Week­end Work­shop

Make your car’s brakes as good as new – and keep them that way

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - With Ed Hughes

Over­haul your brak­ing sys­tem this week­end.

Many ex­cuses are made for clas­sics with ter­ri­ble brakes. ‘It’s like that – it’s old’ and ‘they were all like that back in the day’ are favourites. In fact, the prob­lem is one of decades of ne­glect and piece­meal re­pairs. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery part of a brak­ing sys­tem is sub­ject to de­te­ri­o­ra­tion, whether the car’s in reg­u­lar use or not. Pe­ri­od­i­cally, the sys­tem re­quires an over­haul from stem to stern.

As well as the safety con­sid­er­a­tions, good brakes are a joy to use – you’ll have a much bet­ter driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as a re­sult. A com­plete brake over­haul can be ac­com­plished in a cou­ple of week­ends and the parts re­quired are of­ten sur­pris­ingly cheap. It’s the per­fect win­ter project, in fact.

Com­po­nents such as discs, drums and hand­brake link­ages can be reused if they’re in good or­der, but ev­ery hy­draulic part that isn’t per­fect should be re­placed. It’s pos­si­ble – but not that likely – that mas­ter cylin­ders and calipers will be in good enough con­di­tion to re­build your­self with new seals and pis­tons. Be­ware of new old stock parts – they may be older than the ones you’ve re­moved. If new parts aren’t avail­able, there are firms that can put stain­less sleeves into cylin­ders and source or re­make caliper pis­tons at modest cost. Brake shoes can be re­lined; discs and drums skimmed if they’re worn within tol­er­ance. Reusing hy­draulic parts in mar­ginal con­di­tion is a bad idea – it’ll quickly cause the sys­tem to be­come faulty or leaky again.

We rec­om­mend fill­ing the re­built sys­tem with DOT5 sil­i­cone fluid rather than DOT4. DOT4 ab­sorbs mois­ture, lead­ing to cor­roded and seized cylin­ders. Sil­i­cone fluid ac­tively re­pels mois­ture, which ex­tends cylin­der life con­sid­er­ably, par­tic­u­larly if the car’s laid up in win­ter. Blow out pipes with com­pressed air at ev­ery stage of the process. Use this guide along­side your work­shop man­ual, which will be use­ful to check de­tails and iden­tify the bodges of pre­vi­ous re­pair­ers.

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