Piston Slap: Of Antique Trucks and Rebuilt Brakes

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap of antique trucks and rebuilt brakes

TJ writes:

My New Year’s resolution this year was to get my grandfather’s 1979 Chevy C10 running and driving again. It’s been parked in the garage since I drove it in there when my wife and I moved into our house in spring 2012. I stopped driving it because the transmission needed (another) rebuild and I didn’t have the time or money then. I’ve managed to get it running (full carb cleaning and new sending unit in the tank) and it will idle after some urging.

Now the next issue: I decided to check the brakes by jacking up first one end then the other and spinning the tires, then having someone step on the brakes (my 4 year old loved it). 3 out of 4 wheels spin, but the brakes don’t stop more spinning. The front passenger is stuck. I was able to get the rotor to turn some with a breaker bar. I could also hear some dragging in the rear passenger drum, but I was still able to turn it by hand. The pedal has some firmness, but not a lot and it doesn’t get hard after the engine is off (have to check the booster once I get the brakes working).

My first thought is to replace the front calipers and rotors (rotors probably need it anyway) and wheel bearings, since the rotors will be off. I’m not above rebuilding the rear drums also. Before I drop a bunch of money on parts, I thought I’d reach out for advice.

Sajeev answers:

A funny thing happened this Tuesday, hours before I got to this query: after 500-ish miles of pleasant motoring in my restored 1989 Lincoln Continental ( TTAC’s Pilot Fish for that other V6 Ford), the front left caliper started sticking. I got to my destination without catching on fire but it’s still frustrating, considering the time (3-ish years) and money (don’t ask) spent fixing everything that looked wrong.

And several mechanics inspected the brakes, but you can’t eyeball the failing guts of a brake caliper, or the internal collapsing of a brake line. So what’s my point?

You better believe you’re replacing/turning/rebuilding:

  • Front Calipers/Pads, Rear Shoes/Wheel Cylinders
  • Front Rotors and Rear Drums
  • Rebuilding the other guts inside those drums
  • Replacing ALL Rubber Brake Lines (three, according to RockAuto)

The C-10 brake bits are pretty cheap online, not super cheap compared to what I just ordered: everything to rebuild mine was $75, including shipping. Everything: mid-quality rotors, rebuilt calipers, Raybestos rubber lines and even Robocop-Car spec pads…yes, the latter really is a thing.

Ah, the joys of owning a high volume/low interest antique vehicle: all the hard work with none of the fame or fortune. So when all the stoppie bits (technical term) arrive next week, I look forward to my next donut with my Cop Car infused Continental. (I’ll do the rear brakes later, I promise.)

Now go rebuild your brakes!

[Images: B ring a Trailer, Sajeev Mehta]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 24 comments
  • HotPotato HotPotato on Sep 07, 2019

    My fantasy truck is a late 70s boxy Chevy shortbed, where the long hood and short bed almost make it look like an awkward sedan...painted poo brown with the off-white toilet paper stripe along the side...with little dog-dish hubcaps on white steelies. THIS GUY HAS MY TRUCK. It pleases me just to know it exists, whether it can stop or not.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Sep 08, 2019

    TJ, Everything Sajeev and Nate said. Enjoy your truck - built before GM decided they could skip the primer coat, like they did on mine - lol.

  • Cprescott Union workers are only concerned about themselves. They don't care who else gets hurt when they throw a tantrum, er, strike.
  • SCE to AUX Not sure where that photo came from, but it wasn't Canada.
  • Arthur Dailey Very few probably share my view, but I believe that the T-roof option is well worth that price.Bring back T-Tops!!!!!!!!
  • Arthur Dailey Referred to in the day as a 'mini-Corvette'.
  • MaintenanceCosts The 3rd gen acquired an unshakable reputation as a mullet-mobile, but the truth is it was one of the best car designs of the '80s, full stop. It's a beautiful car, especially in late-'80s IROC guise, which gave it the best-looking body kit bits in body color. These late RSs look heavy and all the scoops look silly.