hill through the intersection, avoiding rolling into some traffic in front of me, and finally having to curb/ditch my truck to get it slowed enough to grab park with the Powerglide. I tore up a bunch of crap stopping the truck but didn't hurt anybody. Guess who didn't have a working e-brake? This guy.

    Since that time I have always converted to a two pot master cylinder and pursued a working emergency brake. It's a pain in the tail to get these things working well sometimes, but it's more than a little dumb to just assume they won't be needed.
     
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  5. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,636

    squirrel
    Member

    I've gone full circle, decades ago I had a couple failures on single systems due to lack of maintenance...but they did have working parking brakes. I converted several of them to dual systems, but also noticed that it's common for dual conversions to not actually work, since the pedal travel is wrong, etc. If you can open a bleeder and still have working brakes, then your dual system is working right. If you open a bleeder and the pedal goes to the floor, you might as well just run a single MC, the dual isn't doing a damn bit of good.

    I've gotten better about maintenance, and gone back to single systems on a few cars. They get regular brake inspections and maintenance, and have working parking brakes.

    Oh yeah...my kids are all on their own now, so the stress is a bit lower that way.
     
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  6. oldolds
    Joined: Oct 18, 2010
    Posts: 2,771

    oldolds
    Member

    Here in Pennsylvania we have annual inspections on most cars except vehicles Antique plates. I always wonder about those cars, when was the last time a fresh set of eyes looked at that car.
     
  7. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,213

    F&J
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    excellent post, squirrel....being able to maintain and inspect any vehicle, no matter how new or old.

    there will be plenty of pissing contests on this thread.. but look at the OP first comments "car was restored 2o years ago and has 9k miles since". Look at the PICS..proof that the car was never restored by just looking at the old undercoating and crud. it was no more than a cosmetic resto, and the important things were ignored.
    .
     
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  8. Nostrebor
    Joined: Jun 25, 2014
    Posts: 747

    Nostrebor
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    No doubt about it, the maintenance is the key here. If I had been paying attention to my truck and not just hammering around town in it, the brakes would not have failed in the first place. It did cause me to learn how brakes work, how to maintain them, and the value of a correctly set up two pot system. I'm a belt/suspenders kind of guy and that is why I like two bowls for my brakes. With that said, no amount of redundancy will replace lack of maintenance.
     
  9. That's a great point. It was mechanically (engine, transmission and brakes.... I thought) and cosmetically restored. It definitely was not a frame off. In fairness to the person who restored the car maybe it was? It was done 20 years ago and they lived on a farm with about a 2 mile drive on a gravel road to pavement. No clue what the underside looked like when freshly restored. I bought the car a year ago and have probably put 500 miles on it. The point of my thread was to take nothing for granted, regularly check over your vehicles........ especially if you're driving your children.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
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  10. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,636

    squirrel
    Member

    I'm a guy who buys pants that fit....
     
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  11. Nostrebor
    Joined: Jun 25, 2014
    Posts: 747

    Nostrebor
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I'm all gut and no ass... have not found that pair of pants just yet.:)
     
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  12. czuch az
    Joined: Dec 12, 2014
    Posts: 161

    czuch az

    How do you get proper travel when switching to dual pot?
    I'll be doing this on my 61 Galaxie next month before it hits the road.
    Still manual/drum but I dont need no scare. Too old, eat too good, dont work out, like the car.
     
  13. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,636

    squirrel
    Member

    The first step would be to measure the travel of the master cylinder you're planning to use. Then see how far the pushrod attaching point moves in the car from full "up" to "to the floor" with the pushrod removed (or a bleeder open). If the pedal doesn't move as much as the m/c needs, then you probably have to relocate the attaching point, lower down on the pedal. You can figure out where, by trying different places, see which one has the amount of travel you need. Then you get to the fun issue of the pushrod being at an angle, and how to correct that.

    Or maybe they make a dual master cylinder with a short stroke? or you could put two single cylinders on it, with a balance bar, then you could go circle track racing too.
     
  14. I had a single master on my '65 Belair and it was a pretty stout runner. Had to make a hard stop and the line going down the driver-side frame rail went blooey. I did bleed off some speed and my e-brake saved my ass. The next week I was in the 'yard gathering parts from a '70 Impala donor. Upgraded to a power booster at the same time.

    One of the first things I did on my '59 Ford was to go through the brakes from A-Z. Disc, dual master, proportioning valve, new lines, etc. Real cheap insurance.

    Brake failure on a prior properly working dual master system can catch you off guard as well. Take it for granted.. then it does the unexpected when you have to stop on one axle's worth of brakes.
     
  15. Really pretty easy to do on your Ford. Get a dual master for drum-drum brakes from like a '67-ish Galaxie. The pattern is the same, so it bolts up easy. You may want to move the brake light switch to the pedal, less work than plumbing in a hydraulic one. The rod is very similar. Measure up how far your old one sticks out from the back of the master, do the same on the new master and it will be close. More than likely you'll be making up a line or more. You may be able to use the existing brass block (look on the driver-side frame just in front of the cross member). If not they're available. This is what mine looks like.
    1231141119.jpg
     
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  16. Nostrebor
    Joined: Jun 25, 2014
    Posts: 747

    Nostrebor
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Right on the money. We usually tried to scavenge the pedal assembly that went with the master we were going to use, if for no other reason than to copy the geometry. It's a bunch easier to do on a later model car with hanging pedals than early cars with through the floor pedals.

    While I'm chasing this rabbit, if you are changing brakes stuff, the more you can move an entire system that was factory designed to work together the better (pedals geometry, MC, booster, line geometry and components, calipers, etc.). If you can't, study, study, study. Just jamming stuff together and hoping is asking for disaster. Before you go there, stick with the single pot factory setup and do triple the maintenance.
     
