Our body work is nearing completion, and before painting, we took the opportunity to remove the Roadmaster's interior. It is original in red and black leather door panels, red leather with multi chrome bar headliner, and red deck mat. The dash top is black with a simulated machined lower surface in red. Fortunately, the dash, deck mat, headliner and all but the front driver's door panel was in very nice condition. In fact, the driver's door panel was missing altogether, but we found a good one to use as a pattern to make a new one. We will also have to make new kick panels and reupholster the seats. The original seats are red leather with tan pleated cloth inserts. We are considering recovering the seats in all leather, as in the convertibles, to be more user-friendly in a car we intend to drive frequently.
We removed the door panels, carpet and door trim. With them out, it was easy to get inside our doors to check out the Hydro Electric window and seat systems. The '53 continued the Hydro Electric system used in the 50-70 Series of the 1952 Buicks. The only difference was that the '53s were 12 volt instead of 6 volt. If you are working on one of these cars, the Buick Motors Manual only covers the '53 Special (40 Series), and refers you to Chapter 13 of the '52 Motors manual for the Super and Roadmaster 50-70 Series, so you really need the two manuals. The '53 manual did tell how to remove the power front seat. First, we disconnected the battery, then the seats' side panels must be removed. Next, we removed the cotter pin and cup washer from the hinge pin, tilted the opposite seat back forward and pulled out on the seat back to disengage the outer hinge arm from the hinge pin. Then we moved the seat to the forward position and pulled upward, disengaging the hooked end of the inner hinge pin, removed the fiber washer from the inner hinge pin, and removed the front seat. This left the hydraulic seat assembly intact for us to check it out. At this time, we cut samples of the front seat leather to send out in search of matching material, and sent the seats to the upholsterer.
The back seat had been easier to remove by just lifting up on the seat bottom and pulling it out, then pulling out the seat back. Under the back seat there is a "Y" block, where the fluid line comes in from the front, then splits to the two back windows. We now had access to the system, except for the Hydro Electric pump unit with reservoir, which is mounted on the back side of the front fender well on the passenger side. The seller had told us that the system had been rebuilt, but when we tried it, the driver's window went down, but wouldn't go up. Plus, the left and right rear windows were switched on the master control switch. Before removing the reservoir, all windows should be lowered and the power seat moved back, releasing fluid back into the reservoir. At this point, the reservoir can be removed by pulling back on the retainer wire, holding the metal reservoir to the pump. The gasket should also be replaced. Using the old one as a template, we cut a new one out of gasket material which is impervious to brake fluid. The fluid level was down to about 1/3 full, which could have been the problem with the windows not going up. We cleaned the reservoir with alcohol, primered and painted it, and filled it with the manual's recommended Dot 3 brake fluid (this fluid should be changed annually), and put it back on the unit. We then pushed each switch up and down, running them through several cycles, then engaged the front seat switch to expel any trapped air into the reservoir. We checked all of our fluid lines and electrical wires in the system, and found all of them to be good. Now we could do a final check of the system for window and seat operation.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS: When a window control switch is pressed upward, the motor solenoid is engaged and the motor-driven pump starts delivering fluid pressure throughout the system. At the same time, the cylinder solenoid valve for that window is energized, opening the valve, letting fluid to flow into the cylinder. The pressurized fluid forces the window up via the piston rod's attachment to the window's operating arm. When the window's switch is released, the pump stops and the valve closes, trapping oil in the cylinder and holding the window in the raised position. Pressing the switch downward energizes only the cylinder's solenoid, letting the retracting spring pull the window down, forcing fluid out of the cylinder through the open valve and back into the reservoir. A problem that can occur with hydro electric or full electric windows is "window bind". This is when the window's linkage or track gets in a bind and the window won't move. If this happens, don't force the window. Find where it is binding up and fix the problem. When we checked our windows, the driver's side now went up and down correctly. We closed the door to check it in the hard top's "flipper" window channel, and it was a little too low in the up position. This was easily corrected by loosening the two screws holding the window to the power regulator and raising the window, then tightening down the screws. The reversed back window switches were corrected by putting the electric wires in the correct positions on the master switch. The seat unit checked out okay, then suddenly a stream of fluid came shooting up from the back's line at the rear "T". It had sprung a leak! It was a pin hole positioned on the back floor board, where the carpet had covered it. A closer inspection revealed rust all along the line. What a mess that would have been if the new interior had been installed! We replaced the line with a new one made from brake line, putting Teflon tape on the threads. Now everything worked fine! Buick and Cadillac went to an all-electric system in 1954. We will have an upcoming article on troubleshooting and servicing our '54 Coupe deVille's system. When all's said and done, these Hydro Electric systems are not that complicated, and can be installed and serviced by most restorers. For help with parts, or new systems, we suggest you contact one of our advertisers listed below. This system was new to us, and part of the reason we never get tired of working on our cars is that you learn something new every day! Keep 'em driving!