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Help again! new problem w/ 50 Champion; I fixed locked-up wheels, now strange pedal-to-floor saga

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  • Brakes: Help again! new problem w/ 50 Champion; I fixed locked-up wheels, now strange pedal-to-floor saga

    Hi, SORRY FOR LONG POST! I'm at my wits end with a car I just want "driving" so it is safe to move between buildings at MY dad's farm to work on further or probably sell eventually. Maybe a 3-hr drive on an early Saturday morning to the Twin Cities...
    I posted last week about my father-in-law's 50 Champion, manual with Hill-Holder, that sat the past 3 years or so, just after he got it painted. Alzheimer's sucks
    My dilemma last week, after driving up to get it moved off the now-sold farm to MY dad's farm, was "no gas", a dry MC, and after filling MC and 'pumping up" the pedal, a locked-up rear wheel. I punted and and retreated for the week to get new parts.

    OK, this weekend I drove 3 hours up there again, armed with a new fuel-pump and four new wheel-cylinders.

    GOOD NEWS: the rebuilt fuel-pump from SA did the trick; engine started right up and runs well!

    BAD NEWS: after successfully replacing the rear-left very-frozen wheel-cylinder, I then jacked up the front end and noticed the left-front wheel was also almost locked up.. After replacing THAT also-frozen wheel-cylinder, things got strange, and I finally punted and came home , with a pedal that NOW goes to the floor, but didn't until 1/2 way through the process.

    I've searched the Forum, and see many comments about spongy-pedal that pumps up being a result of incorrectly adjusted brakes. But these worked the last several years; and look complete, unmolested and original except for new lining.

    So here's the wheel-cylinder & bleeding Chronology; please bear with me. At this point, with unsafe brakes, I think I'm going to have to punt and have it trailered (or towed) into local small town shop who MIGHT still work on old cars. At least NOW all the wheels turn freely and pulling it won't ruin something. But I need to know what to ask them to DO (and see if they will/can do it; and what parts I need to order for them). My only guess is a problem with the master cylinder, but looking for input obviously!! I know NOTHING about 50 Champions!!

    1) last weekend, I checked master-cylinder as the brake pedal went to floor. Bone-dry! Could not see any evidence of WHERE it had leaked, but 3 years later....

    2) filled the empty MC with DOT3, and pumped the pedal several times, fully expecting problems spongy pedal, and needing to bleed a lot.

    3) was surprised that after a dozen or so pumps, pedal stiffened up pretty firm (and stayed that way!)

    4) jacked up the car to put dollies under it

    5) Just to check whether brakes DOING anything or not (had not bled anything yet), had my dad push the pedal down while I turned the left rear wheel. The wheel stopped as it should. yay! BUT, it did not release.

    6) yesterday; went back up armed with a set of wheel cylinders, and pulled that left-rear drum. Everything appears "all original', adjusting button in lining... springs. This car is 70yr old unmolested survivor.... My father-in-law had new shoes put on a decade ago (very few miles since), nothing else new in brake area that I could see.

    7) I replaced left-rear wheel cylinder. Pumped it some before bleeding, pedal still got pretty firm. (and stayed that way)
    Click image for larger version  Name:	50 Champ brake shoes.jpg Views:	0 Size:	55.1 KB ID:	1951776 Click image for larger version  Name:	50 Champ 7-16-22.jpg Views:	0 Size:	51.2 KB ID:	1951777
    8) Bled left-rear, no issues, while dad pumped the pedal "up...down..." (open/close bleeder, repeat). Also bled the Right-Rear (original wheel-cylinder)

    9) Thought we were done! Raised front-end off its dollies, and as after-thought, tried to spin those wheels; Left-front also locked up!
    10) Replaced front-left wheel-cylinder (yes, keeping MC full of fluid)

    Here is where things got funky.
    Two "notes", just in case ANY relevance:
    a) The end of the Left-Front brake hose looked dirty upon removal, so I put a little baggy on the end, and pushed the brake pedal just a tad, certainly no more than 1/2". Just to see if clear fluid came out or sludge. Nice and clean fluid, so proceeded to tighten things up and bleed this Left-Front w/ new cylinder.
    b) at one point (can't remember exactly when, but I was pumping the pedal so was NOT during bleeding process), I noticed the pedal "dropped" about inch or two quite suddenly, like something slipped. Perhaps one of the other two wheel cylinders "extending" suddenly and not retracting? Or, perhaps rupturing something in Master Cylinder?

