Imperial Wheel Cylinder Repair and Replacement

Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Brakes -> Wheel Cylinder

 Tip from Nick:

Just writing in response to some discussion about using the e-brake to stop an Imperial with failed brakes. My dad had to do it with our '57 Crown Southampton. It happened as we were coming into a town off the highway. I was following him. He changed lanes pretty quick otherwise the vehicle in front of him would've been like a bug on the grill. The e-brake stopped it, but I wouldn't want to have to depend on it for much other than the keeping it up in the driveway. The failed brake was due to a leaking wheel cylinder in the front wheel. We cut off that brake hose, jammed a screw into the end of it, clamped on a screw clamp, bled the system, and were on our way. Nothing I'd like to repeat.

Question from Jay:

Does anyone have a good source for wheel cylinders?


From John:

JC Whitney is the cheapest source I've found. $27 each or $162 for a full set of 6. See catalog 598C, page 175, P/N 55FR3700W. These are new, not rebuilt. JCW has a 10% discount thru 4/30 which will pay the postage and no tax (unless you're and Illinois resident). Their wheel cylinder repair kits are $6 each. On the down side it takes a month to get an order from them. If you don't have a catalog call them at (312) 431-6102. They also sell a heavy duty rear drum puller for a good price -- a must if you are doing any brake work yourself. Another source is the Auto Parts Club. They are in Redondo Beach and Orange County, CA, maybe elsewhere. Call them and ask for the special order desk to see if you can get a quote over the phone. 5% discount to members and they turn special orders around in 5 working days or less. I used to hone and rebuild my wheel cylinders but my time is worth more than the money I save. If you have severe pitting you won't be able to clean them up without exceeding the bore limit anyway. BTW, I use silicone brake fluid after a total rebuild. Silicone won't suck water so failure due to rust out and pitting is no longer a problem.

From Ron:

I priced wheel cylinder repair kits at Schuck's Auto Supply (don't know if they have stores in your locale) for $16 & cents each. I didn't get them 'cause I found a full set of new cylinders PLUS a master cylinder at the annual swap meet in Portland OR last year. At least Schuck's price gives you an idea of what you might be spending.

Question from Steve (1956):

Hey guys my Raybestos supplier tells me that two different types of wheel cylinders are listed, one labeled 'early' and the other not labeled. My car  is and early '56 with  the two speed powerflite. Does anyone know which wheel cylinder is proper  for the car?

Reply from Mark:

Do you know what's different between the "early" and "late" wheel cylinders? According to the Motors book I have, ALL '56's had the same 1-1/8" wheel cylinder diameter. In fact, that specification seems to be the standard for nearly ALL the '53-'56 Chryslers and Imperials, and I would suspect they all used the same wheel cylinders. The only things that may have changed were the size of the holes the into which the steel pipes and bleed screws went. Or, maybe something in the mounting. If there's any doubt, I would suggest removing one of the cylinders, and taking it down the Raybestos supplier and matching them up. (Also, the last time I checked, NAPA carried nearly everything for these '50's MoPars, so you may want to try there, also.)

Question from Dave (1958):

I went to check my Master Cylinder on my '58 Imperial has the Power Brake unit over it. How does one access the master cylinder to remove the top and check/add fluid??


From Denis:

I have a '58, and someone steps on the brake pedal, which collapses the bellows and you can get to the top of the master cylinder.

From John:

The '58 probably has about as little access as the 60 does. I use a 7/16 offset box wrench to loosen the top on my '60. To add fluid, I put a short length of hose on the end of a funnel & easily add the fluid.

From Paul:

If it is factory, you use a 3/8 or 7/16 wrench to remove the screw that holds the lid on the master cylinder. Lift the lid off, and fill if necessary. My trick is to use a small funnel with a length of hose attached to the end of it. Try not to spill brake fluid all over the place, though. It will eat the finish.

Most of this is done by feel since you really can't see what you are doing, except the level of the fluid may be visible if you have good light.

From Marty:

I do the same as Denis, but have cleaned out an old oiling squirt bottle will an extendable hose, and have it just for brake fluid. Just make sure the person does let their foot of the brake. And don't try to compress the bellows with anything, they brake easy, as I found out the hard way, many years ago.

