Matt Harwood

Why does my 1929 Cadillac ride so poorly?

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All good advice, thanks everyone. I think I know in my heart that I'll have to disassemble the leaf springs and restore each leaf, but I'd like to enjoy the car this summer, so if I can improve the ride even a little by doing a quickie lube on them, I'm going to try. It doesn't hurt. In the fall, I'll pull the springs out and take it somewhere to have them restored and properly lubricated with teflon strips between them.

 

At the moment, my plan is to put it in the air and take the pressure off the springs, use the spring spreaders (that I bought on eBay) to clean them out and spray some lubricant in there. I did a lot of research last night on lubricants and settled on this:

 

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Now hear me out before you tell me it's wrong. One, I see this product come up more than any other when I Google "leaf spring lubricant." Second, it's for chains on motorcylces so it's water resistant AND it is not sticky, so it will not collect dust and debris and exacerbate the condition. Third, it's a semi-dry lube which has a wax-based delivery system that somehow evaporates, leaving the solids and lubricants behind. So it should be pretty dry once it's done. Fourth, it's got high shear strength and handles extreme pressures (which obviously you will have between springs). Finally, it does have some penetrating properties, so it will get into the nooks and crannies where I can't necessarily clean and spray. All told, it seems like the best compromise. 

 

I think the important thing will be actually separating the leaves and cleaning between them--there's A LOT of gunk in there. That might be what's sticking them together. Adding this once they're clean can only help.

 

So that's the plan. I'm going to try to get it on jack stands today and start cleaning by spraying brake cleaner between the leaves then blowing it out with compressed air, then lubricating with this stuff. None of that can hurt and maybe I'll get some semblance of ride quality back. I will definitely report back!

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Matt, FWIW both my 32 Cadillac and 34 Packard came from the factory with the springs covered with articulated sheet metal gaiter covers that were designed to flex with the spring but also to keep the spring from getting dirt and moisture between the leaves. These covers had lubrication fittings so that heavy oil could be pumped inside, plus the Packard had the Bijur system which fed all the spring shackle pivot points with 50 weight oil as you drove. Not sure about the Cadillac but as you know the Packard was all original and both cars rode very comfortably. Was your car originally equipped with some type of spring covers and if so how were they lubricated?

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My 1939 Studebaker Coupe Express has tin plate "articulated" metal sheathes on the front transverse spring. There was a hole in the end sheath on the outside at each end, for oil. The Lubriclamp was used for this job. Inside the sheathes the spring was wrapped in a canvas material to retain the heavy oil. The Lubriclamp has a sharp end to penetrate the canvas to get the lubricant inside it. There was felt on the outer end sheathes, fitting tightly around the spring leaves, to retain the oil inside. If there is no canvas, the oil will just dribble out between the sheathes and if the oil was too thin it would just dribble out anyway. It was interesting to see "8 38" and a number (different) stamped on each sheath when I took mine apart.

 

The problem with these metal gaiter systems was that they were not lubricated more than once or twice after the car left the show room floor. The lubricant dried out and if it had graphite in it, things went badly for the springs from then on. Water would get into the dry canvas and stay there, keeping the springs wet or damp.

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I presume that my car originally had some gaiters of some kind, but I don't know precisely what they would have looked like. I've been looking at having some leather ones made but I wonder if they're necessary given the light usage and relatively clean roads we have today. Fresh leather gaiters aren't cheap (about $1000/set) and I don't know that they'd really add durability in a measurable way, especially if I eventually have the springs rebuilt with teflon between the leaves instead of lubricant. 

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Do research before deciding on liners between the leaves. Just Lube them well and go for a ride to determine if it gains a more satisfactory ride. You can decide how to go afterwards. I like the look of open springing, and the roads are paved.

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I agree with last poster.  They did not have teflon liners when the car was new.  I have always used a graphite based lube on leaf springs but I imagine there are several things that will work.  I am sure  you will be able to enlighten us all when you are done testing  different products.  Good luck!

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FYI -

The Cadillac-La Salle club authenticity manual for 25-29 Cads answers the question of spring covers with a question mark "?"   I guess they have not settled the matter. . . ?

The GM parts book lists 'fabric covers' for 1929 (is fabric also leather?).  It lists metal covers for 1931 and up.  (It is not clear for the 1930 V-8, the 12 and 16 do list covers)  I would not think that they were optional. 

The Eaton spring video referenced above describes that leaf springs prior to 1950 were engineered (type of steel) to be lubricated and after 1950 the steel is harmed by lubrication. 

Edited by m-mman (see edit history)

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They have the correct number of leaves, 11 in front, 9 in back. They may indeed be rusted together or stuck with excess old grease, but I have not yet gone in to make a determination beyond spreading one pair at one spot and spraying it with brake cleaner. That's the whole discussion here--spreading the leaves apart and cleaning/lubricating them to see if that improves anything. Next winter I will completely remove and disassemble them, clean them, and repaint them, then reassemble them with some kind of appropriate lubricant and maybe install some gaiters, although I don't believe that's necessary. That's the long and the short of this entire thread.

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Matt, I have refrained from jumping in. Will now. From experience, getting oil or grease between the leaves will HELP. For awhile. I owned and drove an old semi several years back. The rear springs were worn where the tips of each leave contacted the next. I did , somewhat, what you are planning. The lube is only needed at the ends of each leaf,  and the longer ones most. It won't last forever. On the truck, I did it ever couple weeks, but that was way more miles than you will put on the Cadillac in a year. Try it, you will be surprised.

 

  Ben

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Continental Steel call the 'grease is bad for 5160 steel' idea as BS, or in their words, neither they or their supplier have ever heard of it. Many spring steels are quenched in oil.

jp 26 Rover 9

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The "Graphite Grease" used on springs is not the sort of graphite grease you might encounter today, that has a little graphite in it as an additive. No, this stuff was almost more graphite than grease. Penrite still make it and Restoration Supply in California have it.

 

From the 1936 Pontiac shop manual: "Graphite grease is No. 2 1/2 cup grease to which has been added 40% to 50% graphite by weight. G.M. Number 4529-M"

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Matt, I hope you had some joy with your spring problem over the weekend. Did the leaves seperate when the load was removed?

I was surprised to notice the following in the owners' handbook for my '23 Metallurgique.

'After renewing the engine oil, take a coarse brush and apply the used oil liberally to all of the road springs'. So, in the era of poor and dusty  roads, oil was regarded as acceptable for leaf springs.

Not sure if yours have wrappers, keeping the leaves aligned, but if so, they can be bent outward, then clamped and tapped back into placed. Most likely a more sofisticated method was used to keep them straight, though.

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