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Classic/Antique Car Repair/57 T-Bird Jerks when put in reverse


Brad - we see that someone else has/had the same problem.  It is not clear in the blog if his was ever resolved.  Our '57 T-Bird jerks when you put it in reverse.  It does not jerk when you put in drive.  We have had many mechanics look at it and they always want to idle it down so low that the car stalls in gear.  The transmission has been rebuilt. The carburetor has been adjusted, hot and cold choke, and recently replaced. I do not know what else to possibly do.  Neither does anyone that has ever tried to fix it.

Good Morning:
I will partially agree with the “turn the idle speed down” guys as idle speed is critical on these cars. The idle speed needs to be in the 475 to 500 RPM range for proper operation. But that said I do not think that is the problem. There are a half a dozen different things that could cause this but most of them will also effect the operation in forward speeds as well. If the transmission is working and shifting properly in forward speed the problems narrow down to the reverse band adjustment as the most probable cause. The band can be adjusted without taking the pan off the unit. Lift the right side of the floor carpet. There will be an access plate on the right side of the transmission hump. With the plate removed the adjustment screw will be reviled. Loosen the lock nut and back off the adjusting screw a turn or two. Then tighten the screw to 10 foot pounds with a torque wrench. Then back the screw off exactly 1 and ˝ turns and lock down the lock nut.  Road test the car. If the problem is solved then put the carpet back down and enjoy. If the problem is still there then an oil pressure test and throttle linkage adjustment is the next step. Keep me posted.

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Brad Sears


All automotive including antique and collectible. However if the car has been modified I can only answer in general terms and maybe get you pointed in the right direction.


Automotive tech instructor. Syndicated auto columnist 1970's though the early 1990's. Syndicated auto radio talk show, Ask Brad About cars, CBS Radio 70's through 90's TV Show "Last Chance Garage" 1980's PBS-TV syndicated. Auto instructor for the following companies: Fram Autolyte Holly Carter AMF Ford Motor University Of Conn Blue Hills Technical School Sugar River Technical Center Grew up in a family garage in Needham Mass and turned wrenches from the age of 14.

Manchester Union Leader, Nashua Telegraph, Motor Service Magazine, Yankee Magazine, Popular Mechanics (Saturday Mechanic early 80's), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and lots more.

More than I care to remember. Basically Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, Northeastern University, Fitchburg State Teachers College, Tufts University, and a lot of factory schools along the way.

Awards and Honors
Moto Award winner. And much more.

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