Question from Jeff (1959):

I need to replace the left front wheel cylinders on my '59 Imperial. I  have been told that there are "early" and "late" wheel cylinders on '59.....that Chrysler made the production change in January of 1959.  Does anyone know what the difference is or how to tell if you need the  early or late ones? Are they interchangeable? My car does have 15 inch  wheels, which may mean that it is a late production car. 


From Jeff:

Late production cars have 15 inch wheels and the later brakes. They're still double wheel cylinders, but they do not interchange with the earlier ones. If your car was built with 15 inch wheels, you have the later braking system.

From Bryan:

The wheel cylinders are different and not likely interchangeable.  I have  an early production 59 (sold Dec. 18th 1958) with the 14 inch wheels.  Many years ago the difference was brought to my attention when I attempted  to rebuild the wheel cylinders with a post-January 59 kit: didn't work!  At the  time, I had no trouble obtaining the correct brake cylinders at NAPA.

From Joe:

If memory serves me correctly, the difference in the wheel cylinders was the thickness of the slot to mount the wheel cylinder. I seem to remember that as the reason the fit not fitting. I would imagine then that the plates that mount them is thinner on the early ones. My memory might be gone, but that seems the reason.

Question from Scott (1959):

Does anyone know where I can obtain new brake cylinders for my '59? 

Reply from Bill:

 I would suggest you consider sending your brake wheel cylinders and master cylinder to White Post Restorations in White Post, Virginia, and have them brass sleeved. Then put in your kits and you may never have to rebuild them again.

Question from Norm (1961):

Today I attempted to bleed the brakes on my '61.When bleeding the front, the bleeder stripped the threads in the wheel cylinder. Anyway I need 4 front wheel cylinders and would prefer them to be in Southern California. Anyone know of any?

Reply from John:

I got 2 sets for my '60's which are the same from my local parts store. He ordered them directly from Raybestos.

Question from Stan (1962):

Anybody have any experience with modified wheel cylinder bleeders and brake lines on a '62 Imperial?

Reply from Jack:

I used Classic for my brake lines 5 years ago (stainless steel) their product was first class. Your '62 lines should be the same as my '61 brake lines which are the same as the '60 lines. While your at it,order armorguard which is the spiral covering found in some areas on your original lines. Youre in for a project as these lines were installed before the body was dropped on the chassis. You should also replace your fuel line while your at it. Feel free to contact me if you run into any problems. You also might want to contact StainlessSteel Brakes Corp. in Clarence N.Y. I was able to get stainless steel wheel cylinder bleeder valves from them. Mine were 5/16-24. You might want to send them a bleeder valve to match to make sure. Their phone number is (716-759-8666).

Question from John (1962):

I have a problem with the brakes on my '62 Crown. When I attempt to move forward, the car won't budge unless a I really give it lots of throttle - the brakes seem to be locked on. If I shift into reverse, it goes backwards just fine. If I shift immediately into a forward gear, without hitting the brakes, it drives forward just fine until I touch the brake pedal, at which point it stops as if I had applied emergency pressure.  I have immediately jacked car up in the position it stopped without touching the brake pedal again and turned the wheels by hand. There is slight contact between the drums and brake shoes on each wheel but nothing that you could really call binding. I removed both front brake drums and checked linings and inside of drums without finding anything noticeably wrong (except that the brake adjusters seem to have seized up).  Has anybody any suggestions about what might be causing "self applying" brakes and what is the best way to free up the adjusters? 

