Beemon

1956 Buick Power Wipers/Washer conversion

29 posts in this topic

So I'm just about done with vacuum wipers. I mean you can only go so far before you can't see anything at highway speeds and need to pull over or take the back roads in excess of an extra hour out of your way. Last Saturday was the local Model A swap meet and it was a downpour the entire morning. Other than the show being a complete waste of time, it demonstrated that these vacuum wipers just aren't up to the task for modern traffic driving. To be fair, they work great around town. I had them professionally rebuilt and have never had an issue before. But now that I'm going off to a University 5 hours away, where 2.5 hours is in the rainforest and and mountain pass and the other 2.5 hours is open desert plains, that's 2.5 hours coming home to visit with terrible wiper system. Simply put, they just do not wipe fast enough and even worse, they slow and sometimes stop on acceleration and uphill climes (which will be TERRIBLE for going over the pass). So here's what I've done so far...

 

I purchased a Newport wiper kit. Pricey, but at least I'll know it'll bolt in. I gave a lot of thought to the 55 Chev motor I have and I would spend at least $20 on getting the right control slider, and then have to hope for the correct bowden cable base to hook up the vacuum coordinator to work the washer pump correctly, which would include either spending the money on that or buying a new washer pump lid. Then I would also have to remove and cap a bunch of lines under the dash, too, to avoid a vacuum leak. The Newport wiper is the best route, in my opinion, for ease of installation. The con: it doesn't look as cool as the bulky 55 wiper motor.

 

I also purchased a mid 50s Cadillac/Packard/Lincoln/Mercury wiper jar lid that has an electric solenoid for the wash check valve, making it an electric system. This was the other problem. With the Newport wiper, unless you put an electric pump inside the old jar (nothing fits without mods, again you'd have to get crafty...) the washer jar is now unusuable. The electric solenoid valve will work with the electric switch that comes with the Newport kit. So it fits, no fiddling, just a rewire and good to go.

 

I ALSO purchased (or salvaged) a wiper switch off of a 55 Special at my favorite junkyard. The bowden worm gear was broken, so I just pulled the switch and bezel out. It's a 1/4" shaft, which is the same as the supplied switch. The rotation of the 55 switch is the same as the switch supplied, so now I'm set. The only set back is that I need to find a way to remove the wiper switch needle from the washer button.

 

Everything should be here next week, so I'm looking forward to strapping it all in. I'm hoping that it may be here by Friday, but I won't hold my breath.

 

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Posted (edited)

I've considered bashing into an old wiper control for a slicker look, but that's pretty far down the to-do list. Our wiper control knob is in an existing hole in the bottom of the dash. Not very convenient, but mostly out of sight...

Edited by SpecialEducation (see edit history)

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In my first 55 special, I had done that.  I used the existing switch and cable and mounted a toggle switch at the end, all under the dash.  I did not have a washer jar, and found that with rain-ex, i rarely turned them on high.

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4 hours ago, wndsofchng06 said:

In my first 55 special, I had done that.  I used the existing switch and cable and mounted a toggle switch at the end, all under the dash.  I did not have a washer jar, and found that with rain-ex, i rarely turned them on high.

 

See RainX just doesn't do it for me anymore. I sprayed it on the windshield before leaving in anticipation, and it was still difficult to see.

 

By the way, I just ended up grabbing the pintle with needle nose pliers and breaking it off. I feel so ashamed to have abused such old parts...

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The wipers on my '60 Electra have made two swipes across the windshield since 2003. That was when I took it all apart and "fixed" them. RainEx has been fine. Don't just spray it on. Rub it in with a soft cloth.

 

My Wife can't drive with it either. She looks at the drops. I keep telling her a persons eyes can focus like the f setting on a camera. Focus ahead of the car beyond the windshield and it will be out of your depth of field. Honestly, the drops just disappear.

 

I'm driving along in traffic at 60 MPH in the rain and she says "I don't know how you see, I can't." I tell her I don't look at the drops or the windshield. She says "They are right in front of you. How can you not SEE it?" "I don't see it because I am not looking at it." "You have to be!" " I'm not" "Well I see it" "You should, you aren't driving?"  "Well, you are driving and you don't see the windshield?" " Who's on first?"

Bernie

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19 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

The wipers on my '60 Electra have made two swipes across the windshield since 2003. That was when I took it all apart and "fixed" them. RainEx has been fine. Don't just spray it on. Rub it in with a soft cloth.

 

My Wife can't drive with it either. She looks at the drops. I keep telling her a persons eyes can focus like the f setting on a camera. Focus ahead of the car beyond the windshield and it will be out of your depth of field. Honestly, the drops just disappear.

