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  • Brakes: Flushing the braking system

    Hey all. I recently decided to check my brake fluid and found that it was basically empty. Not good. I plan on flushing the system and checking the lines. In the shop manual for my car it recommends taking apart the master cylinder and cleaning it, replacing the piston cups, and run "a good quality alcohol" through the master cylinder to clean out the old oil. Are these things I should do while flushing the braking system? Are there other things I should check while I do this? I plan on using speed bleeders. The manual calls for Lockheed brake fluid, what is a good brake fluid today that I should use? I know I'm following a manual from the 30's, and I've never done this before, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. I drive a 1938 Studebaker Commander.

  • #2
    The very FIRST thing you want to do is, find out if there are leaks somewhere.
    Check all 4 Backing Plates, Wheels, and Tires for traces of Brake Fluid.
    Check the bottom of the Master Cylinder, check the surface where it is parked.

    If it has been over 10 or 20 years since the Wheel Cylinders and Master Cylinder have been replaced, it may need a Lot more than topping off the master cylinder.
    You can do that with ordinary DOT 3 or Dot 4 Standard Brake Fluid, 4 can take a little higher Temp. and absorbs a bit less water.
    It is still OK to flush it with Alcohol, but you must be sure to flush all of it out with New Brake Fluid.
    StudeRich
    Second Generation Stude Driver,
    Proud '54 Starliner Owner
    SDC Member Since 1967

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    • #3
      Does anyone here remember the ATE “super blue” racing brake fluid? This German motorcycle fluid spanned the whole DOT 3,4,5 range but in the last five or so years it’s been all but impossible to get it here in North America, thanks to DOT color standards that specify clear or amber.

      I used to like this on system bleeds/flushes because when the blue fluid came through you knew you’d flushed the system from back to front cleanly. Next flush I’d use amber, and alternate.

      Does anyone know if this is available anymore? Off-road, on road or otherwise? My searching is coming up empty.

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      • #4
        You can still find DOT 5 Silicone in Quarts, so if you want "Better" Non-Hydgroscopic Fluid just use that.

        I remember in the 1980's the First Mfg. to come out with Silicone Fluid was GE and I bought 5 or or 6 Qts. of it, the Color of it was Purple, still have one empty and one Full Bottle, I use the Fresh current Mfg. yellow stuff now.
        StudeRich
        Second Generation Stude Driver,
        Proud '54 Starliner Owner
        SDC Member Since 1967

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        • #5
          Thanks for the help. I definitely will check out for leaks. I bought the car from somebody only had the car for a few months. He didn't know much about it or had any contacts about who had it before. I'm just going through all of the systems one by one to make sure the car is running well, but I have no history on any work that was done to it. Just about everything looks original though, and I plan on keeping it like that, except for things that need replacing. If I do need new brake supplies is there a good place to buy them online, or would say Napa carry some of the more rare parts that I might need? It'll take me a week or so to have time to do the brake flush, as I need to gather a few tools. If I find something that I need help with, I'll post it here.








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          • #6
            At a minimum, Studebaker International is one of many good Studebaker vendors, and they indicate having the cylinders and the hoses you’ll require.

            https://www.studebaker-intl.com/catalog.html

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            • #7
              Thanks for the recommendation. Appreciate it.

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              • #8
                I use Dot-3 brake fluid, and use denatured alcohol to flush.

                Silicone fluid (Dot-5) won’t absorb moisture but it will kill your brake light switch in short order. If you flush the brake system every few years, there’s no need for Dot-5 anyway.

                It’s unlikely you’ll find any brake parts for a ‘38 Commander at Napa.

                Wheel cylinders aren’t available anywhere (there are ill-fitting replacements) but yours can be sleeved if needed (Apple Hydraulics is one company).

                Master cylinder and flex hoses are available from the full time Studebaker-only parts stores.

                https://www.studebakervendors.com

                Congratulations on your new car, ‘38’s are one of my favorites. The just-before-the-war Commanders were among the best cars that Studebaker ever built.

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                • #9
                  If I have to replace the master cylinder, it would be nice to replace it with a dual reservoir master cylinder, but I can't seem to find one for a car as old as mine. I wondering if there is an adaptable one that I could fit on my car, or if it is even worth the extra safety benefits of it, if there is such a cylinder?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Marshdriver View Post
                    If I have to replace the master cylinder, it would be nice to replace it with a dual reservoir master cylinder, but I can't seem to find one for a car as old as mine. I wondering if there is an adaptable one that I could fit on my car, or if it is even worth the extra safety benefits of it, if there is such a cylinder?
                    Your car has lasted 83 years with a single reservoir MC. If the system is properly rebuilt and maintained, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

                    Having done dual MC conversions on a couple of 1950’s Studes, I’d say it isn’t worth the expense and hassle. Though I’m sure there are several that will disagree.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks mbstude for your thoughts on the car. I saw it and just feel in love with it. I haven't seen too many like it on the web, it's black and it has the raised teardrop headlights. Good point about not changing it to a dual. I was just reading articles and wanted the forums opinion. I'll keep it as it is.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Marshdriver View Post
                        If I have to replace the master cylinder, it would be nice to replace it with a dual reservoir master cylinder, but I can't seem to find one for a car as old as mine. I wondering if there is an adaptable one that I could fit on my car, or if it is even worth the extra safety benefits of it, if there is such a cylinder?
                        Whenever possible I go to a dual master on all my cars. It's purely a safety move, by having discrete front a rear fluid circuits you can safely stop the car with the functional circuit if you have a wheel cylinder or brake line problem in the other. If you choose to stick with the single I'd make sure your emergency brake system is in perfect working condition and can safely stop the vehicle in case of hydraulic pressure loss.
                        1963 Avanti R1

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                        • #13
                          From a '39 Commander owner...dont forget to check out the Antique studebaker club site which caters more towards prewar Studes (if you dont already know about it). I have already done my brakes (all stock) with the help of those folks...as well as here too. Be sure to check your hoses and the steel lines too. I replaced the shoes, hoses, and brake lines. I modified a pair of new ford front wheel cylinders, and the master cylinder and the rear wheel cylinders were sleeved which in my mind prevents corrosion problems down the road.

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                          • #14
                            Thank you all for advice. I really appreciate it. Clearly, theres a lot to think about and with brakes, I want to be as thorough as possible.

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                            • #15
                              A word of caution: do not use bubbing alcohol! It is up to 50% water. Use pure denatured alcohol bu I imagine Heet would work just fine. I've used it to flush fuel lines. I use Valvolene synthetic brake fluid; it is much less hydroscopic and doesn't eat brake light switches. Brake lights are good to have. There is a neat little gadget that I have, a brake fluid testing pen. I checked and they are widely available form Summit, Walmart, etal. Price range from a few bucks to $30. It will tell you the quality of you brake fluid and when it needs to be flushed.
                              Last edited by Jeffry Cassel; 01-26-2021, 12:51 PM.

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