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  17. F-ONE
    Joined: Mar 27, 2008
    Posts: 1,885

    F-ONE
    Member
    from Alabama

    Single system= proper maintenance...working Emergency Brake.....and most importantly intimately knowing your brake systems ..."feel". It will warn you most of the time.
    You had the "warning" yet you continued on....Big Mistake.
    Big Mistake...not verifying the parking brake was in working order on a single system.

    Honestly I'm not trying to bust your tail over this, but as an example to others, a single system needs to be meticulously maintained and if there is any....Any...sign of potential failure, it's time to stop, fix it or call a wrecker.

    It's not the system that causes these catastrophic failures it's the nut behind the wheel. It's assuming that the system is in good condition and not verifying that it is.
    If a single system is used it must be meticulously maintained and that includes the back-up parking/emergency brake.

    Honestly the same goes for any brake system. A dual system or disks do nothing for safety if that system is poorly maintained, poorly designed or taken for granted. It just has more points of failure.
     
  18. Having had a accident with a fruit jar master cylinder that is something I change.

    Dual master cylinder gives me peace of mind.

    I will say that proper inspecting and checking brake fluid levels on a regular basis the fruit jar can be as safe to use a double master cylinder. HRP
     
  19. czuch az
    Joined: Dec 12, 2014
    Posts: 161

    czuch az

    I really want to thank everyone's response. This makes it alot easier.
    Your near catastrophic episode turned into a class on how to avioid it.
     
  20. Complacent
    adjective
    1.
    pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits,advantages, situation, etc., often withoutawareness of some potential danger or defect;self-satisfied:



    Folks get spoiled with the late model daily drivers,
    Folks take for granted that the toy in the garage is the same.
    They develop that complacent mindset playing with the toy yet have done nothing- nothing to be pleased about, nothing of merit, nothing to be satisfied about, inspected nothing, nothing nothing nothing to be complacent about except the remotest of connections between the late model and the toy. That's where the inherent danger lurks until it "expectantly" Disrupts the illusion.

    Way back when , when these cars were daily drivers there was a service station on every corner. That's because they needed plenty of routine maintenance and constant attention. Today's cars aren't like that so the need for a service station on every corner vanished. The bay makes more money storing soda and beer these days. The realization is missed somehow that the obsolete cars still need the attention.

    This is easy to see if the better part of your day is spent correcting mechanical defect or wear problems. In no way does it make it ok to point fingers at people but it is with utmost certainty ok to paint a big red border around the problem. The time to worry about the 15 yr olds safety is before there is a mechanical failure not after the fact with the horrifying realization that something ugly could have happened.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
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  21. partssaloon
    Joined: Jan 28, 2009
    Posts: 356

    partssaloon
    Member

    Working on a 55 right now that when he put 4 people in the car the bolts that hold the gas tank came down to the line on the rear axle, smashing it and then breaking through. Luckily a dual cylinder saved a bad ending. Continual maintenance might have caught that before the break through
     
  22. Wow! Fortunately I don't give a shit that I'm "a nut behind the wheel". I posted this because I wanted to potentially prevent someone else having a similar event with worse results. If one person looks at their car because of this and finds something, this post has served it's purpose.
    I had a bias ply tire blow out on my '57 Sunliner in June....... I'm glad I didn't post about that.
    God I love the Internet........
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
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  23. worn shoes
    Joined: Mar 16, 2007
    Posts: 310

    worn shoes
    Member

    The value of a good brake system is priceless!
     
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  24. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 7,613

    mgtstumpy
    Member

    Dual system is mandatory down here on rods, part of the build / inspection process. Safety does come first!
     
  25. F-ONE
    Joined: Mar 27, 2008
    Posts: 1,885

    F-ONE
    Member
    from Alabama

    I hate you took offense. The "nut behind the wheel" is a term that's rather common, at least around here and I meant no offense.
    The fact remains though, It was your fault.
    Now what I give a shit about is that maybe, maybe someone reading this will take the time to go over their car and make sure everything is in good working order regardless of what system they have.
     
  26. Nostrebor
    Joined: Jun 25, 2014
    Posts: 747

    Nostrebor
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    "nut behind the wheel" is a southern thing. Just some simple culture clash, no need to be offended. Everybody around here is a nut behind the wheel. If we start calling you jackhole and waving guns around, then you should take offense, and run.:eek: (jackhole may be an Ozarks thing, YMMV)

     
  27. OK, good to know. No offense taken. We both have the same desired result.
    This will be the end of my public service announcement...... now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
     
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  28. Kevinsrodshop
    Joined: Aug 22, 2009
    Posts: 589

    Kevinsrodshop
    Member

    Can I just add that in the case of a disc/drum dual master cylinder set up you want a properly adjusted proportioning valve so the rear brakes are working as much as possible. I don't think this had been mentioned yet above. My apologies if it had and I missed it.
     
  29. A year or so ago I got interested in something one of our Kiwi members posted about the inspection process they have to go through there, so much so that I bought the book they publish to guide builders in the construction of their rides. I'm definately a small gov't guy - but I have to say that if we had something like their program, a lot of the horror stories might not happen. I think their "inspectors" (engineers) are car guys, not bureaucrats.
     
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  30. Brentphx
    Joined: Aug 12, 2014
    Posts: 252

    Brentphx
    Member

    Here here! I pushed the 50 back out of its spot today so the ac repair guy could get into the attic... There was a puddle on the ground. Looked like clean oil, once I started cleaning it up I quickly realized it was brake fluid. Just a not so gentle reminder that I need to replumb the brakes before it's driving season here in AZ. I'll be paying a lot closer attention to those lines from now on for sure!
     
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