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Old 01-08-2014, 01:08 AM   #1
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Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

Hi,

I have a Ford B800 that is about 36' long... I have been stationary in Upstate NY for the last 6 months and am in need of moving 250 miles to South Jersey within the next month or so...

When I first drove the bus to NY, the brake light was on and the pedal was soft.... I eventually found a pinhole leak in the rear hydraulic brake line, near the differential. I also noticed profuse leaking of ATF along the passenger framing... apparently the e-brake was rusted and leaking. So now I am stuck in park and have to get a new hydraulic hose connected for the e-brake, and bleed the two lines....

I was curious if this is doable for a newbie.... I am experienced at working on Mercedes diesels but not buses! I've redone entire brake systems, bled, etc on my cars. The big hitch is that the bus is stuck in park and it's also on a slight incline.


What's the typical DIY approach to bleeding hydraulic brakes? Will gravity bleeding work? How much brake fluid should I expect to buy? 3-4 quarts? I don't have access to a pressure bleeder, but t I do have a vMityVac
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Old 01-08-2014, 01:26 AM   #2
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

My bigger concern is the e-brake line. The brake springs are engaged by default (for safety) and if I get the reservoir filled with ATF, how much might I need? The reservoir is about a half gallon size and the line is probably 20 feet. The fluid is also shared with the brake booster, so I'm assuming I have to bleed the booster (if so, is gravity drip good enough? Or should I vacuum via my MityVac?).

The part I'm concerned about is preventing the bus from rolling away. How realistic is that, on the incline? I think it has settled a bit so I may need to do some digging. Someone suggested to chock the wheels with firewood... though I don't see how that would stop it. The worry is just it rolling as I bleed the coil spring cylinders (whatever they are called). This is a one man job unfortunately. Would bleeding one side at a time keep the bus from possibly rolling? (Plus the settling in the ground).... How can I tell the difference between the wheels just being stuck and the e-brakes not working still?)

Even once I get it out of my driveway, I am concerned about timing with the winter weather. This is Upstate NY... it has been below zero lately.... warnings of ice on roads.... and a nasty down slope at the end of the road to the valley below.... I guess I'd go super slow if I need to...

What's the best timing? While its still frozen so I don't get the bus stuck in the mud? (There is a nasty mud patch in the way) And drive once it is well above freezing, ie 40s? It would seem that it could be a slow 2 week project to time perfectly. I then have to load the thing up and honestly it was a bit scary to drive at first with the wobbling and sagging.... Maybe worth getting the tires pumped up a bit before leaving town? They are a bit worn and dry rot which leaves more concern, but my budget is nil, other than the brake fluid and the gas to get to my destination.
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Old 01-08-2014, 12:20 PM   #3
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

The Mity Vac should do the trick if you can't come up with a pressure bleed tank. After you have assured yourself that there are no longer any leaks in the system (even a tiny pinhole in a line will allow air to enter the systen causing a spongy pedal and erratic braking) begin your bleed at the port nearest the reservoir and work your way to the port located farthest from the reservoir. Keep careful watch that the reservoir does not run dry as this will introduce air to the system. Purchase several qts of fluid and return what you do not use. A good heavy chain around a good heavy tree might add a margin of safety after you define "good heavy". Good luck
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Old 01-08-2014, 06:56 PM   #4
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

I found an easy way to bleed brakes a while back but you have to cobble up some very complex equipment.



Basically, it's a gatorade bottle with a hole drilled in the top and some 1/4" tubing snaked in through the hole. Another small hole drilled in the cap allows air to vent.

To bleed the brake cylinder you put a few inches of clean brake fluid in the bottle, crack the bleeder bolt loose 1/8 turn or so then slip the free end of the tubing over the bleeder bolt nipple. Slide the cable tie down to hold the tubing securely on the bleeder bolt then put the bottle up higher than the brake cylinder so no air can get back into the cylinder. Top off the master cylinder then hop in and pump the brake pedal until you feel the pedal get firm checking the fluid level in the master cylinder often so you don't run it dry and pump in more air. Once the pedal feels firm go back and tighten the bleeder bolt then recheck your pedal feel. It should be high and firm.

This is a good way to flush your brake fluid too.
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:34 PM   #5
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

Good idea Roach--that'll get 'er done as well.

A thought just occurred to me about using the Mity Vac (or any suction device) to bleed brakes. I have often found that by the time you loosen the bleed valves enough to get fluid to flow, the valve fittings themselves begin to leak air around their threads because of their tapered threads (like pipe thread). You can overcome this problem by coating the threads on the removable fitting with heavy chassis grease which effectively seals the threads well enough to allow the vaccuum pump to bleed the system without air leakage. As long as you don't jamb grease into the cylinder itself you will not contaminate the new brake fluid. It will be interesting to see how you work this all out so please post "The Tale Of The Brakes" for all of us to learn from. Thanks
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:42 PM   #6
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomas_maly
. . . . The part I'm concerned about is preventing the bus from rolling away. How realistic is that, on the incline? I think it has settled a bit so I may need to do some digging. Someone suggested to chock the wheels with firewood... though I don't see how that would stop it. . .
Not counting the sculptured metal chocks, truck chocks are about the same as or just a bit bigger than 4x4 lumber. While kindling won't work, big wedges of split tree trunk logs should be fine as make-do chock blocks. Unless the incline is steep in one direction, chock both sides of all the tires.

The point is not to stop a rolling bus, but rather to prevent it from starting to roll. Once it gets going its momentum would likely carry it right over the top of any chocks, but standing still the chocks just have to be big enough so the bus does not climb over them.

