Saturday, August 3, 2013

More Car Repairs

I had the chance to do some car repairs today, so here's how it went.

There have been a few things wrong with my 1956 Ford Fairlane for a while now.  The first issue was a dying speedometer, which has been flipping out since early spring.  Sometimes, when driving, it would start squealing and the needle would spin all the way to the bottom.  The bearings were shot.

Finding a replacement speedometer was quite an undertaking, as these aren't common.  Ford only used this type of speedometer one year (to my knowledge).  In 1955, they had the large, half-moon speedometers, and in 1957 they returned to that style.  Most Fords of the 50's and 60's have that familiar design, but the 56 was different, with the round dial.  The only other compatible gauge was in the '57 Thunderbird, but that went to 140, whereas the standard '56 ford meter only goes to 120.  I looked around for a while and finally found a used 1956 speedometer on ebay, which I was able to get for $35 delivered.  As rare as these are, there is little demand for them, so I lucked out.

Now came the "fun" part.  Extracting the old speedometer.

The camera angle makes it look really spacious,
but just try to get your hand back there!
When I say it was one of the hardest things I've ever done, it is no exaggeration.  It's right behind installing the electric wiper motor last year, which takes the prize as toughest job ever.  Sure, the book says you can extract the speedometer without removing the instrument panel, but it sure isn't easy.  Of course, the thing was designed by engineers who could hide behind their pencils and never had to actually work under the dash themselves.  There is barely any room under there, and there's a support strut that sits right behind a couple of the screws you have to get out.  It was several hours of agony and irritation to get four stupid screws out and to yank the old speedometer free.  Then I got to do it all over again, only in reverse with the new-used part.

 Okay, to be fair, this would have been a lot harder if I hadn't had the help of my 7 year old son, Wyatt.  That impossible to reach screw behind the dashboard support was something he finally got out for me.  After I'd struggled with it, he was able to go in there and finish the last piece.  It really helps to have a small helper.

Old, rusty master cylinder.
So, while I was getting the old speedometer out and the new one in, I found the answer to yet another problem.  Jamming under the dash, my shoulder couldn't help but depress the brake pedal, and that's how I spotted the fluid dripping from the master cylinder.  The brakes had been fading for months, even after I replaced all of the wheel cylinders (which had been leaking), and replaced half the brake lines, and replaced the brake hoses.  My father had suggested the master cylinder, so I'd ordered a new one some time ago.  I just hadn't gotten around to putting it in, and as I replaced other parts, the problem seemed to go away, only to return shortly after each repair.  So, it was finally time to fix it for good.

New master cylinder installed.
With the speedometer replaced, I turned my attention to the master cylinder.  It was a very quick and easy job, taking about half an hour to swap out the part.  Wyatt helped me to bleed the cylinder, and we took it for a test drive.  It's really nice to know how fast you're going and be able to stop quickly.  The brakes weren't so bad beforehand, but now they are 100%.

One other adjustment I made was to the carburetor.  Ever since I replaced the vacuum lines, the car hasn't seemed to have as much power, and just recently it has been hard starting.  Turns out it was flooding.  I fiddled with the mixture and leaned it out.  Now the car has all the power it should.  The great thing about old cars; it's always something simple.  Try adjusting anything on one of those computerized monstrosities they call cars these days.

Well, now that I've gotten the major issues straightened out on the Fairlane, maybe I'll be able to get back to restoring the 1954 Bel Air...

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