Diagnosing And Repairing Noises Coming From Your Imperial's Brakes

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Question from Tony (1957):

Recently, my rear brakes, have taken to squealing. It is intermittent and varies from a slight moan to a full blast "fingernails on a blackboard" howl which makes dogs cringe and pedestrians dive for cover. On the other hand, the brakes operate perfectly well and I am pretty sure the shoes are in good order. The drums both have their anti-squeal springs in place. They were turned about 7000 miles back, but the noise is a relatively recent development. Because the sound is so loud it is difficult to judge if it is one or both rear brakes that are responsible, but I think it may just be the passenger side.  Has anyone successfully dealt with a similar problem or do you have any ideas how to suppress the noise?


From Dick:

Sorry to tell you this, but don't just treat the noise, treat the cause. There is probably a loose part (my bet would be on hold down spring hardware) loose in the brake drum, which may in fact have become embedded in the new lining. Pull the drum and take a look, it should be pretty obvious what is wrong. Don't ignore this, you may cost yourself a drum and/or a lining shoe.

From Dave:

My father had a '60 Plymouth Suburban that squeeled on all fours. It was maddening. He never found a solution. He eventually junked the car for other reasons. Later I heard that there were two different widths of brake shoes. If you got the wider ones, they pinched between the drum and back plate. You can test that theory and see if it helps.

Question from Philippe (1957):

Today I drove my car in a lot of "stop and go" traffic and I noticed after 2 or three miles, the front (drum) brakes make some squealing noise when I braked a little hard, especially when the car stopped. After awhile, the noise increased and came sooner. This noise is like when a train
stops at a station !!! Then I stopped the car for 1 hour or two. When I drove the car again, there was immediately no noise when braking... but it came back after 20 or 30 brakes. The noise is coming from the front brakes, not the rear. The rest of my brake system is fine.

Reply from Steve:

Pull your front drums off and clean the brake dust off of the shoes and drums. Make sure to use brake clean or something else suitable. Don't blow off with compressed air-dangerous-asbestos dust! Then take a piece of emery cloth and lightly scuff the shoes to remove the glaze. I have had them so bad that I've also had to resurface the drums due to them being out of round. This should take care of your brake noise.

Question from Jeff (1968):

My brakes hiss when I step on them. The master cylinder is full. Is it the booster or any other suggestions?


From Dick:

There are two common problems that produce this noise. The most common cause here in the high desert is the presence of a rattlesnake under the dash. They react to the proximity of your foot by rattling (sounds very much like hissing) when you press on the brake pedal. This means that you will need to entice the snake to leave the premises before you drive the car again, or else be sure to wear a good set of leather boots when you drive.

If you live elsewhere, the problem is most likely an air leak in the brake booster. This means that you need a new brake booster, available at almost any auto parts store. It is an easy job to change it, if you just pay attention to how things are put together when you take the old one out. All things considered, it is probably easier than curing the first problem.

From Kenyon:

I'd bet on the booster. Mine did the same before going away rapidly.

Time for a brake system upgrade in general? If you have not done so, you may be driving on 35 year old components, especially those 3 rubber flex hoses that the brake people never replace, ever? Sorry if you've heard that one before, but I keep meeting people that seem to think that they'll wait till they have a problem before redoing stuff 'cause "it's working so why bother". Not that anyone on the well-informed IML would do such a thing....

Better look into that booster soon. If it goes out, your car will take both feet to stop manually, and twice the distance.

The good news is that removal can be done by the average person if they look closely at how things are bolted together, and this part may be not such a pain to find. There is no adjustment or anything else besides proper re-installation to do you in, just remember what you did on the way out and reverse the procedure and you'll do fine.

From Bill:

I bet that it is the booster.

From Kle:

Probably the booster's going, but you might want to try replacing the check valve and check valve gasket, first. If that doesn't fix it, then you can always do the booster. I don't know if it's the same one, but NAPA has the booster for my '69 for about a hundred twenty bucks.

This page was last updated October 1, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club