View Full Version : Brakes: 39 commander brake question

12-19-2016, 07:54 AM
I am trying to get the brakes sorted out at all four corners of the car. Does anyone have an exploded diagram of the brake shoe assembly? Particularly the pins and washers that hold the shoes on with a U shaped clip that gets crimped?.... On this pin, there is a plastic "cup shaped" washer. This plastic washer is on top of the brake shoe on the front wheels and behind the brake shoe on the rear wheels. The front shoes have only one steel washer while the back has two. It seems all 4 wheels should be the same and someone may have not put it back together properly. I am tempted to put it back together as it came apart, but I do remember the brakes would drag and lock up while backing up. I want to make certain it has the proper number of washers and proper placement. My parts manual is not any help on this.
Also, since this is a complete over haul of the brake system, I welcome any pointers in setting the shoe to drum clearance without the "special tools".
Any help is appreciated.

12-19-2016, 08:23 AM
I can check out my parts book tonight, it should have something. For what it is worth my brakes don't work as well backwards as forwards. They are much more "grabby". But I also don't have any plastic washers at all.

Adjusting is key. When I first started driving the car every stop was an adventure but then I got better at the adjusting. This page helped:

What I do to adjust is jack the car up and make sure the wheel spins freely. I then turn the fine adjustment on one shoe (the eccentrics on the side) until the brake just barely drags. Then I use the centering adjustment at the bottom until the brake no longer drags. Then I repeat using the other shoe. Eventually you will get it so both shoes are dragging and changing the centering just makes it worse. Back off until the dragging just stops and you are done. It may take a couple of tries but at least on my car once I got them reasonably centered I just have to tweak the fine adjustment once a year or so to keep them pulling straight and even.

Finding an Ammco 1750 would be better and faster but they are expensive. I found one at an antique store of all places but it is missing all the small parts so I have to either find the parts or get some made before I can really use it. If you have a worn-out drum and hub you can cut holes in it so you can see the shoes but I think you would need one for the front and one for the back and even a worn-out brake drum is valuable for these cars, they are not making any more of them.


12-19-2016, 08:45 AM
I'll see if one of my books has a picture, but my scanner doesn't work, so the best I can do is take a picture with my camera and post it.

Brakes have a primary shoe and a secondary shoe. The primary shoe gives added pressure to the secondary shoe, so the secondary shoe usually has a longer lining so it wears evenly with the shorter primary shoe. I've seen people mix up the primary and secondary shoes, and I've even seen people install two short shoes on one wheel, and two long shoes on another wheel.

The position of the primary and secondary shoes depends on where the anchor pin is located. Many cars and trucks have the anchor pin on top, and the primary shoe would then be facing the front of the car. I worked on an older IH pickup that had the anchor pin located on the bottom, so in this case the primary shoe is mounted facing the rear of the pickup. When you apply the brakes the primary shoes are free to move at both ends when the brakes are applied, and the pressure against the drum is applied to the secondary shoes, which must be stopped at one end by the anchor pin.

You may already know this information, but I posted it for those who may not, and from the brake installations I've come across over the years, some didn't know the difference and reason for the location of the primary and secondary shoes.

12-19-2016, 09:09 AM
Where in S.C. are you located? Do you have a body manual and a chassis manual? There are certain illustrations in those two manuals that give you better insight into the parts assemblies than the shop manual.

12-19-2016, 12:33 PM
I am using the "chassis" catalog.... It does not seem to "brake" down (pun intended) this pin and its components. I am also finding there are two thickness of steel washers on mine...a thin one (about .025") which I suspect is original and a thicker one which is probably a regular washer that someone put on it. If you guys see a break down or exploded view, please share.
TWChamp...good information ...lining length and primary/secondary shoes can get you if you dont know about it or dont pay attention. ....I have run into the issue on another car....but all these shoes are new (previous owner installed them) and they are equal length lining.
BTW...anyone sells the linings? I do have one wheel that is absolutely soaked and I believe I could install myself with rivets of course.
I have an old ford that has a small slot in the drum just big enough to stick a feeler gauge thru ...wonder if the same slot could be cut in the stude drums and not compromise its strength?
thanks for the replies...
jclary...I am down the road from you...Anderson.

12-19-2016, 09:41 PM
I went though my books and good not find an exploded view. Odd...

12-20-2016, 01:31 AM
I couldn't find any pictures either.
If you can post pictures of your brakes, maybe someone can help.

