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1950 Buick Speedometer Removal

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I need to remove the speedometer from my 1950 Buick Special, and I'm wondering if I just need to contort myself underneath, and behind the dash, or is the panel on the firewall for access to the instruments?

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The panel on the firewall is the access to the back of the instruments and you'll find easy access to the fuses also. That panel has got to be one of the greatest advancements in automotive maintenance of the dashboard. I've got a '54 Mercury also which doesn't have that panel and have spent hours contorted underneath the dash and then time at the chiropractor after. 

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Buford

Thanks for the quick reply. I thought that might be the case with that panel, but was not able to find any info on it. I've got the service manual, and if there's a section on that panel, I totally missed it.

Don

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3, if memory serves correct,(might be 2) small nuts and equally small lock washers hold the unit to the backside of the dash.  As First Born noted...it's in there, just a little buried.  Also comes out easier if speedo. cable is first removed from backside of head unit too.  Should be just thumb tight on there.

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On 1/9/2017 at 1:43 PM, Buford said:

The panel on the firewall is the access to the back of the instruments and you'll find easy access to the fuses also. That panel has got to be one of the greatest advancements in automotive maintenance of the dashboard. I've got a '54 Mercury also which doesn't have that panel and have spent hours contorted underneath the dash and then time at the chiropractor after. 

 

So I removed the panel from the firewall, only to find what appears to be some type of fiberboard covering the opening behind the panel. Not quite sure if it comes out engine side, or from inside the car. It seems to be fairly delicate, and I'm trying not to damage it too much. Are you familiar with what I'm referring to?

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On 1/9/2017 at 1:43 PM, Buford said:

The panel on the firewall is the access to the back of the instruments and you'll find easy access to the fuses also. That panel has got to be one of the greatest advancements in automotive maintenance of the dashboard. I've got a '54 Mercury also which doesn't have that panel and have spent hours contorted underneath the dash and then time at the chiropractor after. 

 

So I removed the panel from the firewall, only to find what appears to be some type of fiberboard covering the opening behind the panel. Not quite sure if it comes out engine side, or from inside the car. It seems to be fairly delicate, and I'm trying not to damage it too much. Are you familiar with what I'm referring to?

54 minutes ago, First Born said:

Dig, unless it has been modified/changed, it should have come out with the panel.

 

  Ben

Ben, it appears that it was glued to the panel once upon a time. I had not noticed that before. I'll try and carefully pry it out. Why do simple projects have to be so complicated?

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Dig, As Ben said, it should come out with the panel. I looked at the one on my '50, which is still removed from the firewall, and see no evidence of gluing on mine. If you don't have it out already, I think you'll find it not to be a problem.

    Assuming that you're removing the speedometer for repair,  and if you haven't already decided where to send it, I was satisfied with the speedometer repair and price for my '53 from Instrument Services, Inc. in Machesney Park, Il.  800/558-2674 for what it's worth.

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Thanks for the repair recommendation. I tried again this morning, and it still does not want to come out. Each time I try, a little more of the edges break off, so I have to be very careful. Something behind the fiber board (if that is in fact what it is) seems to be preventing it from coming out. What are the four bolts attached to behind the fiber board? I'm referring to the bolts that come through the panel, and are secured with a nut and washer?  I'll give it another whirl this evening.

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Dig,  Yes, take out the 4 bolts and you'll find a similar fiber board behind the first. It's been a long time since I took mine out (very long term restoration) but I'm thinking the firewall opening is sandwiched between the two fiber boards. I'd have to assume that there would be a nut and washer on the backside of the second board but I don't remember specifically about that.

 

Alan

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Thanks Alan, I'll give it another shot, also will take some pictures and post for others.

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The thick fibreboard stuff you are talking about does get crumbly around the edges...The insulation (looks like maybe wool or linen-not fiberglass) that's also stuffed into and glued to the bottom side of the dash can also get a little messy too.  Look out for the old rust and dust that tends to "poof" into the air when this stuff gets moved around.  The four bolts you are referring to actually hold the fibreboard (about a couple inches thick) to the metal firewall access panel.  Don't undo those 4 bolts (they're actually pretty long and have a large flathead screwdriver slot in the face of them; the flathead side should be under the dash, and the nuts are on the engine side of the panel) unless you really have to for some reason.  You only need to take out the bolts (something like 6 or 8 if memory is correct) that surround the access plate on the engine side of the firewall.  The fibreboard part should come out with the panel.  If someone along the way has removed those four bolts (freeing the fibreboard from the plate), you'll need to first take off the access plate, and then push the fibreboard out (to the engine bay) from underneath the dash.  The black side of the fibreboard is a bit easy to crush or break as well.  I think you're right in that the fibreboard, at one time, was also glued to the plate.  Mine certainly looked that way...

