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Q&A with Kit Foster: May 10, 2012

Q. I recently purchased at auction a khaki-colored metal box measuring 9 x 13 inches containing speedometer repair parts made by Continental Products, Chicago, Ill. It comes with the company catalog and contains inner cable and what appear to be both upper and lower ends. Any idea as to what era this belongs to?

Paul Rochmis, Vienna, Va.

A. Speedometer cables, another timeless automotive technology now virtually obsolete, were pretty much the same over their entire history. It sounds like you have a generic repair kit. To install a new cable in your car, you’d extract the defective inner core, use it to measure a new one, cut it to length and stake on the ends (crimp them soundly). Rub it in graphite (never oil, grease nor, gasp, WD-40) and feed it down the sheath. Connect the ends and you should be back up to speed. It’s another case were if the part fits, it’s ideal for your car.


Q. I’m writing in response to Lamar King’s question (Q&A Mar. 29) about how to remove a brake drum where the shoes are frozen to the drum. While a three-legged puller will work, there is some risk of damaging the backing plate if the shoes don’t let go. When I was faced with this problem — and lacking a puller — I took a different approach.

The brake shoes are held to the backing plate by the hold-down pins, anchor pin and wheel cylinder. Carefully cut off the back of the hold-down pins (a small chisel works well). If the anchor pin can be unbolted with the drum in place, do that, too. Then, unbolt the wheel cylinder and its brake line. Give the wheel cylinder (and anchor pin, if you’re able to unbolt it) a tap or two with a hammer to loosen it/them. If you were able to unbolt the anchor pin, the drum will come right off (this was my experience). If not, you should still be able to wiggle the drum enough to get the return springs and shoes past the anchor pin. If it still won’t come free, it may come off far enough that you can stick a crowbar between the drum and adjusting screw, and apply force only to parts you’re going to replace anyway. You may also be able to spray some penetrant on the shoes as well.

Ted Brooks, Raleigh, N.C.

A. I’ve never had to go to that much trouble to free a stuck drum, but I’ve had a puller in my tool box for many years — and I’ve never bent a backing plate. Stuck drums usually occur on the rear, when someone has left the parking brake on. Often it will release if the car is pushed backward on its wheels; drum brakes hold less well in reverse. Smacking the drum around the circumference with a large hammer may help release it. A tap is seldom sufficient. Another possibility is that the drums are so worn that the shoes have made a groove. If the drum will turn but not come off, be sure to back off on the adjustment. Ted Brooks makes an important point. Often there are several ways to free a stuck fastener or component. Often, protracted tapping or wiggling will set you free.


Q. What was the last year production cars came with carburetors?

Jimmy Davis, Wetumpka, Ala.

A. That’s a pretty broad question. I believe in some parts of the world cars may still be built with carburetors. In the United States, the changeover to fuel injection came during the 1980s. I think my 1986 Chevy Suburban was the last of its type to be carbureted, although the throttle-body injection that followed has been described to me as “basically an electronic carburetor.”

Let me pose the question to readers more narrowly: What was the last U.S.-built passenger car offered to the public with a carburetor? I’m sure we’ll get plenty of responses.


Q. I have a 1963 Chev Impala convertible, a survivor. The cowl tag has a line “ACC. F C.” I have been unable to find what the “F” & “C” represent.

Charlie Johnson, via e-mail.

A. The “C” means padded dashboard, while “F” refers to the tinted windshield. I see your trim code is 814, which is black vinyl with a bench front seat, and paint code 922, Ember Red, but you know that already. You can find decoders for 1958-65 Chevy cowl tags at


Q. I am concerned about using E-85 gas, when it comes out, in my 1992 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. The government says the gas is safe to use in cars made after 2000, but what about my ’92 Caddy?

Warren Rosenberg, Wesley Hills, N.Y.

A. I would be concerned, too. E-85 gasoline is 85 percent ethanol, and ethanol is very corrosive. Newer vehicles set up for E-85 (so-called “flex fuel”) have been built specifically with ethanol-resistant materials and set up to run with the new blend, which your 1992 Cadillac was not. I have read some claims by advocates — not from any government — that cars built since 1985 should be okay with E-85, but I still wouldn’t risk it. So far, E-85 is actually hard to find in the Northeast, where I live.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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