12-20-2016, 09:41 AM
It sounds like your brakes were re-assembled (poorly) in more-modern times, as there were no plastic parts in 1939-era brakes. Neither was there a crimped cup. The Studebaker cars of that period shared the same basic brake design, so here is a photo from the 1937 Shop Manual. The shoes had an anchor point at the bottom, an adjustment cam on a pin about halfway up, and the wheel cylinder at the top. A single return spring pulled the shoes in tight. The parts catalog lists some items that go over the eccentric adjuster pin:
*186273 - washer, special, inner, 13/16" [probably 13/16" i.d. to sit on a stop on the pin behind the brake shoe]
*185482 - washer, special, outer, 1/4" i.d. [this should be 1/16" thick per 1934-46 parts catalog, goes on the outside of the brake shoe]
*185483 - washer "C" - special [holds the assembly together]

The quantity listed is 8 each, so the same parts got used on the two pins at all four corners. I'm guessing that someone used big pliers to "crimp" an abused C-washer back onto the pin. Maybe the clips were supposed to get just a little squeeze to hold them in place. Those three washers were used from about 1935-1950 on all the cars, Coupe Express, and M5 trucks. The Studebaker International catalog shows the 185483 C-washers at $0.95 each. Maybe Bob Kapteyn has the other "special" washers. Throw the plastic parts away.


12-20-2016, 10:39 AM
Gary, your illustration clarifies the assembly for me. I was hesitant to comment further to the thread because my oldest Studebaker is a '48 Champion. I see that the 39 Commander brake assembly is similar, but does not have the "self-adjuster" mechanisms that must have come later. Those brakes look to operate more like the ones used on 1/2 ton C cab trucks into the mid fifties, with slight differences in return springs & retainers.

Like the trucks, these shoes are adjusted (individually) by the cams. There are at least three important things (in addition to proper assembly) that need attention. The "locator" pads stamped into the backing plates should be checked for smoothness and no wear ridges where the shoes could catch & bind. The shoes themselves should be properly "arched" (or is it arced?) for maximum contact with the drum when brakes are applied. I like to place a small amount of grease on each mechanical (metal to metal) contact point but not enough to migrate to any of the brake material or drum surface.

Without self adjusters...the technique for adjusting is to move the cam until the wheel locks, and then, back off just enough for free movement. Do this on each shoe.

To address where you can get new brake shoe material...unless they have gone out of business in the last year, there is a company in Taylors, S.C. who will reline shoes with new material. They can do bonding & rivet. If I can help, private message me and I'll be happy to assist.:)

12-20-2016, 07:20 PM
"Honey, I shrunk the photos" so here is a larger version:

12-20-2016, 08:16 PM
hi Gary ...that is exactly what I have. here is the front (upside down). I do stand corrected...there are no plastic washers (it only looked like plastic, my mistake) but it is odd an looking washer that has some "cup" to it. See the larger one...
The front wheels had no washers behind the shoes.... only a thin flat washer along with the cup washer on the outside. The thin washer was inside the "cup".
The rear wheels had the cup washer and a regular SAE washer behind the shoes and up to two SAE washers on the outside of the shoes. The second pic shows what came off of one post or adjuster on the rear.
I want to know which side and and orientation does the cup washer go, if any regular washers go behind the shoe or on the outside. My gut feeling tells the front brakes were correct....nothing on the back side, and a cup washer with the thin flat washer (about .025") on the outside of the shoe.
Gary your picture does not show the large cup washer I have unless it is behind the shoe.
By the way, that is the '48 Ford wheel cylinder !!




12-20-2016, 09:21 PM
I assume that the cupped washer is the 186273 part number (13/16 size), but I can't find a picture of it in any of my parts catalogs. The catalog refers to it as "INNER", whatever that means. I thought it meant that it goes behind the shoe.

12-20-2016, 09:33 PM
I assume that the cupped washer is the 186273 part number (13/16 size), but I can't find a picture of it in any of my parts catalogs. The catalog refers to it as "INNER", whatever that means. I thought it meant that it goes behind the shoe.

Gary, notice the "spring" legs on that washer. I believe it is just another form of "keeper" washer made to keep the shoes snug but allow for movement. I believe on my Champion, there are keeper washers between the C clip and shoe. Mine do not have that cup look, but are curved spring steel flat washers. (I know, Curved/flat, don't seem to go together, but that's the best description I can think of.)

I have seen those C clip retainers on Plymouth cars too. Somewhere, I have a blister pack of those C clips bought from a local parts store.

12-20-2016, 10:38 PM
A flat curved washer sounds like a wave washer to me.

