4 Speeds and Drum Brakes: Large & Small Fixes

Winter in New England has always been a time to fix things if you’re a car enthusiast. We call them projects but the fact is that with the race season over every driver needs something to keep them busy in the colder months. I had pushed the Puddle Jumper into the corner of the garage back in Sept after it ate a pressure plate on the way to  the 356 Registry Holiday in Blowing Rock NC and had to be dragged home (thanks Cliff). The engine came out back in Nov so that I could get to the damaged pieces. Taking things apart is always the easy part, putting them back together is the hard part.

The engine is held in place with only four bolts and two of them are a little tough to reach. They have been in and out so many times that once a wrench is in place they practically fall out. It’s getting that wrench in place that is the contest. Like every big job, the secret is to just do a little bit at a time. Since I’m the only one in the garage, when I set something down like a tool or a part, it is still there when I get back to it. An hour at a time works just great at my age.

Once the engine was out, the clutch cable and housing was easy to replace since I finally had the correct length cable. The clutch fork and throwout bearing also had damage and had to come out. It took a while to get the replacement pieces together (thanks to Vic, Jeff and jBugs) as the car is 67 years old.  Of course “while I was there” (famous quote) and waiting for the big brown truck I had plenty of time to replace the fuel filter, rattle can the transmission hoop where it had been scraped on something and replace the paper heater hoses. The final adjustment on the clutch cable was done at the pedal cluster under the dash and that required that the drivers door be open as far as it would go. That was a problem since the left side of the car was tight up against the wall in the garage so I can get 7 cars in a 4 car garage.

I overthought that for a few days and decided that the best way would be to put the rear wheels on the wheel dollys so that I could push the rear of the car easily. That worked great but did require that the Big Dog be moved out of the garage and that Blackie scoot up close to the door. A good reason to take the Turbo out for a spin.

The tough part of this final adjustment was just getting to the end of the clutch cable. Back when this car was younger I think there was more room under the dash or maybe I wasn’t as wide. To put wrenches on the end of the cable that was at the end of the center tunnel meant that I had to lay  across the door opening and seat base with my head near the brake pedal. Getting into position also required that I had the tools needed to clamp the cable in the down position, a pair of needle nose vice grips, 2 10 mm wrenches to lock the end nuts  together and a couple of lights to be able to see it all. I also needed to install a new pedal buffer (see “while I was there” above) and  adjust the pedal stop. Part of the problem is getting all the tools and parts needed within reach, a reach that is pretty restricted. I only had to get in and out three times. Thank goodness for Aleve, but I should’ve taken them before the job not after. It does seem to take a lot longer to get things done. There are four small barrel bolts that hold the cables and rods in place for the heating systems on these old Tubs. It’s always the last thing to hook up under the car and usually to takes just a few minutes. That’s if I have all the tools needed within reach. Of course this time I needed a 10 mm open end wrench, a 9 mm wrench, a pair of needle nose plyers, a long screwdriver and a long narrow punch to line up the hole on the barrel sleeve for the cable end to go into. Nothing wanted to just “fall together” this time. It took 4 trips to the tool box, two pairs of gloves and nearly an hour to be able to say I was done. Good thing my hourly repair rate is low.

The big part of that job is done and a test drive will have to wait until the weather is better so it was off to Pearl (the Audi RS4) to fix a dead fog light. I have been driving Pearl for 20 years and have had a variety of fog lights in place. It was delivered with just regular 55w bulbs in place and as LEDs came to market I have tried a few. The lights seem to last fine but the electrical connections get old and corroded and need attention.

The wiring and ballast units are down low in front and get wet a lot. When one goes out I just pull off the small grill and inspect the plugs and they usually come back to life. This time there was no power to the right side light and since I didn’t have time to check the connection on the left (the source) I just put it back together and left it on my “fix it list”. I don’t like to drive a car with a light out so I just didn’t use them for the daily ride to the train station. One morning I just hit the switch without thinking and both fog lights came on

I know that the cars talk to each other at night but I have never had them get together and fix one. That is not a complaint but maybe I should print the “fix it list” where they can all see it better. It was a small fix but a fix none the less.  Be thankful for little favors.

Tom Tate – KTF