    10) Dad pumped, and pumped, and pumped. NOTHING came out. Then many pumps later, all of a sudden fluid came, got the small flurry of bubbles, and it was bubble-free. BUT DAD SAID "brake pedal is going to the floor now, ... didn't before?"
    NOTE: since he was pumping slowly "up, down", it went to the floor even when there were no more bubbles while bleeding.

    11) Kept bleeding that Left-Front, thinking there MUST still be air in there. If pedal pretty firm before, seemed it had to be this one??

    12) no more bubbles, so thought MAYBE got air over in the left front somehow.

    13) replaced Right-front wheel-cylinder and bled it. Bled normally, few bubbles,... But brake pedal still going to the floor. Unless repeated pumping "firmed it up".

    14) Stymied!
    a) I push pedal, it goes almost to floor,
    b) 5-6 repeated pumps and it is almost firm;
    c) almost immediately (<5 seconds), I can push on pedal and it again goes almost to floor
    d) double-checked before leaving; all the wheels still turn freely, all lock up with depressed brake pedal. (and now release when pedal released)

    -I did nothing with the brakes themselves except remove the spring, swap out the wheel-cylinders, and re-assemble & bleed.
    -I did NOT bleed the Hill-holder, as I could not even get my head high enough under the car to SEE where the bleed screw might be. At least with my jacks. That, and a replacement MC, need to be a hoist job.
    -Brakes were fine for my father-in-law after relining (or new shoes? I noted rear still has that little self-adjusting button; forgot to check the front)
    -Pedal was firm until I did the 2nd wheel-cylinder, at which point it started going to the floor, NO fluid flow for a long time.
    -Master Cylinder was BONE dry last weekend; it had to go somewhere. I saw no evidence of leaking within the 3 drums I pulled off.

    Is all this simply a bad master cylinder? Maybe ruptured something between the first and second wheel-cylinder swaps?

    If so, where do I FIND one? I don't see anything for rebuilt master cylinders for a 50 Champion on SI, and SA's only one does not mention "hill holder"....?
    No rebuild kits listed either...
    531510 Master Cylinder All 1947-60 cars; 1961-64 Hawks under floor boards (manual with power); 1949-62 1/2 ton trucks; 1963 trucks models 5 & 7 with right hand drive
    Mine looks like this.
    If you made it this far, THANK YOU!!!!!
    Click image for larger version  Name:	50 Champ MC.jpg Views:	0 Size:	54.0 KB ID:	1951778
    Last edited by bsrosell; 07-17-2022, 05:02 PM.

  • #2
    Lucky you Ok have you checked the rubber lines 3 of them 2 in front 1 in back they can get hard and crack. Is hill holder leaking? The master should be available at most auto parts store. Good luck


    • #3
      Sounds a bit like it would act with brakes far out of adjustment. A few pumps expands the shoes, they hold. Stop for a minute and they retract to original position, requiring more pumps. Should be adjusted to the point shoes start to drag, then back off a notch or two. E brake working? Have to pull it way out to engage? That would suggest adjustment problem.


      • #4
        Both rubber hoses up front looked good. Back one as much as I could see. BUT, if the were cracked, I'd get air-bubbles when I bleed, just like any other leak, right? And all four cylinders purged out quickly (except that weird couple of minutes on Left-Front where NOTHING was pumping).

        re: Hill-holder leaking or not, hard to say, because I spilled (not much but a little slop) each time I filled reservoir. There was fluid along the bellows and both ends of the unit (and a 12" puddle on floor) last night, but I cleaned it all up, had dad pump the brakes while I laid and watched, saw nothing coming out. DID seem more there than I spilled though. I pumped it quite a bit more last night before heading in, but this morning, no drips on floor, nothing on MC. But sure is RUSTY back on that end!

        Re: purchasing new one, I see standard (non-Hill Holder) units for sale online. Thus wondering how you even get that (uncommon?? to me) option. Maybe buying a MC without it is the simpler answer; just bypass a system i've never used and don't even know how to...


        • #5
          From your description I'm pretty darn sure the shoes need adjusting. Your multiple pumps slowly bring all the shoes out to touch the drums, but when you let off the springs slowly bring them all back again. They were probably all stuck out before. On the back of the backing plates there are 7/16 adjusters that establish the initial positions of the shoes by means of eccentrics. You turn them outward, away from the center of the drum until the shoe starts to drag then back them off a touch. Then when you pump the pedal a few times, the pistons will come out to meet the shoes and will stay there.

          Oh yes, and you will need a new master, but probably not just this minute. The hill holder bolts onto the standard master by means of the same bolt that normally holds the brass tee on.


