Thursday, February 18, 2010

Anatomy of a Breakdown - Simca Brake Failure, Among Others

I know what you're thinking. But no, I didn't do it.

What you see here is the master cylinder on my Simca securely fastened to the vehicle by a tightly twisted coat hanger. Apparently, this was a necessary step as this was a poorly chosen replacement unit. I know Simca parts are difficult to find, but anything would have been better than simply taking a part off of the first French car you see, band sawing the mounting flange to "fit", hand tightening only the nut that was easy to reach, and coat hangering it the rest of the way on. Little did I know that this was only the start of the trouble.

I drove it like this for a few hundred miles but the symptoms of randomly changing pedal travel, periodic loss of deceleration, and astronomical pedal effort prompted me to at least attempt to rectify the situation. I started by taking the coat hanger off and adding a nut to the lower mounting stud where one was presently absent. Clearly it was still not an ideal setup since the mounting studs were bowed out to accommodate the enormous master cylinder. Nevertheless, the brake pedal was now at the top of its travel but the pedal was massively firm as a result of the master being sized for a much more substantial car with such amenities as power brake assist.

All was well for close to 200 miles. I could go and I could stop with some advance notice. Until my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try to lock the brakes up on gravel, just to see what she had. Coasting at around 30mph, I slammed my foot to the floorboard, problem is; it went all the way down and I was now traveling at roughly 28mph and sailing through my intersection with no brakes, master cylinder dangling from the brake lines inside the engine compartment.

Being one of those stories where so many bad things happen at the same time that no one ever believes it (like when my Fiat ran out of gas as the rear brakes seized), I shouldn't even bother saying that the car then stalled out due to me not following proper idle-down procedures (pulling the choke out and resting my foot on the gas) and then siphoned the remaining 1/8th tank of gas though the motor due to a stuck needle valve in the carb. To salt the wounds, the battery died after I left the parking lights and flashers on as I walked the rest of the way to the shop. So there it was - flooded out, hence out of gas, brake-less with a dead battery.

Oh, the joys of classic motoring.

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