Reply from Dick

This is usually caused by fluid on the linings, either axle grease or a leaking wheel cylinder. Usually, if you drive it a few miles, the symptom will temporarily go away (as the linings warm up, they boil off the substance from the surface.) Check the master cylinder reservoir to determine if any fluid is missing. Then, since it is very easy to get the front drums off, take them off first and inspect the backing plate area for any grease around the hub area and any seepage from the brake cylinder cups. If you find grease, you can replace the front hub seals (inside the rear of the drum hub) cheaply and easily, but if you have not done this yourself before, let us know and one of us old graybeards will give you a step by step procedure. If you find brake fluid seepage, take it to a brake shop and have them do the whole job unless you really feel competent on brakes. If the fronts look OK, the bad news is that the problem really is in the rear. You are going to have to pull the drums (sorry about that!) and inspect the rear brakes. This requires a "hub puller" which you may be able to rent or borrow. This is no place to send a boy to do a man's job. You need a good one, in other words. I recommend Snap-on, if you can find one. A cheap on will simply break and may damage your car. If you have not done this before, let us know and again you'll get a step by step procedure to follow (and you may find it in the IML archives, also.) Once into the rear hub area, you will have to determine which of the seals or cylinders has failed, or to be sure, just replace them all. They are not expensive, but you will need some coaching to replace the axle seals if you have not done this before. At this point, I think you should avail yourself of the Factory Service Manual, because you may have to deal with the shims that set the bearing free play in the rear axle, and while your at it, you might as well check the rear axle bearings too! This is how one gets into a complete restoration when the original goal was to repair a malfunctioning horn! Whether on the front or the rear, when you find the contaminated brake linings, you will have to fix the cause and also replace the linings. I have never had success with trying to decontaminate soaked lining. I suppose if one could find the right solvent to soak them in, and then bake them in the oven (which your kitchen inhabitant may object to) you might possible improve them, but I don't think it is a worthwhile use of your time. Buy new ones!

Question from Joe (1963):

I have a wheel cylinder that has the bleeder broken. If I ruin this as I try to fix it (common thing), where are some places to get new ones?


From Dave:

If the bleeder has broken, replace the wheel cylinders. The chances are that the threads are shot too!!!

From Paul:

Wheel cylinders for 1963 Imperial are still readily available from parts houses. I am currently doing a complete brake job on my 1963 Crown 4 Door Hardtop. All parts including new brake shoes were at my local auto parts store the same afternoon.

On another note, I am now using DOT 5 silicone brake fluid so that the hydraulics will stay good in my seldom used vehicles.

From Kenyon:

Since you're going to be doing brake work anyway, and the rear circuit will be purged in the process, may I suggest that you also replace the flexible hose that carries your brake juice from the hard-line that runs down the frame-rail and allows the rear axle to move? If I were you and this has not been done already, you might also want to do the front flex hoses that go from the frame to the F wheels.

Your parts may be as much as 40 years old!!!

I replaced EVERYTHING on my 1960, including all wheel cylinders and MC, swapping to a dual reservoir MC in the process. If your parts are older than 1980, this would be a superb time to do the entire brake system.

Yeah. It costs more than one wheel cylinder, but where one fails, the others can't be far behind?

Question from Kerry (1964):

My 'new' '64 is getting better as we fix little things. However, yesterday when Jeff Carrothers and I took it for a drive we noticed the left rear brake smoking a little when we got back. The brake drum was too hot to hold your hand on. I assumed the brakes were too tight so I jacked it up today to back off the adjustment a little. However, the wheel turns fine and doesn't feel like the shoes are dragging at all. So, what are my options, a bad wheel cylinder that is not letting the tops return? Broken spring? Any thoughts? Unfortunately, this is a 64 and I'll have to break out ye ole wheel puller and probably the torch to get the dang thing off.


From John:

I had the smoking problem on my '69 it turned out to be that the drum needed to be turned. I tried everything I could think of & it still kept smoking until I was so disgusted, the car wound up sitting for 2 years till I attempted again & Norm put me on to the drum problem. This cost me $5.00 & that was all that was wrong with it. 

From Steve:

Is there a possibility that you have a leaky rear-axle/grease seal?? If gear oil has leaked on the shoes, it will cause smoke.  Does the smoke smell like burning brake-shoes???...or does it smell like burning rear-end lube?  Here is a thought/long-shot idea: Maybe some moisture got into the brake, causing the braking-surface on that drum to rust...causing more friction...thus creating heat and smoke. Once you stopped a few times, the rust was gone. .....and if you let it cool and went for another drive, the smoke might not appear again. 

