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  • convertible top fluid

    What is the best fluid to use in conv top system My pump say's use shock oil or atf but the book say's use brake fluid ??? I am tempted to use mercruiser power trim fluid as the function is similar ????
    BEN

  • #2
    convertible top fluid

    Ben, Carl ~ partsetal said the best thing to use is ATF fluid, NOT brake fluid, because it can destroy your paint. You probably should flush all the fluid you have in that system and replace it with fresh ATF fluid. You can also use mercruiser power trim fluid if you have plenty of it, but ATF fluid is probably a lot cheaper.

    Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
    The Terminator..... VTCI #11178
    Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or Call (Cell) 210-875-1411

    https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

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    • #3
      I agree with using Auto Trans Fluid only. About 12 years ago I switched to Brake Fluid when I rebuilt the system on my '60 and it ruined the new hoses. I can't explain why and the company that sold me the hoses did replace them (albeit reluctantly). I've used AFT (Type F) in two convertibles ever since with no issues. And Ray is correct, ATF won't damage paint or most other surfaces if it ever leaks.
      Good luck!

      Neil

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      • #4
        Brake fluid was the product originally mentioned in the manual for the top system. After 50 some years it turns to a sticky crystalline mess or it evaporates off leaving a gummy residue. I've had good luck removing the cylinders, immersing them in a bucket of ATF and working them several times with the ports submerged. Discard this contaminated fluid, and repeat the process two more times and you will have cleaned the cylinders and converted them to ATF which won't hurt the paint and is now recommended in the new pumps and cylinders to maintain the warranty. Dismantle the pump and reservoir and clean the residue of the old brake fluid and examine for broken parts. If everything is OK and now clean, re-assemble with new "O" rings and test the motor for operation. If the motor works and you have assembled everything correctly you can add fluid and test your cleaned system. The only spare parts for these pumps are from cannibalization or finding some NOS pieces. Otherwise you will have to replace the pump and reservoir with a new one. These are readily available.
        Carl

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        • #5
          I have only recently purchased my 1964 convertible. How can I tell if the previous owner was using ATF or brake fluid?

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          • #6
            DOT-3 brake fluid is glycol-based meaning, it is water soluble, like antifreeze. Take a little bit out and put it in a dish of water. If it disburses you know it's DOT-3. NEVER mix oil-based fluids with DOT-3.

            If it is hydraulic fluid, it should be red and it should float on water because it is oil-based.

            If your fluid is absolutely clear and it floats, you could have DOT-5 brake fluid which is silicone-based. - Dave
            My latest project:
            CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

            "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
            --Lee Iacocca

            From: Royal Oak, Michigan

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            • #7
              By 1964 Ford had stopped using brake fluid in convertible top systems and had gone to ATF. It's usually etched or marked on the pump what to use. If your pump is dry it would be safe to assume that ATF was used. If there's fluid in it it should be red as Dave mentioned.

              John
              John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

              Thunderbird Registry #36223
              jopizz@squarebirds.org 856-779-9695

              https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

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              • #8
                I'm putting the hydraulic top parts together for the "first" time on my '60. Cylinders were sent in for rebuilding by previous owner, probably in mid-80's when the project stalled and car never assembled. New rubber lines that are now 35 yrs old? Pump looks not to have been re-built--old and dirty but no fluid in anything. If I convert to ATF, is there any reason to worry about rubber O rings/seals/hoses? Brake fluid is formulated not to attack rubber parts in a braking system, but ATF is known to soften rubber. Are these parts truly rubber or synthetic? I suspect in 1960 these were truly rubber, but cylinders rebuilt in 80's probably neoprene or silicone. Care to share experiences?

                Also, am going to need at least two solenoid valves, Anybody have good spares?

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                • #9
                  I installed new hoses, 1 cylinder, and used ATF 16 months ago in my 59. No leaks or issues so far...I benched tested all of it before installing...

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                  • #10
                    I suggest you use Type F transmission fluid. Ford began using it in the early 60's and didn't have any trouble with the rubber seals. I've converted over a number of times without issue using the original seals.

                    As for the solenoids you might want to check with Carl Heller ~ partsetal. He may have some good used ones. Of course new ones are readily available but expensive.

                    John
                    John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

                    Thunderbird Registry #36223
                    jopizz@squarebirds.org 856-779-9695

                    https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

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                    • #11
                      Check also with John Draxler of Tbird Ranch, and with Don at the Bird Nest. They may also have those parts you are looking for.

                      Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
                      The Terminator..... VTCI #11178
                      Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or Call (Cell) 210-875-1411

                      https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

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                      • #12
                        I discovered that Larry's Thunderbirds will sell you rebuilt valves for $75 if you send in your core, or $125 outright!

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                        • #13
                          CORRECTION: Make that Pat Wilson's Thunderbirds for rebuilt valves. I'm loopy from shopping too many sources, I guess... Sorry!

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                          • #14
                            The problem with the valves is corrosion that prevents the plunger from moving within the coil. If you like to tinker, you can take it apart, free up the plunger and seal the thing back up.

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                            • #15
                              As you say, the one that I took apart has seized plunger, which I still haven't gotten to move. Does the bottom of the valve unscrew or is it pressed on? I have nine valves, but only one works and would like to try cleaning up a couple more. Was thinking of soaking them in solvent for a while, but wasn't sure what would dissolve solidified brake fluid gunk. Thought of immersing the whole valve in clean brake fluid overnight. Or maybe a lot of brake system cleaner spray? Suggestions?

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