The Great Dale was in for some routine maintenance and the mechanic noticed that the front wheel turned normally until the brakes were applied. The wheel would stop turning until pressure was relieved in the system. That meant the front brakes were always on when I was driving, which I always suspected because there always seemed to be a drag when I was coating downhill.
The disks were fine, but I couldn’t let it go like that once I knew about it, so three different mechanics tried to fix the problem and failed. I decided to stop throwing labor costs at it and replaced the entire front brake system myself and replaced the front calipers, brake hoses, brake lines, proportioning valve, and the master cylinder. It turns out that all retail master cylinders that fit on the 1965 Dodge coronet have a residual valve that keeps pressure on the system and I needed to get a custom one installed instead. That information would have saved me a lot of work.
I finally installed the correct master cylinder and the problem went away, but now my braking power was easily cut in half. Seeing how the front end was all brand new, I assumed the problem was somewhere in the rear brakes. I wanted to replace the original drum brakes with disk brakes, but conversion kits for dodge trucks with a 489 axle are hard to come by. I finally thought I found the right kit, but the seller talked me out of it and send me some real truck drum assemblies and axles. I also replaced the rear axles because the adjustment was locked and they didn’t seem to be adjusted correctly.
The new drums are HUGE compared to the existing ones, and I found out the original brake pistons were different sizes when I dis-assembled them. However, nothing on the rear axle could be original because they didn’t start making 489 axles until 1969, but the Great Dale was built in 1966. So who knows when that axle and brakes.
The new brake system works better, but not as good as when the brakes were always on a little bit. The braking power will probably increase when the new pads wear to the disks and drums.
I thought I was done and we were putting the Dale away for the season when I noticed that one of the rear parking brake cables broke. This wasn’t too surprising seeing how they are over 50 years old, but a pain. I starting digging in to how I was going to replace the cables and noticed that they were touching the exhaust in several places. AHA! This explains the chattering when idling. The cables and cable junctions were tapping on the exhaust!
I decided to route the cables around the exhaust system and spent a terrible day under the Dale planning and measuring the specs for the new cable system:
The kind people at Madison Power Systems built me a super-duper heavy duty cable and the installation was a pain, but worked out as I planned…until two (or three) of the four cable sheath mounting tube broke when I applied the final torque. I think the system will work as-is for now, but it definitely won’t last another 60 years and I’ll have to replace most of the system again, with a few modifications.