 

I'm driving along in traffic at 60 MPH in the rain and she says "I don't know how you see, I can't." I tell her I don't look at the drops or the windshield. She says "They are right in front of you. How can you not SEE it?" "I don't see it because I am not looking at it." "You have to be!" " I'm not" "Well I see it" "You should, you aren't driving?"  "Well, you are driving and you don't see the windshield?" " Who's on first?"

Bernie

 

 I would like to be a fly on the mirror for that conversation!

 

  Ben

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Rain-X is really just wax suspended in acetone. Liquid, paste, or whatever, it gets more effective the thicker it gets. Apply often to achieve best results.  If it's already raining, it is too late. 

 

I was a skeptic for a long time, but once I got a good layer on, I was amazed. 

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Waxing Rain-X on the windshield is just a band-aid fix, though. Not saying it's a bad product by any means, but I would like to use it in conjunction with good working wipers and not wipers that quit uphill. Plus, alleviating the vacuum load put on the engine by the wipers, I'll be better set going over the mountains when oxygen gets a little bit thinner.

 

Bernie, my girlfriend has the same problem.

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Wanted to update this thread on my progress:

 

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All sales are final, and I have to pay to send it back and bring it home

 

Aside from this, the system works extremely well. I had to adapt the 56 Wiper button and switch to the more modern, round with a notch style switch they provided. What I had done was found a small piece of aluminum tubing that was the perfect ID for the new switch and the OD was the same as the old switch. It was a little trial and error at the hardware store to get right. Once the correct size was picked out, I flattened the end of it just slightly to oblong it. This way, it fit snug in the 56 switch part, and the oblong part was a compression fit over the slotted shaft of the new switch. There is enough friction between all three parts for them to rotate the switch freely for both speeds and back to off.

 

Because it was full electric, I needed to change out the washer jar pump. To get around trying to come up with some crazy contraption, I sourced a Packard/Cadillac/Lincoln/Merc washer pump that uses an electric solenoid to cut off engine vacuum. The only downside is that there is no coordinator, so the wipers need to be turned on when you squirt the windshield.

 

Besides the wiper slap, my only gripe right now is the mess at the resistor. I'm wanting to move all that stuff behind the firewall, into a junction block type deal that hooks into the powered ignition switch instead, or at least splice into the ignition lead line somewhere. It won't make much of a difference right now, because it's raining and I'm going back to vacuum wipers due to obvious reasons. This totally kills the whole replace timing cover with later Nailhead, modern fuel pump without vacuum pump, etc. thing that I wanted to do with the car. Still do-able, but still waiting to hear back from Newport on how much the fix will cost me. I am fairly certain it is because my grandfather ordered the car with Cam-O-Matic wipers, which sweep further than standard wipers.

 

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Your last post confused me....  What is the issue other than messy wires?  I don't recall my wiper conversion being that painful.  And that was done in my dorm parking lot back in college.

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The wiper blades slap the stainless trim and no amount of adjusting can fix it. 

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Cant you pull the wiper arm off the shaft and move it a notch or two out?

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That's what I described doing in the email. It went from slapping the center to slapping both sides. 

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Ooooh.  None of mine ever reached the sides.... must be that camomatic. I'm  sure we can come up with a standard wiper set...:D

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There's a set at the yard where I got the switch, but it's just a matter of finding time to dismantle the entire dash. And then, I'm getting back into the zone where I'm changing too much. I wish this stuff were more simple, but it seems any time I try anything out I'm always the bad egg. 

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Not bad egg, just re engineering 60 years later takes lots of time and money...

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Well that part was supposed to be done for me....

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Posted (edited)

On later model vehicles, there is usually a "dead spline" on the wiper transmission stub shaft.  Usually a similar dead spline on the wiper arm.  That's the alignment positioning system.  One other possible issue could be the bushings in the wiper transmission pivots?

 

No "bad egg" or "rotten egg" or anything of that sort!  For some reason, there do seem to be more "learning situations" than might be suspected.

 

When the cars of the 1950s were designed, although there was plenty of planning for future uses, I doubt that any engineer/designer back then might have dreamed that what was so advanced back then is now very deficient compared to newer vehicles, even newer vehicles which are now 40 years old.  Driving patterns are now generally more intense in nature, which can show up the "weak points" of the earlier engineering advances and some of the improvements which came in the next-gen platforms a few years later.

