It has been a “fun filled” few weeks working on Swede’s brakes, clutch and emergency brakes. Of course, fun filled is a pretty sarcastic way of saying, it has been anything but. Between ordering new parts, buying new tools and discovering more things that are broken and the highs and lows of project trucks.
Drum Brake Frustrations
Working Swede’s drum brakes is quite a bit harder and definitely dirtier than I imagined it would be. This truck is just caked in dirt it seems and every bolt had to be scrubbed, sprayed with lubricant and then wrestled with to come free.
I ended up going through 6 cans of brake cleaner and a steel brush on my drill to clean up the brakes and backing plate. My plan is to have new hardware from the backing plate forward on each wheel.
After cleaning them up and installing what new hardware I could (the hardware kit I ordered has springs that don’t fit), I was ready to assemble the brakes and put on the drums. This is when I ran into all sorts of problems with the emergency brakes.
Emergency Brake Knots
What do you do when the emergency brake line gets worn out and drags? You tie it in a knot apparently! Good grief. After wrestling with the rear brake shoes for an hour or better, I came to the realization the emergency brake was holding things up. I was able to get the passenger side done, but the driver side just wouldn’t work. Removing the passenger drum and stepping back to analyze both sides, I realized the emergency brake on the driver’s side just wouldn’t relax enough to allow the shoes to sit properly.
Following the emergency brake line underneath the truck, I found the culprit. A knot in the line. I’m sure this worked just fine with the old, worn down shoes, yet the new ones just didn’t work. With my Dad’s help, we severed the line with a side grinder and removed the emergency brake lines completely on both sides. This allowed us to install the shoes and finish up the job.
I ordered new emergency brake lines for both sides and sometime down the road, I’ll install these new lines and get everything working properly.
Prior to installing the new parts, I cleaned up the old star wheel (brake adjuster screw) and wheel cylinder push pins. I figured I could just re-use them since they seemed to be just fine after a good scrubbing. In hindsight, I probably should have ordered new parts here as well.
After installing the shoes and the drums, I tried to adjust the star wheel. On 1 out of 4 wheels, the star wheel spun freely. The others required me to pound it free again and lubricate it yet again. While it wasn’t a big deal, it was time consuming and pretty frustrating.
Also, I had to do some more grinding on the front hubs (note: I cleaned and greased the wheel bearings). When GM designed the truck, they riveted on the drums to the hubs. My father-in-law, uncle and I initially cut these rivets off in order to swap the drums. However, we didn’t get the rivet heads all the way off since it didn’t seem like it would matter. Turns out, we were wrong.
Using the truck as a work bench, we went after these rivets again and ground them completely down. The front drums then fit fine.
After some adjustments with the star wheel tool to expand out the shoes as detailed in the service manual and it was time to bleed the brake lines. My father and I used a hand-operated bleeder tool and got all the air out in a relatively quick manner.
Finally, I bleed the clutch, checked all the line fittings and filled up the master cylinder yet again with brake fluid.
All told, Swede now has new shoes, drums, rubber brake hose, master cylinder, wheel cylinders, clutch slave cylinder and brake fluid. I also have a new air compressor, 1″ and 15/16 sockets, drum brake tools and a new side grinder.
Up next, I install the wheels and test the brakes and clutch.