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1954 brakes - fluid check and master cylinder access

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  • Brakes: 1954 brakes - fluid check and master cylinder access

    My father needs to add brake fluid to the MC in his 1954 hardtop. I understand it's under the floor and there's no access hole so what's the procedure for adding brake fluid? Thanks!
    "Madness...is the exception in individuals, but the rule in groups" - Nietzsche.

  • #2
    I'm not sure I understand how you know the system needs fluid without opening the master cylinder and visually checking it.

    If the floors have been replaced it is possible the access hole and its cover weren't added. It has happened.

    If the brake pedal is soft or has to be pumped to stop, you should be aware there may be other problems going on. It may be time to consult your service manual on brake service. If you don't have the service manual, you really should get one.

    Good luck.

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    • #3
      Your daddy likes Studebakers, too? You are one lucky fellow Scott. My daddy hated old cars and gave me his opinion about them regularly.
      RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

      17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
      10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
      10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
      4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
      5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
      56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
      60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible

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      • #4
        The pedal goes to the floor. That's how he knows it needs something!
        Enough fluid to safely get it to a shop or off a tow is what's needed. There is a rubber cover on the floor hump, but that's for the transmission, right? I don't think there is any other cover.

        Yes he likes old cars so much I grew up with them all the time. 55-57 Chevys, corvettes, an occasional Ford, Avanti, hot rods, it goes on and on.... All he has now is the 54 Commander hardtop.
        "Madness...is the exception in individuals, but the rule in groups" - Nietzsche.

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        • #5
          It's not real easy, but the cap can be removed from underneath, and brake fluid added with a curved filler tube. It would obviously be easier to do on a lift.

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          • #6
            The rubber cover on the hump is to check the transmission level.
            This is for the Detroit Gear transmission as used in 1954
            There should be an other round rubber cover under the floor mat.
            If there is a new floor welded in and they did not cut the hole above the fill cover,
            you are better off cutting a hole.

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            • #7
              On my 54 it was covered with undercoat and barley visible I had to chip it away, but it was there. It is metal held with two sheet metal screws. I have a standard shift but the body was designed with both holes the one on the hump is for an automatic and it is barley visible. As said above if the floor was replaced the hole may not be there, but if it is original it will be there. If it is undercoated get a screwdriver and start probing.

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              • #8
                You may also want to pull the wheels and look for any telltale signs of moisture.

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                • #9
                  This is all good to know. I'm really not sure if he's tried to pull back the carpet and look to see what's there. This an unmolested, solid car, so I'm sure the floors haven't been replaced (but never say never). He spent quite a lot on the brakes to get them in good shape maybe 7-12 years ago and doesn't drive it much.

                  I know he won't add the fluid himself, unless it can be done without hoisting the car, but whoever the mechanic is will want to know how it's done, especially if they need something unusual like a curved tube or something. Fluid will have to be put in to help find the leak unless it's obvious. It doesn't appear to be.

                  Does any one have a photo of the floor showing where the cap should be?
                  "Madness...is the exception in individuals, but the rule in groups" - Nietzsche.

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                  • #10
                    Here's the location of the brake master cylinder access hole with the carpeting pulled away. Remove the sill plate first. The access hole is just in back of the gas pedal attachment. Don't mind my DynaMat sound deadener-insulation. I'm also showing the master cylinder location and the hole above it from underneath the car. The copper tube is for my remote filler.

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                    Bill L.
                    1962 GT Hawk

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                    • #11
                      You are correct about the cover being metal and hard to see on the 1953 cars.
                      Complaints about the difficulty of adding brake fluid or even just checking the level prompted Studebaker to add rubber covered round cover held down by two screws on later cars .
                      There was a hole in the carpet so you could reach the plug on the master cylinder without having to lift the carpet.
                      These were available for retrofit.
                      Later on Studebaker offered an accessory remote brake fluid reservoir which was a bracket with a glass jar,copper tubing and a special master cylinder cap with tube fitting as shown in the above post.
                      Last edited by rkapteyn; 05-07-2019, 07:45 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks Bob and Bill! This is very helpful.
                        "Madness...is the exception in individuals, but the rule in groups" - Nietzsche.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 56GH View Post
                          Remove the sill plate first. The access hole is just in back of the gas pedal attachment.

                          [ATTACH=CONFIG]80725[/ATTACH]
                          The carpet wasn't originally tucked under the sill plate so, if there isn't an access flap, you should still be able to pull the carpet back without removing the sill.
                          There was originally a flap cut in the carpet that could be folded back to give access to the cover above the MC. My cover was held on with two spring clips, not screws.

                          When I replaced my carpet I cut an access flap like the original.
                          I'm sure they had their reasons but, it was never one of Studebaker's better ideas.
                          "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                          Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                          Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                          '33 Rockne 10,
                          '51 Commander Starlight,
                          '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée",
                          '56 Sky Hawk

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rockne10 View Post
                            The carpet wasn't originally tucked under the sill plate so, if there isn't an access flap, you should still be able to pull the carpet back without removing the sill.
                            There was originally a flap cut in the carpet that could be folded back to give access to the cover above the MC. My cover was held on with two spring clips, not screws.

                            When I replaced my carpet I cut an access flap like the original.
                            I'm sure they had their reasons but, it was never one of Studebaker's better ideas.

                            ??? Studebaker put it there for decades, they were not the only one. Almost all cars were built this way at some point.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rockne10 View Post
                              The carpet wasn't originally tucked under the sill plate so, if there isn't an access flap, you should still be able to pull the carpet back without removing the sill.
                              There was originally a flap cut in the carpet that could be folded back to give access to the cover above the MC. My cover was held on with two spring clips, not screws.

                              When I replaced my carpet I cut an access flap like the original.
                              I'm sure they had their reasons but, it was never one of Studebaker's better ideas.
                              I believe that on a 1953-1954 C/K models the carpet was originally under the sill plate. Replacement carpet is usually thicker and ends up on top of the sill plate.
                              Gary L.
                              Wappinger, NY

                              SDC member since 1968
                              Studebaker enthusiast much longer

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