Top Tips

By E. Meloan

(This article was originally published in the May, 1998 issue of the Spark Coil.)

Let’s get started by talking about those @$%*&#$ bands we all have buried under that aluminum or cast iron “hogs head”. Changing the bands is NOT a job that anyone looks forward to doing! So, when we do replace them, we’d like to use something that will last as long as possible!

When Henry’s pride and joy was regular transportation, the bands were woven cotton with wooden bands becoming available in the twenties. Some folks managed to get 5000 miles out of a set of cotton bands while others could bum them up in one trip to town! The secret was all in how you used the pedals. Even with the modem materials now available, that’s still true. We’ll talk more about that but first let’s see what’s available for our cars now.

In recent years, folks have tried the molded band material from modem automatic transmissions but most found that, while they lasted well, they were not smooth and had a tendency to grab. Bands that grab are hard on the drive train and our driving enjoyment!

Recently, I’ve seen ads for wooden bands again. Wooden Bands?? Yep. And they apparently work surprisingly well. They give pretty good service and after they wear in, they are reasonably smooth. They are a little more difficult to install then woven bands because they are not as flexible. They should be soaked in oil before installation and it’s best to remove the transmission cover to install them so you don’t deform the steel band. They should be adjusted VERY loosely until run a hundred miles or so and then re-adjusted where you like them. They will then hold that adjustment pretty well.

The newest development in band material is the KEVLAR band. That’s right! The same thing they use to make bullet proof vests! Kevlar bands are offered by several companies. I’ve used several sets made by the folks in Colorado and have been very pleased with them. They install just like the cotton bands. I suggest installing loosely and running for a few miles to let them settle in. Then adjust them as you like them and get ready for a pleasant surprise! They’re smooth AND they will run a LOT of miles before they need adjusting again. I have a set on my 1912 T that have been used through the Glidden tour and a week long tour in the Blue Ridge mountains. They have about 4000 miles on them and they still look new and have not needed adjusting!

Regardless of the band material, you determine how long they will last by how you use those pedals! Reverse is not usually a problem since it gets very little use. In fact, we can use reverse to help make the brake last longer. The enemy is HEAT and we want to let cool oil get to the bands to cool them! When you use the brake, don’t hold it down like a modem car. Press for a few seconds then release a second or two. Then press again, continuing the pumping action. Or, better still…  alternate between the brake and the reverse pedal to allow  the bands to cool. Even with modem materials, we still control how long our bands will last. A little “foot work” pays off.

See you down the road…