          • #6
            A flexible brake hose that is letting air into the system would be spewing brake fluid every time you hit the brakes. So that is not likely. Sounds like brake adjustment or a bad M/C (or both!). The Hill Holder is not part of the M/C. It is just attached to it. So you can get a new one and add your old Hill Holder. The 1950 system is a little different from my 41 but lots of pictures of mine here:
            Hill Holder 10/11/2015 | 1941 Studebaker Champion (

            If the flexible hoses are, well, flexible, I would suggest pinching them all off with vice-grips or C-clamps. With the hoses pinched the pedal should be rock-hard and hardly move when pressed. If it drops a little you still have air in the system. If it goes to the floor the M/C is bad. If the hoses are hard this will likely destroy them. On the other hand they are not very expensive and brakes are no place to cheap out.

            You probably already realize this but replacing two wheel cylinders probably means the other two are less than great...


            • #7
              What about the brake cylinders you took out of the car? Were they really frozen or not? If not, I see two possibilities here (or a combination of both!). The secondary cup of the master cylinder might be failing to transmit the pressure to the wheels or/and the brake hoses might be acting up and holding/realeasing pressure on their own accord. Please use Castrol red rubber grease (or equivalent) with your new brake cylinders and they will last a looooong time.


              • #8
                Thanks all.
                -Christophe: yes, all THREE wheel cylinders were frozen to where I couldn't even turn the plungers with a screwdriver (or push them in). The "kind of free" front-right wheel's cylinder I could move ONE of the two plungers. Yes Nathan, they are all bad apparently just not quite "gone" like the Left two. Remaining rear-right, I couldn't get at it (tight against the wall). Will have to replace that one as soon as I can.

                -Ross & TN GT; sounds like you are probably right about adjustment then. That 2nd wheel-cylinder swap throws me, why pedal start dropping THEN? One scenario I guess is the front-left was not working well when the relining was done. (but IF self-adjusting, why not self-adjusting).
                I know that one in particular spun VERY freely indeed when I was done; NO drag.

                These are self-adjusting brakes: though I only am SURE the rear-left had the self-adjusting 'plunger' in the lining, etc. If only I'd taken photos of the front two when I had them apart (or LOOKED at the shoes!)
                Regardless, let's say they are all four retaining the original "self-adjusting" mechanisms. There is no adjusting wheel like my Hawk, but instead an eccentric on the back plate for each shoe. (or so Shop Manual shows).

                QUESTION: COULD I SAFELY MOVE EACH ECCENTRIC OUT, until slight drag just like a 'typical' setup? without taking the time to tear everything apart again, including fender skirts and jacking up the bumper (without a bumper jack) to get AT the rear drums! I don't want to have something 'self-adjust' and lock her up again while I'm driving! (I have NO idea how these work)

                With the hope that takes up whatever slack the bad cylinders introduced, and I have enough brakes to drive 8 miles on country roads. I won't have time with everyone bustling around moving mom to apartment next weekend to completely pull all the drums off again just to inspect each brake shoe.
                If adjusting them out "til slight drag' might do it, I'll hold off on trying to arrange a tow truck to the local shop. Can maybe nurse it over to my dad's yet, and later take more time to evaluate under the hubs again.
                Thanks guys!!!


                • #9
                  I had several cars blowing a hard brake line during a MOT test. Each time, the emergency brake was more more than apt to bring me home safely at reasonable speed. For a 8 miles run in the country, I'd give it a go; after testing it, of course.
                  It seems your master brake cylinder should be replaced as well.
                  Here are a few replacement references: RAYBESTOS MC2796, ACDELCO 18M932, DORMAN M2796
                  Here is what I've found about brake adjustment.
                  Click image for larger version  Name:	47-49Brakes.jpg Views:	11 Size:	143.7 KB ID:	1951877
                  Last edited by christophe; 07-19-2022, 06:14 AM.


                  • #10
                    Also make sure the backing plates have no burrs and are smooth where they contact the brake shoes.


                    • #11
                      If your wheel cylinders were frozen then why would the master not be ? Yes-you can adjust as above for eccentrics and go.


                      • #12
                        one thing I have found in the past is that the rubber lines can collapse internally and cause many of the problems you describe. look good outside, but collapse on the inside and hold pressure. nightmare.

                        my .02C is since you have replaced or are replacing wheel cylinders. replace the master and the rubber lines, as well as a very complete bleeding.
                        myself, I'd replace EVERYTHING that touches fluid.

                        I had a hose collapse on the rear of a Nova and had no rear brakes and barely any fronts.