12-22-2016, 09:33 AM
Gary...for the brake shoes, here is your finding so we can refer to it easily:
*186273 - washer, special, inner, 13/16" [probably 13/16" i.d. to sit on a stop on the pin behind the brake shoe]
*185482 - washer, special, outer, 1/4" i.d. [this should be 1/16" thick per 1934-46 parts catalog, goes on the outside of the brake shoe]

the cupped spring washer is 1-1/4" OD, .310" ID, .025" thick, .078" thick across the two surfaces.
the smaller washer is 13/16" OD, .270" ID, and .025" thick.
Judging from your photo, the smaller washer is on the outside....the larger cup spring washer is not visible on the outside in your photograph, it would be very obvious if it were. I will add, behind the shoe, the gap just about equals the thickness of the cup spring washer....so maybe this is where it is suppose to go? If it is, I may still need more washers, at a least another wave washer on the outside because there would be too much clearance under the c-clip.
If the gap under shoe is not filled, wouldn't any force from a spring washer pushing on the shoe possibly make the shoe cock-over and not lay straight on the drum? The fact that there are 8 of these cupped spring washers tell me this could be an original part. The other flat washers of different thickness are probably not original but added to make it work.

while I am at the rear corners of the car....anybody want to chime in on how to grease the rear axle bearings properly? There is a grease fitting and I can see if you put too much grease in it, it could push out through the dust seal into the brake drum. Looks like this is best done with the hub off so that the excess dirty grease can be wiped out and while being careful putting the hub back on, you dont force even more out through the seal. correct?

as usual, I welcome everyone's input. thanks

12-24-2016, 11:19 AM
update...here are a few things I am considering when putting the washers back on the shoes....
I looked at the spring cup washer again and the inside diameter of the cup (not the hole diameter) is 13/16". The "legs" are just extended springs on the washer...so maybe if we use this 13/16" dimension, this could indeed be the "inner" as the catalog describes.

Now consider this...normally the shoes are supported in 3 places in order to lay flat against the backing plate. There is a resting "post" at the wheel cylinder for the top of the shoe to lay against and the lower end of the shoe is held (captured) by the eccentric pivot. At the middle where the adjusting eccentric cam is, the is a gap between the cam and the shoe. This gap equals the thickness of the spring cup washer. I think this would be the 3rd point of contact for the shoe if the spring cup washer were here. I believe more and more now the shoes were spring loaded from the underside, instead of the outside as it is so often done on "modern" shoes. So my plan is to put the spring cup washer under the shoe to fill up the gap, and then use washers as needed to fill up the space on the outside...might even use a wave washer there too.

One more thought, if it were spring loaded from the outside of the shoe like "modern" cars and there was no support between the shoe and the adjuster cam, the spring would put undue side load and friction on the lower pivot....I cant believe it would have been designed like that.

comments please?

12-24-2016, 12:22 PM
From the bottom picture of the cupped washer with 3 slight spring legs, I'd think the cup would hole the spring centered, but I can't see where the three slight spring legs could do any good. I haven't seen such a washer before, but I've see lots of the shallow cup washers that hold the spring centered, and I've seen wavy washers that lay against the shoe.

12-24-2016, 04:21 PM
I have these under p/n 186273, in two different bags. Overall diameter is 1-1/4", and the 'inside diameter' (ie, the 'depression') measures 13/16" so these may be what you are looking for.

If they are correct, how many do you need? PM me with your address and I'll put some in an envelope.

12-24-2016, 05:05 PM
I looked at the 1947-1950 parts book, and it has better illustrations. I've attached an image of the front brakes below. Note that on the '47 thru '50 models the forward shoe and the reverse shoe have a different arrangement of washers, eccentrics, etc. whereas the '39 used the same eccentrics in all eight locations. (FYI, the '47 thru '50 rear brakes have the same arrangement as the fronts did in '47 thru '50, so I didn't try to take a pic of the whole page.) I have also attached a high resolution pic of the page that shows the part numbers for the '47 thru '50 parts, so you can compare to the 1939 parts book to see what part numbers are the same. You should be able to zoom way in on the page with the part numbers.

Hope this helps, you will have to do some comparison to see what part numbers are the same. and make some assumptions, but hopefully this will help you figure out what goes where on your '39.

12-24-2016, 07:23 PM
R1Lark...I think you got me the information I was looking for. Your catalog calls 186273 a spring washer for the eccentric and it does appear to go under the shoe against the cam. This is the same part number for the '39. So now I am convinced it does go under the shoes. Thanks for the offer, but all 8 spring washers are already on the car, just half of them was on the outside of the shoes!!
For the outer washers, your book does use a different part number but I feel strongly it may just be matter of thickness. My books says 1/16" thick I should be able to come up with these.
The c-clip is the same part number and I already have these on order because some of them cracked while getting them off.
Looks like now I have the information needed so the brakes can go back together.
I want to thank you R1lark and everyone else for your help too.

12-24-2016, 10:16 PM
I'd be using Gary's picture in #10.
The self adjusting brakes in #19 are quite different.

