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Car was sitting. Brakes frozen?

Someone I know has a classic Chevy from the 50s/60s.
It was not driven all summer, so he started it up today to winterize it (Stabil, etc)
When he backed out of the garage, the car was having problems moving, even as he raced the engine.

It’s clear the brakes are stuck on.
Pedal is down.
Brakes lights stay on even with keys out of ignition.
And the car barely moves. It was starting to “peel out” when he tried to drive it back into the garage.
To get it to move forward, 2 people had to push it while he stepped on the gas.

First, what should he tell the mechanic?
The brakes are frozen?
Is this common for a car that has been sitting?

Next, how is this situation best addressed?
I assume he needs to call a flatbed to tow it to the local mechanic.
It might be as simple as a frozen caliper? Maybe 1 or all 4?
Should he avoid trying to back it out?
Should the tow truck driver put the 4 wheels on those “dolly” things, and have use wheel it out of the garage?

Thanks for any help.

What is it? 50s/60s chevy is a bit vague.
It has calipers so it has disk brakes? The pedal goes to the floor and doesn’t come up, you say. Does it have power brakes too, then? If the pedal is on the floor, it may have some master cylinder issues and/or leaks.
I’d take the wheels off and see what’s going on.

I don’t think Chevrolets of the 1950s and 1960s had disk brakes. However, I suppose the brake shoes could be stuck to the drums. My guess would be that the hand brake has been set and the cable is rusted so that the rear brakes won’t release.

Yup.

Although there could be a totally different car under that body, though. For instance, lots of vintage trucks are really just modern S-10s below the skins.
There’s really not too much information to say anything with any certainty.

1960 Impala. Loaded. It has a master cylinder with a small reservoir.
We tried pulling and releasing the hand brake cable, and it didn’t seem stuck (at the handle anyway)

If it is the hand brake cable, you may need to get under the car and pound on the point where the hand brake cable attaches to each rear wheel. I have had to do that in cold weather with the cars I owned back in the 1960s when the hand brake was set and the brakes were frozen on.

If the car was pealing out, then it seems the front brakes are stuck due to rust. The rust is either from the brakes being wet when the car was parked. Or, a lot of humidity in the area where the car is parked.

Freeing up the brakes is not too hard, but you need to identify which wheel(s) are actually rusted to the point they won’t rotate. You jack up each wheel and make sure the car is in neutral and try to spin the wheel. A wheel that is struck you can try whacking it with a good heavy mallet. If that fails you can use a propane torch, like a plumber would use to sweat a pipe joint. Combining heat and whacks the the mallet might free up the wheel. The use of heat can get tricky so if you don’t want to risk damage to the car, you might be best letting a mechanic do the job.

I agree with Triedaq that it’s doubtful you have disk brakes.

Turbo, I don’t think whacking it will help, as you’d think DRIVING the car back and forth would have unfrozen the brakes. We put the car in forward and reverse about 8 times until we figured out the brakes were stuck on. We barely were able to drive (and push) the car back into the garage, b/c the tires were dragging so hard. Thank god it was a dirt driveway. If it was just rust, that would have “Broken the seal”, don’t you think? I think it’s more serious than simple rust needing to be jarred. I think the calipers are frozen or something.

Can you explain in more detail what the issue is if the hand brake is the culprit? Actually, the front tires are definitely frozen, so I do not think it’s the hand brake. Recall, the rear tail lights are stuck ON, so it’s the brake pedal, if anything.

Any other ideas?

How long has it been sitting?

Since it has been sitting and the pedal is on the floor, you’re gonna have to replace the fluids anyway so why not drain the brake fluid, disabling the brakes all together. One wheel cylinder* could be stuck on and if there’s any fluid in the system, it may not back off.

The hand brake is mechanical, with a large lever being pulled by a cable. You should be able to persuade them back into a non set position. If the cable is rusted and forces them to be pulled, snip it and push the lever back.

The drums may be frozen to the shoes and the shoes could even be on. If a drum doesn’t spin, you may need to take it off to see what the wheel cylinder is doing.

*if this car has drum brakes, it doesn’t have calipers but cylinders. It is a different mechanism for braking.