Follow-up from Kerry:

I thought about a leak of some time but that would not account for the hot drum. Today, I put it on the lift and backed the adjuster off. Couldn't find the brake spoon so kludged it with a screwdriver. Anyway, it seemed to solve the problem. There was a pull when I stopped hard so I backed up and stopped hard a few times to let the auto adjusters do their things and it seems fine. Whew! Wasn't looking forward to pulling the hubs but will eventually.

Question from Doug (1964):

My question: in order to remove the front wheel cylinders, is it necessary to remove the backing plate that everything is mounted to? The bolts that hold the wheel cylinders on are not accessible otherwise. The backing plate is held on by 4 bolts, with the nuts being on the backside. 2 of those nuts are normal looking ones, and 2 have slots on the outside face. Is this significant? I'm having a tough time loosening them - they are now Liquid Wrenched - maybe better luck tomorrow. Also, one bolt goes thru a steering or suspension rod or bar (?), if I can get the nut loosened, is something else going to come apart?  

Reply from Brad

The bolts for the wheel cylinders should be right next to the brake line port, on the "engine" side of the hub. Don't remove the four nuts on the "brake shoe" side. If you can see where the fluid lines go into the cylinders, the two bolts fwd and aft of this entry port are the mounting bolts, the other port (that may or may not be in your way) is the bleed port. This should be above the fluid line. It shouldn't take you more than a couple of minutes to get these off, provided they're not rusted solid. The FSM (for 66 anyway) lists this procedure on pages 5-10, and it's only 2 steps. Once you have the brake shoes loose or out of the way... 1. Remove the brake hose (from the back side of the cylinder). 2. Remove wheel cylinder attachment bolts, and slide out the cylinder.

Question from George:

Does anyone have a part number for the master cylinder used with 1967 Budd disc brakes? Every parts house local to me wants to sell me a big single reservoir style and my car originally had a dual reservoir style master cylinder.


From Joachim:

I just changed the master cylinder on my 1968 Crown Coupe with a unit bought many years ago from a NAPA store in L A this is EIS brand and has part number E 64874, also has 2881870 number, this may be O E. It should be the same for 1967.

From Dick:

These are in stock at NAPA stores, Iíve bought two of them within the last year. You donít need the part number; just ask for what you need at the counter. All 67 Imperials use the same master cylinder, and they all have dual reservoirs (as do all other US built cars of that year and later).

Question from Mark (1968):

My "new" '68 Crown has a small leak at the LF wheel cylinder and I was going to order a kit to replace the seals. My worry, though, is that there may have been more than one manufacturer . . . and the kit won't be right. Or does it matter? Are the parts all interchangeable within the same model year? I am guessing since the car appears to be all original and low mileage, I have Budd brakes. Yes, no? 


From Kerry:

Actually Mark, all you really need are the rubber cups inside the cylinder. The rest of the 'stuff' rarely goes bad. The cups are available at any decent parts store and are dirt cheap. I'm assuming that this is a "normal wheel cylinder" Budds may be different.

From Rolland:

I believe any wheel cylinder kit for a 68 would be correct. Most kits include only the cups and the boots and sometimes the internal spring. If the new cups are the same diameter as the old one you should be fine. The size is usually molded into the inside of the cup. You also need a good brake cylinder hone to clean up the cylinder before you install the new parts.

Follow up question from Gregg:

I'm confused -- the original post for this mentioned Budd Brakes and front wheel cylinders at the same time. I only know of Budd brakes as four-piston caliper set ups. When you're talking front wheel cylinders, then you're talking front drums. So which is it?

Reply from Dick:

I think someone forgot that the '68's have disk brakes. However, to be strictly correct, even disk brakes have "wheel cylinders" that operate the brakes. They are more normally referred to as calipers, but in actual fact, the hydraulic parts that operate the calipers are cylinders. It's just that their pistons have short strokes and fat bodies (as opposed to the long stroke skinny ones on drum brakes). Also, they move sideways, instead of forward and backwards.

Reply from Mark:

I'm aware I have disc brakes up front, but if I'm not mistaken, even disc brakes have a cylinder that pushes out and makes the disc clamp down. I don't believe it's just a straight mechanical function - there has to be a hydraulic system in there operating the discs. Otherwise, what would be leaking?

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