When it is compared to the Jeep, a common complaint levelled at the Kübel concerns the braking system, and its (in)efficiency. It is a fact that the brakes of Kübel are cable-operated , which is an older system than Lockheed hydraulics, and not altogether as efficient or easy to keep in perfect working order.
Yet, all is not in favour of hydraulics: if you lose one cable, be it worn, snagged on a stump, or even shot off ( remember this is an Army vehicle ), on a Kübel you still have three operational brake drums; on a Jeep, with one brake-hose gone, you have a complete brake failure ;-(
One side-benefit of our cable-operated brakes is that, to help keep the car under control when negociating a long down-hill sandy slope, you can with ease reduce the efficiency of the front brakes: just undo the 17 mm bolt by one full turn on both front-wheel brakes, and you will be braking with the rear-wheels only.
It is undeniable that cable brakes need more frequent adjustments than Lockheeds, but, kept in good condition, they are quite satisfactory. Bear in mind that up to 1961, the Standard Beetles built for the German market were fitted with the very same cable-operated brakes as we have on our Kübels and Schwimms.
Before we come to the adjustment procedure itself, one word on the testing of a car's brakes: Some drivers, wanting to test their brakes, will set the car in motion, and then stand on the pedal. If the car, wheels locked, stops in a straight line, they are quite pleased with their brakes.
Such a test has two drawbacks: It only shows a gross malfunction of the braking system; and it is potentially dangerous since any unbalance in the braking will lead to a spin, if not a spin-induced roll. Beside, it is quite hard on the tyres ( which are costly and difficult to find ).
A more instructive practice is to apply the brakes very progressively; you then know if the brakes start 'biting' on both sides at the same time ( if not, the car pulls to one side, and the harder you brake, the harder it pulls ) or if a brake mechanism on one side is stiff or stuck ( The car initially pulls to one side, then goes back to braking in a straight line when you brake harder ).
This test thus tells you if your brakes work, but also whether they need attention, or only adjustment.
Back to our subject, here is the method which I have used to set the brakes on a number of Kübels ( it also goes for cable-braked Beetles, Schwinnwagens, etc. of course ). The tools needed are 17 and 22 mm. spanners, car jack and torque wrench with a 19 mm. socket.
A prerequisite to the adjustment is that the brakes must be in first class working order; the brake mechanisms clean, free of dust or mud, and all articulations lightly oiled; the brake-shoe linings in good condition, of the same type and level of wear in all brakes, and of course free of oil; to reduce friction in the system, grease well the cables, the pedal system and the push-rod inside the tunnel; make sure that the shoe anchors ( which are adjusted by a 17mm bolt on the backplate ) are free to move in their guides. A frayed cable makes the brake stiff and difficult to adjust; change it for a new one ( Ref. No. Front 111 605 701 Rear 111 605 721 ) with the added advantage that these new cables have a plastic outer cover which makes them waterproof, and a grease nipple which simplifies maintenance.
Two adjustments are possible on our brakes : A threaded sleeve at the end of the cable adjusts the length of cable itself; a 17 mm. bolt on the backplate sets the rest position of the shoes. Remember, whenever you adjust the 17 mm. bolt on any of the brakes, to press hard on the pedal to re-center the brake-shoes.
The first step in the adjustment of the brakes concerns the cables:
This is quite simple: Undo the 17 mm. adjusting bolt until it turns free, undo the 22 mm lock-nut of the adjusting sleeve, and turn the sleeve, in or out, until the free play between the outer cable and the threaded sleeve is just perceptible ( under .5 mm, that is 20 thou to you, un-metric heathens ); then tighten the 22 mm locknut. Same procedure on the other three wheels.
The next step is the adjustment of the shoes :
We are helped in this by the fact that the hand brake acts equally on all four wheels; pull the hand brake to the third notch, jack up one wheel and tighten ( or untighten ) the 17 mm. bolt until the torque wrench, applied to one of the wheels nuts to rotate the wheel, reads 3 m.kg ( or 20 flbs )( the exact value does not matter, just pick an easy to read value ); and onto the next wheel for the same treatment.
When all four wheels are done, release the hand brake; all four brakes are now adjusted to brake almost equally .
We now come to the third ( and last ) step: the fine tuning.
This is done first on the front axle; undo the 17 mm. bolts on the REAR brakes ONE COMPLETE TURN; and test your brakes ( see above ); if the car pulls to one side, tighten the 17 mm. bolt on the opposite brake by one click and try again until you brake in a straight line; then UNDO the 17 mm. bolts on the FRONT brakes and TIGHTEN those on the REAR brakes ONE COMPLETE TURN, and test and adjust the rear axle as you just did the front one.
When finished with the rear axle, TIGHTEN back the FRONT 17mm. bolts ( ONE COMPLETE TURN ) and go enjoy a cool beer to celebrate your newly adjusted brakes.
You will find that once your brakes are in this condition, it is very easy to keep them finely tuned, with just a touch of adjustment on one or other of the front brakes.
This text, Translated from the newsletter of Escadron de l'Histoire, is based ( loosely ) on manuals D 662/6 ( Wehrmacht ), TM E9-809 ( U.S.War Dpt. ) and Ein Handbuch vom K.D.F.Wagen ( K.D.F. Werke ) See the Bibliography for more details.
KBREAKE R.Olgiati 04/02/2007