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Triumph Spitfire - My Brakes - What needs replaced?

Bought a really nice '79 Spitfire last month. A Sunday driver for the past 20 years. 36K on the clock, and most everything is like new.

The brakes were a bit "iffy" from the start. Lots of air and crud in the lines. Hoped to make it for a month or two before replacing what needed to be replaced.

After a nice 150 mile run on Saturday, the brakes started "grabbing" at the stoplight, not wanting to release when the light turned green.

So I plan to replace both front calipers (with new/rebuilt "loaded" units) and both wheel cylinders on the back. I would try to rebuild them all, but I can get all of the above for about $130, and not have to deal with the frozen pins and any other unforseen hassles.

I also plan to rebuild the master cylinder (dual) and replace the rubber brake lines. I've considered going to silicone fluid, but $25/qt is pretty steep, and I don't think I'm ready to replace every bit of the system, which is apparently required to change to silicone.

The big question is, Is it probably the Calipers or the MC causing the "grabbing"?

It's probably the pistons in the front calipers for the disc brakes that are not moving back into the calipers. They are staying out and are left out, grabbing onto the rotor or rotors.

Jack it up in front, use safety jack stands, and remove the front wheels. The use a strong screwdriver and force the linings and the pistons back into the bore in the calipers. Do this for both sides up front. Pump on the brakes and see if they are grabbing again by using your hand to try to rotate the rotor. Repeat this until they all move back freely.

If they don't or won't, you will probably need to remove the calipers and replace the pistons and seals. The present pistons are most likely rusted and won't move back out the way.

Don Elliott, Original Owner, 1958 TR3A - Bought new in 1958
Don Elliott

Thanks, Don. I'm going to replace both calipers this weekend. I can get them at the Autozone down the street (special order, of course)and have them by Friday night. After replacing them as well as the rear wheel cylinders, I'll stay on top of the maintenence (unlike the 2 POs), and when a rebuild is needed, I'll do it myself.

T. M. Brex

This might be calipers, but is more likely a master cyl problem. Bad fluid (many american brands, not predictable) will cause swelling of seals. A little heat, and the seals block off the free return of fluid to the MC, keeping the brakes on. I have been doing British cars (sometimes as a business) since mid 60's, and have had a lot of experience with this. I have done tests of several brands of fluid - as I say, unpredictable, usually bad, varies only in the time it takes. If the fluid is black, it is either bad fluid or oil contamination. The black WAS your seals! I use ONLY Castrol GTLMA. Some of these fluids will also cause swelling of the insides of the hoses with similar results. GTLMA is a far better fluid than anything else you are likely to find, and works well in any hydraulic brake system. It absorbs much less water than other fluids. Darkening of the fluid, short of black, is evidence of water absorbtion and means change it now.
If you can't find it anywhere else you can get it from The Roadster Factory, which is where you should be getting yor parts anyhow. NO, I don't work for them, but they have only best available stuff and they put a lot back into keeping parts available, especially for Triumph.
Good Luck!
FR Millmore

Just pulled both calipers and took them in to avoid the core charge. YOWZA! That driver's side was shot!
No wonder you could turn right with either the steering wheel or the brake pedal.

All the new stuff comes in on Wednesday. I'll keep everyone updated.

Thanks to everyone!

Thanks Don for your info regarding the possible solution for " grabbing " brakes.

I have the same problem with my TR3A on the left front wheel.

As i am quite a novice....can someone tell me how to dismantle the calipers ??

Thanks for any help


You should use the TR3 site below for future TR3 questions.

Do you have the original Triumph Works Manual or the Haynes Manual for a TR3 ? It is all explained there. They are available from Moss in London. I've also seen them in France in the French language.

Jack up the front end. Put jack stands under the frane and shake the body back and forth to check that all is safe. Remove the front wheels. Remove the 2 bolts that can be unscrewed from there. These are inside the front assembly. They hold the calipers to the vertical rod that goes from the axle up to the ball joint. Remove these 2 bolts. Lift up the caliper vertically, with the brake hose still attached. Hang it all with a metal coat hanger to somewhere above, so as not to stretch the hose.

Don Elliott, 1958 TR3A
Don Elliott

A big thanks to everyone who responded. In the end, I flushed everything with denatured alcohol, then replaced the calipers and wheel cylinders. (The lines still look and feel like new). I made the big switch- over to silicone brake fluid. It now stops like a dream.

The only complication: I didn't put the retaining clip/spring thingy on tight enough on the right rear cylinder, so it fell off somewhere, causing a horrible sound not unlike a CV joint that is ready to go. I should have a new one within a day or two.
T. M. Brex

Millmore- What is special about Castrol GTLMA? I have never heard of the problems you describe and I've worked on cars a long time. I'm not being cheeky here, my experience with English iron is limited but I am very curious about this. Thanks.
JET 77

This thread was discussed between 20/04/2004 and 21/06/2004

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