If your ground is soft, I would highly recommend driving out while the ground is frozen, and don't wait for the mud. I know the city has some nasty hills, but once you are downtown you should be clear all the way to Jersey. If you have to descend an icy hill, come to a complete stop at the top, lock the transmission in the lowest gear, and creep down the hill. Use engine braking or a retarder if you have it, or slowly pump the brakes as you go down.

Remember, if the front tires do start sliding, you have no steering. Don't just panic like most people and stand harder on the brakes until you slide to where gravity wants you. Instead, force yourself to lift off the brakes occasionally so you can get the front wheels rolling again so you can at least aim that missile. I used to reverse the emergency brake latch on my service vans so I could use the e-brake pedal to stay slow via the rear wheels on slick roads, and leave the front wheels turning and steering.

I'm pretty sure that within a few hours or a day of an ice storm, the city will have the roads passable. Bumpy frozen ruts edges will give you more control than black ice or soft snow over an ice layer. Ride over by the curb with the right tires on frozen snow if need be, instead of staying in the tracks created by the cars previously gone by.

Let us know how you make out.
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Old 01-09-2014, 11:06 AM   #7
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

I like the chain and tree idea... I actually have two heavy duty truck straps that worked well before pulling the bus out of a muddy yard once.... Feeling relieved.

I am thinking it is better to first get the brakes done and get the bus out of the yard and into the gravel driveway... I have a bunch of cleaning, reorganizing, and packing to do. Probably should wait for after the bus is moved. I can then more easily get the gas tank filled, siphoned from my car. I might be here for a few more weeks but at least I'll largely be ready to go. With the frigid storm last week, I was stranded at home for 3 days because my diesel car wouldn't start! Seems that I got a tank of fuel from WV that must've not been winter blended. The temps in the single digits was just enough to make the fuel gel. I could use slightly better weather pretty soon.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:05 PM   #8
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

UPDATE

I finally got around to replacing the e-brake hydraulic line and the rear brake line.... The bus was strapped around a tree uphill so "just in case".... It didn't budge, obviously. The rear pedal brakes were not easily bled, I still don't know if they're 100% bled but the brakes respond wonderfully, so I'm not fussing. The bleeder valve is in such an odd spot that a wrench (even if it's bent) won't fit, so I think the best approach was just using a ratchet to loosen and then by hand.

The e-brake bleeding is MUCH easier, I just had the bus running while I opened the bleeder valve on the spring box (going into a tube into a container). At first I couldn't figure out how to properly open the bleeder valve, but apparently it's supposed to open near the top of the valve. I flipped the e-brake on-off several times, then waited for a solid stream of fluid to come out, then closed. The bus was settled a bit, so I had to try several times pumping hard on the gas pedal to get it to rock out of the spot. I think the hardest part so far was probably just getting the dang bus to start at all. The weather was in the single digits and even with 2400 CCA, it wasn't igniting. I waited until it got into the 20's and it was much easier to start.

I bled the brakes the best I could just by priming the pedal and waiting for enough fluid to come out. I was honestly broke, so I was down to my last 2 quarts of brake fluid (2.5 is maybe the capacity), hoping it would bleed.

At the last dang minute as I was bleeding the rear brakes, the front driver's brake line gave out (rusted) and gushed probably half a quart of fluid everywhere. Not exciting given that I had no money for more fluid. Luckily, the brake line was just $7 at any parts store (for a fixed 3 foot line) and I just bent it to fit and adjust the length.

After all that was said and done, I lost the copper o-ring that secured the front brake line to the caliper, so it was drip leaking. I had to buy a spare set of copper brake line washers from the parts store, about $4.

There was apparently a very big snow storm over the two weeks I was away from my bus, so the snow was everywhere. I didn't feel like shoveling, so I tried moving the bus through the snow. At 1.5 feet deep, it didn't prove wise. The bus got stuck a few times, so I had to shovel around the thing. I backed it out of the driveway wrong so it was starting to go into the front yard instead of down the driveway. It was a pain to get it back UP the driveway and straightened out... I ended up just shoveling part of the yard and have it go down a bit sideways.

I would generally recommend shoveling better in the future because I had the bus slide a bit uncontrollably at a few spots, it was kinda scary because there was a tree that it was maybe 2 feet away from hitting as it was sliding sideways down the driveway.

In the end, I got it out of the driveway, onto the street, and got all the brakes bled. I felt much more comfortable driving after that because I had to pump the brakes prior.

It was overall a bit scary trying to time the whole event with the unrelenting storms coming through every week or so..... I was supposed to leave on a wednesday but there was a nasty storm predicted, so I left the bus in NY while I drove my car down to NJ, then had to make a friday flight to CA, came back a week later, then waited a few days to take a greyhound back up to NY, hiked several miles uphill (carrying 75 lbs in bags), finally got there (was really paranoid the bus was gonna be broken into or entirely disappear, but it was all ok), then worked on the rest the next day. There was yet ANOTHER storm on the day I got up there, so I was glad to get a ride on a greyhound and then wait until the next day to leave so the roads could be plowed.

I think this is gonna be my last cold winter, I honestly might be headed somewhere to the southwest.
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Old 03-01-2014, 11:11 PM   #9
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Re: Brake repair for DIYer, winter driving suggestions?

The rusted brake lines are a bummer, but it's way better to find them in your own drive than out on the road.

Sounds like you're on the right track but take a good look at the other brake lines. If one is that bad the others may be too. Brakes are not the place to economize.

Hopefully we'll get some warmer weather soon. I know that working under a bus in the winter sucks.
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