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1964 T Bird emergency brake vacuum release

Discussion in '1955 - 1966 Classic Ford Thunderbird' started by 64ZCODE, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hi all. When I bought my '64 T Bird, the previous owner had disconnected the vacuum to the emergency brake release and told me it was dangerous because these T Birds tend to drop from park into reverse by themselves. Since then, I've read what I can find on this issue and it appears the real culprit is worn shift mechanisms. Catalogues like Bird Nest and T Bird Headquarters have kits to replace the shift detant (sp?) and various bushings in the steering column. Have any of you guys run across this issue?

    For now, I'm leaving the vacuum emergency brake release disconnected. I've added a lever to extend the manual release lever so it is easier to operate and it works just fine.
    Dlluinstra likes this.
  2. Oh yeah, I had the bushing replaced, detant plate, and neutral switch. You know vacuum lines are connected to Neutral switch. That is an awesome idea, to put in a mechanical emergency brake in. Mine is working fine now, but I have no Confidence in vacuums. Great idea.
  3. The problem isn't the brake release, it's the shift lever. This is positively the worst piece of engineering ever to be put on a car, and they were never recalled or a fix made for this.

    I have seen certain "fixes" in the form of new detent plates that help prevent this from happening -- on other years, but not the 1964. There's the shift lever itself that wears, and a "doughnut" inside the steering column that disintegrates and falls out -- you would think that improved versions of these could be made, but nope -- replacements are same as original, and eventually you'll have to deal with them again.

    In the case of the shift lever, I've been told that it's better to use a welder to "Reshape" the wear instead of buying a new lever. The weld makes the metal harder and it does not wear as fast. As for the doughnut, it's plastic, the new ones are plastic, I would think that something could be made out of brass or aluminum but nothing else is out there that I know of.

    There is good news in all of this -- if you swing the column to the right, it's locked in park and can't shift. But if it gets sloppy enough, the parking brake can release anyway.
    Dj-Dan likes this.
  4. Great information Gary!! Thanks a bunch!! DAN (Forest Hill, Md.)
  5. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    The temporary extension I added to the emergency brake lever is about 4 inches long. I didn't plan it this way but it turned out it is quite convenient now to use my foot, not my hand, to press down on the lever and release the e brake. I'm keeping my eye out for a lever and knob more in keeping with the T Bird design theme :)
  6. Angry Bird

    Angry Bird Angry Bird's 64' Lifetime Donor

    I experienced this problem 15 years ago on my 64, that bushing in the steering column (which fell out BTW) was the culprit. I was having to hold the shift lever up with my left hand while starting the car so the park neutral safety switch is effected which would cause the shift lever to drop into gear if not properly locked in park. Likewise, the problem with the parking brake detent is symptomatic of age and wear, granted poorly designed but once replaced has been good since the repair was made. Granted the car is driven only a few hundred miles per year so hoping this is a repair I don't have to visit anytime too soon.

    Still all in all I have enjoyed the car for the last 51 years and plan to for a long time, perhaps as my wife says I will be buried in it! LOL

    Gord, Chatham, Ontario Canada
    Dj-Dan likes this.
  7. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Good way to be buried, that! A little expensive for the required real estate but no casket required. By the way, I have a '69 Galaxie and the shift mechanism is similarly, well, shifty...
  8. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hey Angry Bird, is your TBird the raven black color, and what is the interior color?
  9. Angry Bird

    Angry Bird Angry Bird's 64' Lifetime Donor

    Nope, absolutely not!

    Better it's Caspian Blue with Silver Blue Metallic & Navy interior.

    I have loved it for almost 52 years and every time I get into it is like the very first time behind the wheel.
  11. Stay with what you did, the manual extension lever is simpler and safer. Did the same fix myself
    JOHN A
  12. Can't see how the parking brake vacuum release has anything whatsoever to do with transmission selection. Mine's connected and works great. However, I had a worn detent in my '65 and that was very dangerous so I put an new one in. I also replaced the transmission lever's rubber bush. A bit fiddley but it improved things a lot. In order to avoid wear in the future I make a point of pulling the transmission selector lever towards me before I move it anywhere.
    64ZCODE likes this.
  13. The problem has to do with the fact that the transmission indeed has a tendency to drop out of park into reverse, and instead of the parking brake limiting the movement, it releases by itself. If the problem is only the shift lever/detent plate, it only releases when the lever moves into reverse. If that doughnut is gone, it can release BEFORE going into reverse. But the brake release isn't the problem; usually these care can move backwards even if the brake stays engaged. The real problem is the shift lever action. Again, very surprising that there was never a recall or a fix implemented. Fords had this problem pretty much through the 1970's, and there WAS a change for some of the late 70's models. Again, I've seen fixes, such as reshaped detent plates, for certain years of Thunderbirds, but not for the 64. As for that doughnut, which to me is the bigger problem, it seems to me something could be made out of a different material, such as aluminum or brass, that would last longer than the plastic. If I had a machine shop I'd be getting busy.
    64ZCODE likes this.
  14. Angry Bird

    Angry Bird Angry Bird's 64' Lifetime Donor

    There are of course replacement bushings that can be purchased through various Thunderbird supply houses lie MACs in N.Y. These replacement parts are made of neoprene and they have a key tab on them. To replace that bushing what I did was cut the bushing through the key tab and put it around the shaft and up the steering tube making sure to move a little at a time until it reaches it's natural position. So far so good, 15 years and holding.

    Now if you were to manufacture one of a let's say permanent material I sure would buy one as a back up. One never knows given the growing scarcity of parts for these 50+ year old gems.
    64ZCODE and Dj-Dan like this.
  15. I've had to replace it three times, and now it needs another one. This, over 70,000 miles, but over 22 years -- meaning less than 3200 miles a year.
    64ZCODE and Dj-Dan like this.
  16. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hi all. More on the transmission shifter. I did some tests on my '64 today. On an incline, when I put the car in park and let off the brake, the car starts to roll forward and I hear the "click click click" indicating that the pawl isn't engaging fully in the shaft. The car then pops into reverse. Sigh. Also, the separation between the drive above "L" (little dot?) and L is pretty mushy. As long as I'm careful to position the shifter so that it is fully in the drive position, the car stays in drive. That's something I guess. So my question to you folks is, what needs to be replaced? Is replacing the "doughnut" mentioned in this string the first step, and what is involved in doing the replacement? Thanks for any feedback!
    Dj-Dan likes this.
  17. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Folks, you may already be aware of this. John Draxler has some great shifter troubleshooting advice on his Thunderbird Ranch website. Based on this and input from you all, I'm going to pull the shift lever and get it welded up if that's the issue, then re-install and see if that resolves the issue and go from there.
    Dj-Dan likes this.

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