12-25-2016, 08:25 AM
I'd be using Gary's picture in #10.
The self adjusting brakes in #19 are quite different.

I thought I was pretty clear in the text in #19 that the '47 thru '50 versions had some differences from '39, but with a comparison of part numbers and some assumptions the OP could figure out where the spring washer p/n 186273 would go on his '39. This was his primary concern. Guess I wasn't so clear, huh? :)

12-25-2016, 09:25 AM
Note the difference in the amount of lining on the shoes which will have an effect on the stopping power. The illustration shows both lower ends of the shoe anchored . The more modern duo survo brake systems allow the bottom ends of the shoes to float which causes the front shoe to rotate and put more force on the back shoe using the energy of the turning wheel to apply the brake.

12-26-2016, 08:36 AM
TWchamp....I think the picture in 10 has the spring cup washers, but they are behind the shoe and you cant see them. The smaller diameter washer on the outside would be the 1/16" thick flat washer. The fact that the 47-50 has this spring cup washer (same part number too) and it is used behind the shoe tells me mine should be behind the shoe as well.
The 1/16" thick flatwasher took up the space quite well and the spring legs still flex when pushed down. I feel I have it correct now.

02-22-2017, 07:12 PM
ok all, just checking to make sure....on the rear brakes ,....39 commander...the shorter shoe goes to the rear because the anchor pin is on the bottom? The stepped diameter wheel cylinder has no impact on shoe placement...correct?
Front brakes had equal length lining...so no issue here, but rear brakes has different length.

02-22-2017, 10:11 PM
ok all, just checking to make sure....on the rear brakes ,....39 commander...the shorter shoe goes to the rear because the anchor pin is on the bottom? The stepped diameter wheel cylinder has no impact on shoe placement...correct?
Front brakes had equal length lining...so no issue here, but rear brakes has different length.

Follow Gary's picture in #10.
I'd say the smaller cylinder piston on the rear is the reason for the shorter shoe to be on the rear, in addition to the anchor pin being at the bottom.

02-23-2017, 07:29 AM
Thanks ...just wanted to make sure. Everything I ever worked on had it the opposite way.... but then again, the anchor pin was on top.

07-23-2017, 01:46 PM
On my 39 Commander there are little air holes at the top of the axle housing just inside the backing plate. Grease comes out there before it pushes through the seal.

07-24-2017, 06:17 PM
thanks commander 226...I already have the rear end all sorted out. After a good clean up, I found that hole, the old grease in the hole came out like a toothpick. It struck me the hole was on top but i guess with grease in the hole, there is no way water can seep in.

10-04-2017, 10:09 AM
Hi guys! I’m trying to hook up front break lines on my 38 Commander. There are no diagrams available anywhere… I’m assuming I run one line from the master cylinder since there’s only two to the front and I do a Y connector between the front two brakes into the one line is that correct? I am also looking for a good place to run the brake lines so they don’t get messed up… Any pictures of front brake lines to master cylinder would be very much appreciated !!

10-04-2017, 01:52 PM
Necessity is the mother of invention. I have created my own design, but still looking forward to the right way :-)

10-05-2017, 07:15 AM
hi pastor matt, I replaced mine ('39), bending and going the same route as the original. bends are very very close to original and I have no reason to believe the lines were ever replaced before me.
master cylinder: one line goes to rear and the other thru the frame to the front. Not sure how they kept the metal line off of the frame, but I put a piece of rubber hose over the line to keep the line from rubbing thru.
67559 67560
then to the front and here is where it splits
then across the crossmember..here I removed the line and made the new one more than a decade ago, and I remember it is hard to remove and install without bending...(All the other lines I did last year). so it is not perfect but it follows the original routing. It is supposed to lay close to the crossmember..its the silverish line, the other line is the fuel line...even harder to run with car assembled.
then to the right side :tweaked just a bit from getting it fished thru but same path as original.
67564That red clip is not the original, its a Ford part, the stude clip broke. That line was difficult to get in and is supposed to lay flatter on the crossmember.. hope this is the same as a '38.
If you need the rear, let me know.

10-14-2017, 03:22 AM
That was so helpful! Thank you so much!!! I also hope this post helps others in years to come! Thank you again sir!

10-16-2017, 12:12 AM
One thing I want to point out here - is that since the brake line comes from the master to the wheel on the left first, it is much more difficult to prevent twisting of the flexible hose from there to the left wheel. I connected the flex hose to the brass splitter block first, than ran it through the backing plate and tightened it to the cylinder before attaching the cylinder to the backing plate. Then there is the opportunity to tighten one or the other some more so the cylinder fits without too much twist of the hose. The right side is simpler because the brake line attaches directly to the flex hose, and you can get the twist out very easily.