How long has it been sitting?

Since it has been sitting and the pedal is on the floor, you’re gonna have to replace the fluids anyway so why not drain the brake fluid, disabling the brakes all together. One wheel cylinder* could be stuck on and if there’s any fluid in the system, it may not back off.

The hand brake is mechanical, with a large lever being pulled by a cable. You should be able to persuade them back into a non set position. If the cable is rusted and forces them to be pulled, snip it and push the lever back, if it doesn’t move by itself.

The drums may be frozen to the shoes and the shoes could even be on. If a drum doesn’t spin, you may need to take the drum off to see what the wheel cylinder is doing.
If you’ve never touched drums before, perhaps google generic routines on how to take a drum off. For instance, there’s a self adjusting mechanism inside them that you have to back off by rotating this little star wheel inside the whole things. It isn’t difficult but often requires a puller and/or some violence with a BFH on the face of it where it normally meets the wheel to break it loose.

*if this car has drum brakes, it doesn’t have calipers but cylinders. It is a different mechanism for braking.

 It should not be too difficult for any mechanic to ID and correct.  It is a common problem.  Actually it is a group of problems, but most mechanics should be able to ID and correct it.  (Note the quick oil change places are not mechanics, so don't bother going there.  :-)

Thanks for the replies. We are not going to mess with this as this is a $50k show car. The real issue is simply how the hell we’re going to get it on a flatbed. I assume driving the car is just trashing the tranny (It’s like flooring the gas with the brakes on) I guess we’ll need to jam it out of the garage enough to get a flatbed near it. Then it can drag it.

I assume he will just drop the $3000-$5000 to redo the entire OEM brake system since I am sure everything’s trashed inside. (New rotors, pads, drums, cylinders, fluid, etc) Whatever the disk/drum system is made up of.

The real issue is simply how the hell we're going to get it on a flatbed.

Have you followed Uncle Turbo’s good advice?

You jack up each wheel and make sure the car is in neutral and try to spin the wheel.

You need to find out which wheel or wheels are affected. That will help you understand the problem so that you can figure out what’s necessary to move the car onto the flatbed, since that’s what you seem inclined to do. Chances are that you will discover why the brake is stuck…perhaps brake fluid at one wheel is not draining back to the master cylinder, or if it’s a disc brake as you suggest, the caliper is not releasing. If that’s the case, you could probably open the bleeder, or unbolt the brake line or even cut the line if necessary, all of which would be easily repaired by the mechanic you want to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

I agree. Draining the fluid may unstick them enough where you can push it out but I guess he doesn’t want to bother with it, it being a 50K show car. If you don’t know much about drum brakes, you don’t want to run the chance of messing the car up - perfectly understandable.

You could get some dollies from Harbor Freight and push it out. I have those things to flip my work in progress around in the garage. They work well.

One thing to try is to simply put your foor under the BRAKE PEDAL and try prying it back up. If a power brake booster is going out, they could lock the brakes down when they were applied. Just pull up on the pedal. I had to do that with my 59 Pontiac especially on a hard braking until I changed the booster. If the brake lights are on, I can’t see how it would be stuck drums themselves.

if its stock its got drum brakes and yes froozen is the correct term. try pulling the tires off the car one by one and using ajack stand to support the car hit the drum with a large hammer. that should do the trick

Call a tow company, they will get the car out of the garage and on a flatbed. They will simply winch the car out of the garage and get in position to winch it onto the flatbed. Not a big deal.

UPDATE: A friend came over and suggested it was the brake booster. When the spring inside breaks, and the diaphragm stays shut, and it’s like you’re always pressing the brakes. To test this, he disconnected the vacuum line, and the brake pedal went right back up. So, we were able to disconnect the brake vacuum and move the car properly (with a poor idle). Next we’ll look into either finding a new OEM brake booster or getting this one rebuilt. Thanks for the help on this one…

I think it also would have released by pulling up on the pedal like my 59 Pontiac. Used ones used to by a dime a dozen. I paid $10 for mine. French Lake Auto Parts (FLAP.com) specializes in used parts for older cars and I’m sure would have a dozen or so. Maybe Rockauto would have rebuilt.