 

And then there were the demographics of a "typical Buick owner" which Buick apparently knew very well.  When other GM divisions were investigating OHC engines in the 1980s, somebody asked a Buick rep why they were not doing that too?  The reply was that for a Buick customer, "acceleration ended on the other side of the intersection", which is where low-end torque gets you.  Perhaps that additional torque was needed to possibly compensate for the "no gears" automatic transmission?  There had to be a reason for the reliance upon the torque tube set-up as other GM divisions were using multi-piece open driveshafts (with their own unique problems).

 

In the DeLorean book, it's mentioned that Chevrolet was planning to use their PowerGlide "forever", until GM management said they would stop building their PowerGlide and transition into TurboHydramatic automatics.  Possibly similar with Buick and DynaFlow?  The "future" was in step-gear three-speed automatic transmissions IF a car company wanted to remain competitive.  As many solid Buick customers had known about "variable pitch" this or that over the years, the Switch-Pitch THM400s bridged that gap, until the 1968 model year when the fixed-angle stator in the torque converter "decreased operating temperature" (from the sales brochure).

 

For many, the electric wipers was a luxury item, which quickly became a SAFETY item in later years.  After electric wipers were standard, the upgrades became "variable speed" and later "interval" wipers.

 

The "booster" fuel pump was supposed to make the vacuum wipers more consistent in operation.  But as those vacuum systems aged, it probably made less difference.  One of our late chapter members mentioned the brake fluid trick to get the grease and leather in the vacuum wiper mechanism to work better.  He did that on his '58 Buick, but did the Newport Engineering upgrade several years later, raving about how it worked well (installation) and made the wipers more modern in operation.

 

Which brings up "the issue" . . . should we use the older cars in a manner in which they were designed for . . .  OR should we upgrade them to be more fitting for "normal use" of a 1990s vehicle?   As traffic is now full of smaller cars with smaller engines that our older cars "slow down", it can be challenging to drive and enjoy the older vehicles when everybody else around us on the road gets irate at their slowness or longer stopping distances . . . which is tending to get worse with time and newer generations of vehicles AND drivers.

 

Making chassis upgrades should be doable with the correct items without getting into the restomod or custom orientations, using OEM-based items of sufficient durability.  What can't easily be addressed is the "slowness" off-the-line compared to vehicles with "more speeds" automatics.  Even my 2005 Impala is slow compared to many of the newer cars, so a DynaFlow Buick quickly becomes a "profiler" rather than a "quick" car.

 

Over the years, I've heard and read stories of how fast the '56 and later DynaFlow Buicks were, especially compared to the "hot rod" Chevies.  I'm not doubting those accounts from back then, but just don't challenge a 2017 Chevy Equinox 4cyl in one at a red light.

 

Sometimes, it's best to tweak and tune to enhance what's already there rather than to try to make something into something it was not really meant to be.  Build that relationship with your car.  Pay attention to what it's telling you when it feels good and enjoys what its doing.  And IF you're paying attention, it'll tell you when you want it to do something it was not designed to do, too. DON'T make it perceive your are an opportunistic "surgeon", either!

 

You'll BOTH smile when it makes those "happy sounds"!!

 

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)
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Willis, Cam-O-Matic wiper transmissions sweep the entire window vs the stock wiper system. That's how it incorporates the 2-speed function. Fast is short sweep and slow is the wide sweep. With the electric conversion, it uses the wide sweep at full speed and it slaps on both sides. When Newport made the wiper motor specifications, they based it off of a stock system, which is shared between all GM cars that didn't have Cam-O-Matic wipers. Their Special and Roadmaster motor has a different sweep than the Special and Century motor because those cars if I recall correctly came stock with Cam-O-Matic

 

There is nothing wrong with my vacuum wiper, it was reconditioned last year. The system itself is very inefficient. I'm now thinking it would probably be best to invest into some type of large reservoir with a check valve and run the vacuum through it so it has reserve for those tough, intense moments. My other idea was find a 58 Compressor/Power Steering pump that came on GM cars with the air bag suspension Olds and Buicks. A compressor wired backwards becomes a vacuum pump. OR, find a diesel vacuum pump that runs off the engine... OR ideally make my own with the machine shop at school, using hardware store pulleys on a machined shaft and a cylindrical housing with a diaphragm and mounted underneath the power steering pump... maybe I'll start writing up some schematics? Might be fun.

 

Also I want to note, that I have no problem at all keeping up with modern traffic. It's usually the slowing down part, not due to bad brakes or anything, but the added distance to overcome the momentum of a 2 ton vehicle. My new job goes down a really steep incline and without feathering the brakes, it comes to a complete stop at the bottom if I ride the shoes all the way down. There's a pretty large rice rocket community here in town, and I can safely say I've dusted a few in D, not L, on occasion.

