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Classic/Antique Car Repair/Mechanical Brakes, 31 Chevy


The right rear brake on my 31 Chevy seizes with little pressure.  My mechanic inspected, found a lot of grease, and thought that was the problem.  Removing the grease and cleaning the brake has made the problem worse.  He now believes the grease was to stop of control the locking up.  The orig shoes, except for the emergency brake, have been replaced with newer shoes. He doesn't know what to do.  Any suggestions you can make, or referrals to literature, would be greatly appreciated.

Your car is fitted with mechanical brakes that are operated with pull levers. Unless all the pull levers to the four wheels are adjusted properly so that each brake operated at the same time with the same amount of pressure the brakes will pull and work unevenly. Below is a quick how to for adjusting brakes. Now bake to the linings, are they the same ones that the grease on them?  If so replace them as they can never be cleaned one greased up and replace the shoes on the opposite wheel. Then check for the cause of the leaking grease and fix it otherwise your work will be wasted.

1931 Brake Adjustments

A Quick Overview of How to Adjust your Brakes
     1.  Disconnect a) the pedal pull-back spring, b) brake pedal pull rod, and c) front and rear adjustable pull rods.
     2.  Loosen the cross-shaft bracket nuts and set the shaft brackets vertically by adjusting the pedal brace rod.  Tighten the cross-shaft bracket nuts.
     3. Set the brake pedal against its stop and adjust pedal pull rod to its proper length.  Connect the pull rod.
     4.  Hook up pull back spring.
     5.  Adjust front pull rods to proper length and connect.  The front cables must be adjusted so that there is no slack in them.  This is done by pulling back on the rear end of the cable so that the pull does not quite move the cam lever and then screw the rod into the cable end.
    6.  Adjust rear adjustable pull rods to their proper length so that cam operating levers are against their stops.  Connect pull rods.
     7.  Re centralize the brake shoes:  This can significantly improve the effectiveness if the brakes have not been adjusted for quite some time.  Also, this is a mandatory adjustment when reassembling a “new” brake system from scratch.
    8.  Adjust front wheel bearings to their proper tensions.  Loosen all centralizer clamp bolts making sure that they are free to move by tapping the cam up and down lightly with a hammer.
 9.  Have a friend apply the brakes hard from inside the car.  Tighten up the centralizer bolts while pressure is still on the brake pedal.
 10.  Now adjust the brake shoes as needed.  Raise a tire off the ground.  Turn the adjusting bolt until there is a slight wheel drag.  (or until it completely stops turning, and then back off two turns.)   Do the same for the other tire.    (Note:  New shoe linings should not be fully adjusted until they have had a chance to wear in.)
 11. Centralize the emergency brake shoes when you notice that the e-brake doesn’t stop the car.   Follow a similar procedure as above, but raise both rear tires off the ground at the same time.  When adjusting, slack off on the side the pulls harder until they are equal.

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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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