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Also forgot to mention...Scott Speedometer Service of Pontiac, MI did my work.  Pretty quick turnaround and will call you before doing the service.  As a reference, mine was stuck due to lace of actual use in god knows how many years; cable inside cable jacket to transmission had snapped.  Service was a couple hundred bucks, however, I also had him clean the gauge face, the glass, and replace the outside chrome bezel.  For an additional charge he can also replace the odometer wheels.  I left mine original and asked that mileage not be changed in order to not mess with the declared mileage on my Title.  Speedo now works very well.  Read the Manual closely for the proper length of the cable to use.  On my first attempt, I cut the inner cable about 1/8" too long.  That 1/8" of an inch causes a "whipping" to take place inside the speedo cable jacket and makes the needle of the speedo pulse or jump, also creates an audible ticking noise.

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Great post, thanks. I plan on reattaching the panel to the four bolts, and gently try and pull it out. My only concern is that I pull the bolts through the fibreboard. I suppose if I damage it, but get it out mainly in one piece, I can make a replacement.

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When re-attaching mine, (I didn't realize you don't have to remove those 4 long bolts/screws) I also had a little bit of trouble of the big flathead heads starting to crush/pull thru the black board.  Just don't overtighten them.  I figured as long as it holds it all together, no one is def. going to see it buried way up behind the dash.

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Thanks to everyone for their input. I just removed the fibreboard with minimal damage. I'm pretty sure it is the first time it's been removed, so it is understandable it took a little persuading after 66 years. Time to tackle  the speedometer, hopefully a cable issue.

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 As I reported to everyone that helped, I was able to gain access to the speedometer from the firewall access panel. Removed the cable from the speedometer head, and sure enough the cable was broke at the trans. I have a new cable, but took the old end, stuck it in the speedometer head, and just tried to spin it by hand. I thought it should spin easy, but that was not the case. Now I'm thinking that there may be an issue with the speedometer, which put too much tension on the cable, and caused it to snap. I have three questions: 1. Should the speedometer spin easily by hand? 2. From the firewall side, which way does the cable spin? 3. Will the trans leak fluid if the speedometer cable is not installed? I'm determined to have a working speedometer.

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Depending on how long your speedometer has been stuck, a new cable by itself may not allow the head unit to work...As you noted, either something in the speedometer broke which snapped the cable, or the more likely scenario is that the cable snapped for some reason or another, which, then due to lack of use, caused the speedometer head to gum up and get stuck.  You'll probably need to send the speedometer out for servicing.  Plan on a couple to a few hundred for repair, or watch eBay for a working unit...

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Thanks for the response. So I removed the speedometer and partially disassembled it. I was hoping to find something very obvious as to why it won't spin by hand when I insert a cable end. The good news is the speedometer has the correct date code, and it looks brand new Inside. The face plate is secured by two small screws and the speedometer needle. I'm not sure how to remove the needle without damaging it. My guess is that it is just pushed on, but I'm reluctant to just try to pull it off. Any suggestions on the needle removal? 

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It is just pushed on. You want to pull it off evenly so you don't break the small post. I used a clock hand puller, but 2 small screwdrivers underneath should do it. Protect the face with some cloth so it isn't damaged.

 

I am guessing there is an issue with the gears to the odometer part, either garmed up with dried grease or maybe worse. You're gonna have to do a complete strip to get to those. Be careful when taking off the odometer parts, they mar easily. Also take pics so you know how to reassemble. When you pull the speed cup assembly, hang on to the post as you lift it out, otherwise you will distort or break the hairspring if the cup drops away from the frame.

 

Cheers, Dave

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Thanks Dave. My suspicions are that it is more than just gummed up, or dry grease. I doubt that it would not turn at all if that were the case. I'm trying to avoid the $300 repair bill, so I'll try and pull the needle and see what's what.

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