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11 hours ago, NTX5467 said:

Driving patterns are now generally more intense in nature, which can show up the "weak points" of the earlier engineering advances and some of the improvements which came in the next-gen platforms a few years later.

 

11 hours ago, NTX5467 said:

Which brings up "the issue" . . . should we use the older cars in a manner in which they were designed for . . .  OR should we upgrade them to be more fitting for "normal use" of a 1990s vehicle?   As traffic is now full of smaller cars with smaller engines that our older cars "slow down", it can be challenging to drive and enjoy the older vehicles when everybody else around us on the road gets irate at their slowness or longer stopping distances . . . which is tending to get worse with time and newer generations of vehicles AND drivers.

 

11 hours ago, NTX5467 said:

upgrades should be doable with the correct items without getting into the restomod or custom orientations, using OEM-based items of sufficient durability. 

 

11 hours ago, NTX5467 said:

Sometimes, it's best to tweak and tune to enhance what's already there rather than to try to make something into something it was not really meant to be.

 

More vintage car owners should read what I picked out of your excellent posting...

 

 

Some AACA members want a car to be showroom/factory stock, and they might be the ones who only trailer it to shows....OR, are lucky enough to live in a very calm area with little traffic or very few modern(impatient/comatose)  drivers.

 

Others profess the demand of keeping a car "AACA stock", but yet ask for help in getting the car to be faster for modern interstate road requirements. 

 

That can be done if properly thought out gear changes are made.  A gearing change might need to be a compromise, if the engine lacks enough torque to either take a long grinding hill on the highway, or being able to start moving at a stop light halfway up a hill, due to the first gear ratio is now too high from the axle gear change.

 

And with doing modifications like this, then it could lead to now not being able to "handle or brake safely" at that newer cruising speed.

 

 

Not many people try to use a "very vintage" car for their primary everyday transportation.   Those that do, live with some compromises.  Some of them can get by with moderate car modifications, and some others just expect far too much from only doing those moderate modifications.  A rare few, do have the skills and knowledge of various component selections, to end up with a very vintage car that still looks the part, but is very capable for todays "real world conditions".

 

 

.

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Posted (edited)

 (1972)In the middle 1980s (30 years ago) we were very happy with a 250 rated horsepower V-8 as "the most powerful" US V-8 motor.  Although many 4 cyl engines had abot 140 horsepower, even that was generally a little more than the middle 1960s inline 6 cyl motors.  Many of these engines were being "strangled" by "highway gears" in the rear axle, although they all had modern 3-speed automatic transmissions.

 

Now, we have turbo 4 cyl engines that are normally close to 270 horsepower (or more) with 8 speed automatics (all of the modern "more-speeds" automatics generally have a 4.50 low gear + torque converter multiplication + about a 3.3 final drive ratio).  These smaller engines rev quick and the 4.50 low gear ratios accentuate that fact.  They also have good and wide torque curves and make some really nice sounds (even at part-throttle acceleration).  The proliferation of such vehicles makes our older vehicles, even the now-30 year old "modern car" ones, "slow pokes" when we are driving them as we did when they were "newer cars".  The younger generations who've grown up with the smaller and faster cars don't seem to understand . . . kind of like some of us might have tended to do with older cars when we were growing up.  Some of the cars of the '50s can be tweaked for improved performance, but others generally can't without extensive modifications to powertrain items (even re-powering).

 

Plus, how many times have the extra space we've allowed in braking, between our car and the vehicle in front of us, as being "extra space" that a smaller car can zip into as we stop?

 

Many of our older vehicles were designed and built before government-required braking performance standards were in place (the later 1960s).  Not about fade performance per se, but brake pedal pressure after extended numbers of stops.  In earlier times, some vehicles stopped well as others were "more normal" in their standard configuration.  NOT to forget the role of modern tires (wider treads) put into that equation!

 

To be sure, older cars had more performance in their "road performance" than we might believe.  It just took more finesse to get that performance out of them.  With the older 2-speed automatics, getting them rolling from a stop with part throttle generally works better than WOT just off of idle, by observation, which can also work better for smaller engines and heavier vehicles.  Using WOT too quickly just bogs the motor and delays higher rpms as a result.  Not to mention taking all of the vacuum advance out of the distributor from the lower intake manifold vacuum!  As I alluded to, learning how to drive the particular vehicle for best performance rather than using seemingly-good techniques.  Sometimes, less throttle can mean more performance.

