- Give me a brake.

Rebuilding the Brakes on the Corvair Lakewood

With fresh rebuild kits, hoses, and hard lines in hand, I took the day to restore stopping power to the Corvair Lakewood. In the last installment, we got it running pretty smoothly. Now, we had to make sure that we would not die in a fiery car crash by dialing in the braking system.


Applying pressure to the brake pedal yielded nothing. Even adding fluid and doing a simple brake bleed was not going to get this car stopping. Upon pulling out one brake cylinder, I discovered that the hydraulic system was seized tight. Every classic car collectors favorite chemical reaction, oxidation, had rendered them useless.

I was hoping that I could get the wheel cylinders all rebuilt. I never like to throw anything away if it can be refurbished. However, iron oxide had other plans. The mounting bolts and bleeder screws had become brittle after attacks of the tin worm and snapped off with ease. My heart sank but hope was not lost. I was a little excited to do my favorite technique of welding things apart.

After I welded some nuts to what was left of the bleeders and bolt, I now figured it would all come out with ease. How wrong I was. The rusted metals just snapped even more. I threw in the towel and hopped on the computer to do what I should have done in the first place. I ordered all new wheel cylinders and waited until they would be delivered.

During the wait, I figured I would tackle some other issues while things were apart such as universal joints on the rear axles, adjusting the valve lash on the engine, repacking the wheel bearings with grease, etc. Nature had other plans as it were. In less then 24 hours, the weather went from 70 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny to 30 degrees Fahrenheit and sleet.

I hid inside until the storm passed. While looking out the window in the back yard, I noticed some movement inside the Corvair. I went to investigate and I discovered some birds had taken refuge inside the little wagon.

It was not until Wednesday when the good weather returned. The brake parts had still not been delivered but there was still much to do. The new universal joints went in, bearings were greased, things were adjusted, and other small jobs were ticked off the list.

Finally, Thursday came and so did the brake parts. A little rain in the morning made things dreary but I soldiered on. Everything when back together relatively easily. The rain made for a late start and I had to close up shop before I could bleed the braking system.

Bright and early on Friday, I crawled back under the Lakewood. I adjusted the brakes and made a vacuum brake bleeder out of my vacuum pump and a jam jar. The contraption worked and the hydraulic pressure was restored to the stopping system. The little wagon was back on its wheels and back on the road in over a decade.

What I hoped would be worked out in a weekend had me struggle through nearly six days. It was all worth it in the end, when my brother dropped by with his kids and we took the Corvair for a short skip around the block. My nieces loved the car and even stayed to give it a much needed bath.

The Corvair is done for the moment. Now I can get back on the buggy. I promised it would be on wheels by Easter.

~Stay Ambitious

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