New brake booster has Saratoga ready to roll again

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'57 Chrysler gets a much-needed boost

The original brake booster unit in this 1957 Chrysler Saratoga needed to be replaced. Inevitably, rubber pieces wear out through time, and a Mopar unit is basically a rubber accordion that moves back and forth as the brake pedal is used.

The original brake booster unit in this 1957 Chrysler Saratoga needed to be replaced. Inevitably, rubber pieces wear out through time, and a Mopar unit is basically a rubber accordion that moves back and forth as the brake pedal is used.

By Brian Earnest

Jody Stuck had a hard time believing it himself. The longtime owner of Midwest Classic Restorations in Oneida, Wis., has restored more cars than he can count, and worked on scores of finned Mopars from the late 1950s, including ground-up restorations on many of them. Somehow, though, Stuck couldn’t seem to recall ever having to do a brake booster swap on one of the big, beautiful Chryslers.

“This might be the first,” he joked.

The job of putting a refurbished booster unit in a 1957 Chrysler Saratoga didn’t turn out to be overly difficult for Stuck. In fact, it went a bit quicker than he expected. “I figured I’d have to get up under the dash and see what was under there,” he said. “With a lot of these boosters, you have to disconnect things under the dash before you can pull them out. This one wasn’t like that.”

Stuck knew he would have to swap the booster unit on the Saratoga after the car began running rough and braking poorly. “It had a huge vacuum leak and the engine just didn’t run properly. Whenever you have a vacuum leak that’s a major issue,” he said. “I did some trouble shooting with the brakes and vacuum canister before I figured it was the brake booster... It just ran really rough and erratic with the vacuum leak. We plugged off the canister and unhooked the booster and then the engine ran a lot better, so we knew what it was.”

Stuck had purchased a rebuilt Chrysler brake booster unit from Booster Dewey (www.boosterdeweyexchange.com) in Portland, Ore. The company can either restore an existing booster, or supply a new unit for many different models. In Stuck’s case, he went with a new unit and will send in the old booster from the Saratoga to be restored for future use in another car.

The booster swap was pretty straightforward: unbolt the master cylinder from the mounting plate it shares with the booster, remove the booster and bracket from the firewall, then bolt in a freshly refurbished unit from Booster Dewey unit using the existing hardware.

The accompanying sequence of photos shows how he did it.

The original brake booster is secured to the firewall on the driver’s side with a bracket and four to six mounting bolts. On this car, the master cylinder is bolted to the same mounting plate, so the first step before removing the booster unit is removing the master cylinder. After that, the mounting bracket can come off.

The original brake booster is secured to the firewall on the driver’s side with a bracket and four to six mounting bolts. On this car, the master cylinder is bolted to the same mounting plate, so the first step before removing the booster unit is removing the master cylinder. After that, the mounting bracket can come off.

The booster has a vacuum hose that attaches to a small tank that stores vacuum for the brakes. “When we pulled the hose off the tank, you can hear vacuum, so we know the tank is fine,” Stuck said. “But the unit was non-operational, I guess you could say. The booster folds up when you step on the brakaes. You think of 50, 60 years of doing that, the rubber just breaks down. That’s what happened with this one. This is probably the original booster.”

The booster has a vacuum hose that attaches to a small tank that stores vacuum for the brakes. “When we pulled the hose off the tank, you can hear vacuum, so we know the tank is fine,” Stuck said. “But the unit was non-operational, I guess you could say. The booster folds up when you step on the brakaes. You think of 50, 60 years of doing that, the rubber just breaks down. That’s what happened with this one. This is probably the original booster.”

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