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Old 01-08-2021, 07:02 PM   #1
CaliforniaBorn36
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Default What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

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Originally Posted by BobR35 View Post
Just thinking about upgrading my brakes to hydraulics. Driving it a lot and realizing if you're going drive often and be safe it would make sense. My'35 brakes work well but not good enough for traffic these days. Just saying......
This statement confuses me, but then maybe I do not understand. Mechanical Brakes and Hydraulic brakes both stop the car by forcing the brake shoe against the drum, they just use different mechanisms to apply pressure. SO, why do people imply that hydraulic brakes are safer? I can lock up the mechanical brakes on my '36, (don't ask how I know). So, the only way to make them safer would be to increase the contact patch of the tires so there is more resistance to sliding and therefore better stopping. Oh, and I don't have to worry about brake fluid or loss of pressure in the system. If one brake rod were to break, I would still have 3 functioning brakes.

Please help me understand why hydraulics brakes are perceived to be safer. I understand that the use of hydraulics multiplies the force applied to the pedal, (requiring less force from the driver), but aside from that is there something else I am not considering?

Brakes stop the tire from rotating, so bigger braking surface stops the tire faster, (important with higher powered vehicles, and maybe at higher speeds). Tires stop the car from moving in it's current direction, (so a larger contact patch will improve that action). I could put bigger brakes on a car, but unless I increase the resistance of the tires, I am just going to lock up the brakes and skid sooner, No? Locking up the brakes is not desirable in an emergency situation.

Always interested in learning. Also thinking that many people make this upgrade without understanding it's limitations as well.
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

I believe many folks "upgrade" (that's what they call it) as they don't know how to repair as necessary, install and adjust mechanical brakes.
Often times I dare say, the same guys "upgrade" to 12v. simply because they lack the skills necessary to get the 6v. system operating properly.
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:21 PM   #3
19Fordy
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

I think you answered you own question when you stated, My'35 brakes work well but not good enough for traffic these days. Just saying......" and then following up with " I understand that the use of hydraulics multiplies the force applied to the pedal, (requiring less force from the driver)..."

Some folks may not be strong enough to consistently apply the force needed to make mechanical brakes perform to their max when needed. Just not efficient.

Surely, Henry Ford did some research on this. As vehicles became heavier and larger improved braking systems were needed.

Last edited by 19Fordy; 01-08-2021 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:22 PM   #4
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Its also, the replacement parts are readily available. Walk into a napa and ask for a 37 ford right rear cable
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:26 PM   #5
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

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Originally Posted by 19Fordy View Post
I think you answered you own question when you stated, My'35 brakes work well but not good enough for traffic these days. Just saying......" and then following up with " I understand that the use of hydraulics multiplies the force applied to the pedal, (requiring less force from the driver)..."

Some folks may not be strong enough to consistently apply the force needed to make mechanical brakes pwerform to their max when needed. Just not efficient.

Surely, Henry Ford did some research on this. As vehicles becam heavier and larger improved braking systems were needed.
This is a good point ... the strength of the driver (or lack thereof) issue.
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:27 PM   #6
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

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Keep your mechanicals. I wish I'd kept mine instead of installing the Lockheed hydraulics. FlatheadTed's bendix-like conversion kit for mechanicals should make a big difference. I just wish he'd hurry up with the conversion kit for the Lockheed hydraulics. 8^) Jack E/NJ
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:45 PM   #7
19Fordy
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Old technology is not always the best technology needed for the demands of the situation.
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:48 PM   #8
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

19Fordy, The beginning of my post is a quote that someone made on another post that I did not want to muddy up.

I am planning to keep my mechanical brakes on my '36 unless I cannot find parts at some point in the future. Just putting this out there so others thinking about making the upgrade understand and can make a better cost versus benefit decision.

As Kube points out, I think a lot of money is spent unnecessarily because people get convinced that things are better, when in fact, that is not necessarily the case, or they don't understand how to fix what they have.

If stopping safely is the concern, there are other options like:
1.) Minimize freeway driving to minimize exposure.
2.) These cars are old, don't drive them like today's cars. Drive to the right. Slower
3.) Increase tire width to get more tire on the road, also make certain tires are not dried out and therefor less flexible.
4.) These cars require us to be present, don't let yourself be lulled into that state your modern high tech transportation allows you to.
5.) What did we learn years ago in driver training...drive defensively
6.) To the best of your ability, leave a safe distance between you and that guy in front of you.
7.) Don't just get there, enjoy getting there

I am not lecturing, just saying be careful and enjoy the ride. Some "upgrades" may not be worth the time or effort, and/or leave the driver with an inflated feeling of improved safety.

While these vehicles are expensive, unnecessary "improvements" can easily multiply the cost of ownership and discourage some of those who might truly enjoy the hobby.

