Willys Jeep: Porkchop’s Brakes

Ready for inspection!

Ready for inspection!

After bringing Porkchop home last Monday (you know, the name has grown on me, it just… fits) today was the first day that I was able to really get in and around it to find out what “the sitch” is, and I’m happy to report that the situation is pretty much what I thought it was. In other words, unlike the Honey Badger (yes, that’s what the other one is called), the situation isn’t any bleaker than I thought it was (so far)!

When I test drove Porkchop I knew there were two things that needed to be fixed straight away before it would be drivable: steering and brakes. All week long I’ve been thinking about (and researching) my options to fix the brakes. I only got a chance to take a brief look at the master cylinder when I was scoping out the Jeep, but it was very dark and I had forgotten to bring a flashlight with me.

Returning home and finally getting a chance to look at it today, I knew that I was right. Opening up the floor panel to get to the master cylinder showed me exactly what I was up against:

Ooooh, pristine!

Ooooh, pristine!

I noticed that the cap for the cylinder was broken, and wondered if I might be able to use the cap from the master cylinder for the Honey Badger:

Keep everything!

Keep everything!

Unfortunately, while they looked very similar at first glance, it turns out the threading for the CJ-3A isn’t the same as for the MB38A-1, even though they were made in the same year. So, no joy there.

I started taking a closer look at the situation in order to see whether or not it was salvageable, but I didn’t have high hopes.

Not looking good

Not looking good

You’ll notice in that picture that I placed a pan underneath the cylinder to catch any brake fluid that was leaking because, well, it was. Not terrible, mind you, but more than a couple of drops. I took a closer look underneath to see if I could find out where it was coming from.

Good luck finding the leak!

Good luck finding the leak!

Ahhhh, crap. As much as I was hoping that something would shout out at me, it was just a mess. When I was looking online I kept reading about ‘pitted’ cores, and what you have to do to save them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out exactly what a core is, or what a pitted one looks like (as opposed to a new one), but at this point I don’t think it really matters. I don’t think it’s supposed to look like this.

This is where things get a bit interesting, actually. As I was looking up answers during the week, I started realizing that it’s not quite as simple as changing out a master cylinder and getting on with it. I mean, it could be. However, the restoration book that I have, in addition to numerous websites that discuss brake restoration/conversions, go into detail about how much safer it is to have a dual-reservoir system (which was required by law in the 1960s, long after the Jeep was made).

From what I can tell (and please, if someone can confirm/correct me on this I’d appreciate it!) the dual reservoir is kind of like a backup braking reservoir of fluid. At first I thought it was the difference between having brakes in the front and not in the back, but quickly realized how asinine that would be (not to mention I’ve already seen the brake lines that go to the back on the Badger).

[Update: My friend Dave Alexander points out to me that the reason for a dual reservoir master is that if you have fluid loss (broken line, broken slave, etc) – only that end will lose brakes. With a single reservoir, any break drains the whole master and you lose all brakes. With dual, you’d just lose front or back.]

This Jeep has 9-inch drum brakes, which apparently are the default brakes on cars from this era. After all, the Jeep can only go a maximum of 45 mph (50 with an overdrive, which neither Porkchop nor the Badger have).

The age-old question: is 9" enough?

The age-old question: is 9″ enough?

In theory, the 9″ ones should be fine (especially considering they were placed on so many of them). The restoration book recommends 11″ drums, and there are some other websites that recommend a complete conversion to disc brakes altogether (which also means a different master cylinder as well).

I figured I’d better take a look at the brakes themselves and see if they were still good to use. After all, I was having a hard time stopping the jeep overall on the test drive.

At first I thought I had to remove the screws in order to get the drum off the hub.

Don't touch the screws!

Don’t touch the screws!

I was a bit puzzled that there would be screws here if this were a serviceable part, though. Fortunately, I was wrong, and those screws wouldn’t budge at all.

Instead, I was supposed to tap at “nubs” at the edges of the drum with a hammer, and it was supposed to come loose (according to the restoration book).

Bang on the nub...

Bang on the nub…

Unfortunately, even though I gave it a few whacks on each of the nubs (there were three on the drum), it still wouldn’t budge. I was a bit nervous I would wind up breaking something that I didn’t want to break, so I gave up trying to go any further for now. The restoration book said that if the drum was stubborn, you should remove the hub as an assembly, but I couldn’t figure out where to disconnect the hub from, unfortunately.

On the back of the hub, there were two bolts that could have possibly been what the book was referring to, but I wasn’t sure.

Were these the correct bolts to detach the drum?

Were these the correct bolts to detach the drum?

Ultimately, though, I don’t really think it mattered, because when I started looking more closely at the brakes I noticed something that appeared to be a crack.

Is this crack supposed to be there?

Is this crack supposed to be there?

Then again, when I look at the passenger side drum, it looks like there’s one there too.

So... not a problem after all?

So… not a problem after all?

I didn’t try to take this hub off (though now that I think about it, I kind of wish that I had) because it was beginning to get a bit hot and I had already been working for several hours. Why, you say?

I’m glad you asked! Because of 60-freakin’-year old bolts, of course! After trying for an hour to get the bolts off on the driver’s side with the impact socket wrench, I decided to go old school elbow grease and use my trusted leverage jury-rigged tool.

You know what? It works. Stop laughing.

You know what? It works. Stop laughing.

In case you’re wondering, that black tube is a piece of an old lamp stand that my previous neighbor let me have to work on the Badger.

In any case, I was starting to get a little tired, but I really needed to take a look at the parking brake, because I have zero  confidence in it. Taking a closer look at it you can probably see why.

Only park on level ground!

Only park on level ground!

If you take a closer look at it, you can see very clearly that the lining pad is a bit worn, but even when it’s engaged it’s not connecting with the transfer case completely.

You ever get that not-so-safe feeling?

You ever get that not-so-safe feeling?

Part of this, I think, is because the liner needs to be replaced. Another part of it, however, could be that the spring itself is worn out and well past its expiration date.

Boingy boingy

Boingy boingy

I’m also wondering if the smoothness of the transfer case has anything to do with it, but probably not.

Interestingly enough, when I was looking around for replacement parking brakes online, I found this replacement set for the emergency brake shoe set. One of the things that I noticed is that it has two shoes. But when I look at Porkchop, there’s only one shoe. I called the representative and he said that the military version (which is what this is) simply has a different style shoe.

However, I don’t see where a second shoe is supposed to go. If someone knows the answer, please feel free to let me know!

Bottom Line

It seems to me that the wisest thing to do is simply redo the brake system altogether, but then the question is whether or not I keep the 9″ drum brakes, go for 11″, keep the single reservoir or convert/modify to the dual? Unfortunately everyone I’ve spoken with (or read) has said that a conversion is something that is best left to a professional. Not only that, but according to the Kaiser Willys rep that I spoke with, the brake lines need to be custom made.

So, it looks like it’s back to the research drawing board, but at least I’ve got somewhere to start.

1 Comment

  • Dave Alexander June 2, 2013 at 06:29

    Since I like modifying in stages, I’d probably start with the dual reservoir master and refresh the 9″ drums. If after further modifications and driving you’re not happy with the 9″ system, I’d move to 11″. You may end up spending more in the long run, but I’m guessing that more than likely you’d be happy with a properly operating 9″ system. I think a lot of people who end up at 11″ or even discs are A) comparing braking performance to modern systems (which this obviously isn’t), or are running newer engine/transmission/transfer cases that have them operating at much higher speeds than the stock components would have allowed.

    Reply

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