 

Similarly, transmission shift points (from the factory) are not best for general performance.  When I took our '66 Chrysler to school in Lubbock (1972), I felt it ran good in the DFW area, but out there, it's a drag race at every red light, seemingly.  I'd learned to do a manual downshift to "2" to compensate for the lack of part-throttle downshift, which later TorqueFlites gained later, but  at red lights,  I was getting left in the dust.  I  figured out that a little more throttle, manually shifting at a little higher speeds, would allow me to keep up or in front of traffic.  What that later involved was tweaking the kickdown linkage a little to move the shift points in "D" upward a little so less throttle was needed for better acceleration.  Kept the lower gears a little longer with less throttle.  Even modern (non-electronic control, BUT adjustable linkages) can need this modification!  Vacuum modulated automatics generally don't seem to need this "help".  Not a major adjustment, but a significant one at that AND it's "invisible".  In general, at low throttle, let the trans get into "direct" of "high gear" at about 1000rpm (depending upon axle ratio, 25-30mph) . . . which generally worked well on many vehicles.  Otherwise, after the shift into "high", any acceleration was "on the converter" rather than "gears", with "gears' working better.

 

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)

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19 hours ago, Beemon said:

Willis, Cam-O-Matic wiper transmissions sweep the entire window vs the stock wiper system. That's how it incorporates the 2-speed function. Fast is short sweep and slow is the wide sweep. With the electric conversion, it uses the wide sweep at full speed and it slaps on both sides. When Newport made the wiper motor specifications, they based it off of a stock system, which is shared between all GM cars that didn't have Cam-O-Matic wipers. Their Special and Roadmaster motor has a different sweep than the Special and Century motor because those cars if I recall correctly came stock with Cam-O-Matic

 

There is nothing wrong with my vacuum wiper, it was reconditioned last year. The system itself is very inefficient. I'm now thinking it would probably be best to invest into some type of large reservoir with a check valve and run the vacuum through it so it has reserve for those tough, intense moments. My other idea was find a 58 Compressor/Power Steering pump that came on GM cars with the air bag suspension Olds and Buicks. A compressor wired backwards becomes a vacuum pump. OR, find a diesel vacuum pump that runs off the engine... OR ideally make my own with the machine shop at school, using hardware store pulleys on a machined shaft and a cylindrical housing with a diaphragm and mounted underneath the power steering pump... maybe I'll start writing up some schematics? Might be fun.

 

Also I want to note, that I have no problem at all keeping up with modern traffic. It's usually the slowing down part, not due to bad brakes or anything, but the added distance to overcome the momentum of a 2 ton vehicle. My new job goes down a really steep incline and without feathering the brakes, it comes to a complete stop at the bottom if I ride the shoes all the way down. There's a pretty large rice rocket community here in town, and I can safely say I've dusted a few in D, not L, on occasion.

Isn't the "extra"  belt driven assy that originally came on my 72 Skylark a vacuum pump that was intended to work with the exhaust gas recirculating system? Seems as though that might make an auxiliary vacuum source if you could find one. Seems the mounting was fairly straight forward. Note to self: see if it's still laying around!

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You're thinking of the Air Injection Reactor (A.I.R.) pump, which supplies air to the exhaust manifolds through an assemblage of valves and such.  NO vacuum pump back then.  The belt-driven aux vacuum pumps were originally on the (low vacuum, as they had no power and ran lower manifold vacuum as a result) Olds 307 in B/C platform cars.  The vacuum pumps for the GM diesel V-8s went in the same place as the distributor, in the block, not belt-driven.  This is one of those "emission things" people didn't like, as they took horsepower to run and, along with other changes to the engine calibration, allegedly resulted in a few horsepower less being available.

 

In most GM cars, the default mode for the hvac air distribution network when manifold vacuum goes away is "floor heat & defrost", even if those positions are not selected.  If an engine stays on low vacuum for an extended period of time and the reservoir vacuum is depleted, the air will suddenly start to come out of the floor/defrost vents all by itself, even if it's on a/c.  When vacuum returns, normal vent operation returns, too.  The belt-driven aux vacuum pump should prevent that from happening.  On diesels, I believe the whole hvac system is run off of the vacuum pump that goes in the engine block, where the distributor normally would be.

 

I don't believe you can run a compressor backwards and make it a vacuum pump.  You can change the hoses to make it pull a vacuum, but not hook the wires up backwards to make a compressor a vacuum pump.

 

For newer vehicles, there are booster electric vacuum pumps.  OEMS are over about $200.00.  Aftermarkets are in Summit Racing and similar.  Using one of those wired to come on with the vacuum wipers, plus the check-valved vacuum reservoir, might be an option if you can get it all hidden somewhere.

 

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)

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22 minutes ago, Airy Cat said:

Just don't drive it in the rain.

I live in Seattle and it's the only car I own

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