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Classic/Antique Car Repair/1982 Dodge K Car brakes

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QUESTION: Last year bought a 1982 Dodge 400 convertible with the 2.6/auto and power front disc/rear drum brakes.

Had a leaking brake line and my mechanic (independent shop) suggested I do a complete brake job as pads were worn, need to bleed the brakes anyways, etc...).I agreed and he was to replace the line and do the front/rear brakes.  He called a few days later and said the master cylinder was also bad and I had him replace that also.

I wasn't happy with the braking performance and took it back twice. He said everything checked out. I said I think you should be able to "stand" on the brakes and lock them up as if in a panic stop. He said the brakes were undersized anyways for this car and it is as good as it is going to get. Took it to a chain shop (Midas) and had them test drive the car and I explained what had been done. He said that my mechanic does good work and he wouldn't question it and he also said the brakes were "adequate" and car brakes in the 80s were not that good.

I think with a completely new brake system if you stand on the brakes it should almost put you through the windshield. Your thoughts, and anything I can try to improve the brakes?

Thanks.

ANSWER: You should be able to lock up the brakes in a panic situation. I have seen this before and there are  several causes. The first is the of the brake pads used. They will all act differently. I use the top of the line NAPA pads as a rule and have had good results. However My own 82 Mercedes was acting like your car. I replaced the calipers and the problem was solved. Calipers tend to get sticky over time. I have had several different old cars in the shop over the years and the caliper fi has been a standard procedure.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Brad-

Thanks for the reply.

The sign with the shops name is an AC Delco sign and the parts on other vehicles I have had them fix had an AC Delco stamp so I am assuming (but not sure) these were the brand of parts they used.

According to the bill the calipers, rotors, pads, and hoses replaced on the front. Shoes, cylinders and brake lines in back. Plus a new master cylinder.

About the only things I can think of he didn't replace was the rear drums and the power booster. Would a bad power booster cause these problems? Maybe a 3rd opinion at a different shop is the next step.

Thanks again.
Jim

Answer
The booster can cause a hard brake and diminished braking. The test that I use to give a quick booster check is simple. With the engine off press the brake pedal hard and hold it. While holding the pedal start the engine. If the brake pedal sinks as the engine starts and build vacuum the booster is working. On front drive cars like yours the front brakes provide more that 60% uf the braking for the car.  

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Brad Sears

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Publications
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.

Education/Credentials
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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