Last edited by CaliforniaBorn36; 01-08-2021 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:50 PM   #9
Jim in Wisconsin
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

How could hydraulic brakes multiply the force? The power comes from your leg pushing on the pedal, the result is the shoes pressing on the drums. If no other power source is used, how could there be any multiplication? There is no such thing as free energy. Extra leverage can increase the pressure at the shoes, at the expense of longer throw, but that can be done with either system.
There is less friction in a hydraulic system than in a mechanical one, other than that, they are about the same.
Henry said "The safety of steel, from pedal to wheel".
Well maybe it was some ad guy that dreamed it up, but Henry agreed. He fought against hydraulics for a long time, but finally gave in.
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

All manufactures upgraded to hydraulic brakes, Ford just lagged behind because of Henry's resistance to change. They tried the cable brakes first for two years. Nothing wrong with keeping a stock car stock/original, but Ford (and everyone else) upgraded for a reason. Jim the multiplication factor comes from the relative size of the master cylinder vs the wheel cylinders. One of the big issues was the brakes at each wheel working evenly, this becomes a factor on any slick surface. If the brake force is not applied equally the vehicle will pull in one direction or the other. Hydraulic brakes are much easier to get to work equally.
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:21 PM   #11
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Part of the problem with mechanical brakes is that they must be maintained. As levers, bushings, pins, rollers, etc. wear, they induce slack in the system, causing uneven braking. They also require lubrication. I just did a complete restoration of a 1929 Ford mechanical brake system. When I started, you could press the brake pedal with both feet and the car wouldn't stop. I can now "lock em up" and bring the car to a quick stop from 50 MPH.
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:30 PM   #12
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

I think that part of the attraction of hydraulic brakes is a lack of understanding what constitutes a good mechanical brake system and what is required to maintain its efficiency. There have been numerous threads on this site where it is obvious that the basics have not been given a lot of thought and/or the car owners do not have the widely-available Ford service bulletins to inform him/herself how to keep their brakes "as new".


Your point about the role of tires in braking is an excellent one. Not only is the width of the tread important but also the tread design to at least the same extent. The tread designs on many of the flathead-era replacement tires, most notably the Firestone 16" and 17" tires, are the antithesis of effective braking, be they hydraulic or mechanical systems.
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:45 PM   #13
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Hydraulic linkage does NOT always multiply the pressure going to push brake shoes against the drums.
That depends on the size of the master cylinder piston compared to the wheel cylinder size.
If you make a brake pedal three feet long and put it in a ‘37 Ford you will not have to push very hard to stop the car, but you will have to have a much longer stroke before you get everything working.
Same with hydraulic.
If you use a master cylinder that has a smaller piston you will not have to push as hard but the pedal will have to move further.
As a side note, Bugatti last built cars in 1941. They NEVER built a car with hydraulic brakes.
I have had cars with mechanical brakes, they worked well but were a pain to get working right, so I prefer hydraulic, until I break a hose, or blow a cylinder.
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:53 PM   #14
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

There are others but reply # 9, 10 & 11 are technically correct. The total force applied to the system is via the leg muscle. This energy / force is transmitted to the brake shoe. The hydraulic system is slightly more efficient in doing this as it does not have to deal with the friction in the various levers and pin joints. How much? We can calculate it easily but the answer is "not much " you would not be able to tell it. The two main reasons for hydraulic brakes is 1) maintaining the adjustment of mechanicals is much greater than hydraulics (thanks Bernoulli ) and 2) the manufacturing cost is less when you consider all the brackets ,rods levers etc and the labor to install and adjust.
I have mechanicals on my 32. Hydraulics would do nothing. My 40 has hydraulics because it came with them. Calculations available, but not necessary. Hydraulics can not generate more force/energy than we put into it.
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:58 PM   #15
Aarongriffey
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Hydraulic brakes always get the same amount of pressure to each wheel.
From there wheel cylinder size decides how much less pressure is put on the rear shoes compared to the front.
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:01 PM   #16
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Sure is a lot of misunderstanding on how hydraulic brake systems work!
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:14 PM   #17
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

My buddy had a '35 5W hotrod that retained it's mechanical brakes. The car stopped great. Looking it over, the system was "kept up" and adjusted correctly.

By kept up, I mean maintained. As these cars got older, it must have been amazing to see the crap people would do or how far they push things to the wear limit.

Bent and severely rusty brake rods, worn out parts from lack of greasing, etc. Pedals that can rock back and forth due to completely worn out bushings and shafts, etc.

Just as a hydraulic system can be crappy as well. Ill adjusted brakes, etc may not have the system working correctly.

As fond as it is to go down memory lane (recent thread about bailing wire holding a carb return spring and the reluctance to fix it correctly just because Gramps did it that way) are prime examples of all the farmer fixes and shade tree mechanics that people have done to these old Fords to keep them on the road.

Personally, as a hot rodder, I just love the look of a '40-style backing plate and will continue to use them unless I purchase a car without. I would not bother to convert them.

Last edited by Tim Ayers; 01-08-2021 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:14 PM   #18
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Yep. Mechanicals too. Jack E/NJ
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:18 PM   #19
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kube View Post
I believe many folks "upgrade" (that's what they call it) as they don't know how to repair as necessary, install and adjust mechanical brakes.
Often times I dare say, the same guys "upgrade" to 12v. simply because they lack the skills necessary to get the 6v. system operating properly.
I couldnít agree with you more. Itís never been said as eloquently before !
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Old 01-08-2021, 10:27 PM   #20
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Default Re: What are the advantages of upgrading to Hydraulic Braks

"Mechanical vs. Hydraulic Brakes" follows along the same conversation as "Which Oil is Best?"
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