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Help adjusting the front brakes on a 37 D5 coupe.

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Hi guys, need a bit of help. We have a 1937 Dodge D5 coupe, I can't get the front brakes adjusted/working properly.

I have all new/good parts fitted have just serviced the brakes and changed out the master cylinder. Here's the problem I have, when up on jacks all the brakes work well when the pedal is pressed, get it out on the road and the rears lock up when an emergency stop is carried out but the fronts won't lock.

I think it has something to do with the front adjustment. I am confident that I have set the shoe adjustment correctly with the large adjuster nuts but am unsure of the procedure of adjusting the concentric adjusters in the steering arm bolts, which seem to move the shoes up or down in the drum. I did alter these quite a while back and the brakes were transformed but since I have re furbed/put them back together I no longer know where/how to set them up.

Any help would be greatly appreciated as my wife wants to drive her car as she's had it three years now and its onlycovered about 400 miles due to continuing steering/brake issues.

Cheers Paul.

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"What's called a "Major Adjustment" to the Wagner/Lockheed brake shoe positions is a bit more complicated than the standard "Minor Adjustment" for wear that is handled with the larger adjusting nuts. The Major is used when the shoes are resurfaced or replaced or the drums resurfaced.

The Minor is just for periodic wear adjustments. The minor can be done easily by just spinning the wheel and pulling down (I believe) the adjustment wrench until drag is just barely felt in the spinning wheel's motion, then back it off just a smidgen (technical term) until the wheel just spins a bit more loosely. Do this for each shoe on the wheel. As this adjustment is made the fluid level in the Master Cylinder will drop so be sure to keep it topped off as you go.

On a "Major Adjustment" you really should use special brake adjusting tools that are able to measure the size of the refinished brake drum and then transfer this measurement to the axle shaft so you can see where the heel of the brake shoe should be. Then the elliptical anchors are turned to position the heel of the shoe in the right place. Once that is done, and while the tool is still on the axle, the toe adjustment is done. You have to watch the fluid level in the Master Cylinder for an "over fill" condition as the wheel cylinder pistons are pushed back into the wheel cylinders. This is because the new surface on the shoes causes the shoe to be thicker and the tips to push back into the wheel cylinders a bit.

Now, the trick with all this is that you probably don't have the measuring tool, They are out there for sale once in a while but for some reason they are VERY expensive. Like in the area of $400.00 or so! So ultimately you will either need to find the tool somewhere and borrow it (good luck) or you will need to devise some other way to do this measurement. Some people have cut a small notch in their brake drums to be able to see the shoe move at the drum rim surface. I don't think that is really a good idea because it can weaken the drum. Another technique is for people to make their own "tool" for measuring, so that it would work in a similar fashion the the "real" tool. All this is the bain of the Wagner/Lockheed brake owner!

You may be able to do a Google Search for something like "Wagner Lockheed major brake adjustment" or such and come up with some ideas. Maybe our friend "ply33" has come up with a technique and posted it on his site. It is all a matter of looking around to find suggestions that you feel comfortable with or you can afford.

The back of the specific Parts Manuals for your car should have photos in it of the "Miller" brand brake tools used for this. I have tried to attach a PDF of some info on this tool. I have also attached a photo of the newer "Aamco" tools available on eBay and such if you want to spend the cash. Then you will be my best friend!

Good luck and have fun!

Miller US Patent #2005870 BRAKE GAUGING DEVICE.pdf


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The tool D-2 suggested is a must have and is easy enough to make. I am sure someone here will post a photo of the home made version. If not I will find it and post it

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Superb replies guys. It all makes perfect sense and will be no problem making the device to set them up correctly. Thanks very much for the info and the pictures, makes life so much easier. I am positive this is my problem with the brakes. I have played around with the adjustment all weekend with varying degrees of success. The brakes work, and the pedal is now excellent, its just that the fronts aren't biting like they should. Seems to me that they aren't pushing against the drums as they should. Seems like my theory may well be right.

I will have another go next weekend and report back.

Many thanks Paul.

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