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MG TD TF 1500 - Near Catastrophe with brakes!

Ive just returned from a 500 mile tour of the Lake District in the UK where I encountered several passes with inclines of 1 in 4. The car went wonderfully both up and down these.

Went out today and about 5 miles from home pressed the brake pedal and it went to the floor, luckily I was braking early behind some cars. I managed to get home by sharply pumping the brakes and using the hand-brake.

I thank whoever is up there for looking after me.

Ive removed all of the brake drums and there are no leaks from the slave cylinders nor from any of the piping and the fluid level in the master cylinder is as normal.

So my question is:- am I right in assuming that something has failed in the master cylinder, rather than in the slave cylinders?


Mike Christie

YES, It is safe to assume that something in the Master has failed.. How long has the Master been in the car ??

Steve Wincze

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the reply. It's been in the car since I finished the rebuild in '92.
As you can see from the attached photo, when I took the master cylinder out, I discovered that the rubber of the master cup has deteriorated to the point where it has holed.
Hopefully this picture will serve as a warning call to other 'long-term' users.


Mike Christie

Oops no picture, I'll try again.

Mike Christie

Mike, lucky you!
The image is absolutely shocking and scaring! How could this happen?
greetings, Huib
Huib Bruijstens

Mike - For all the driving that I have done in the mountainous areas of the US, including going over 14,000 ft passes in the Rocky Mountains, I had never encountered 25% grades until we drove over the one of the passes in the Lake District in England. I had the added disadvantage of trying to reconcile myself to driving on (to me) very narrow lanes and on the wrong side of the road. I destroyed two tiers on our rental car after instinctively diving for the verge when unexpectedly meeting an oncoming car around a curve. You are indeed luck that he master cylinder seal waited a couple of days before failing. Cheers - Dave
David DuBois

You were extremely fortunate.. I would strongly suggest that you replace all rubber and include flex brake lines. something has caused that to happen . What type of brake fluid have you been using and have you ever mixed fkuid types since you did the rebuild?
I am certain that everybody is waiting to here the fional results.
Your personal lucky horseshoe was looking out for you.
Is it possible that you used one of the old style original rubber cups? They don't seem to agree with modern fluids.
Sandy Sanders


Well Huib I have no idea what caused this.

Sandy, I replaced the front and rear cylinders and the front flexible hoses this year. The old seals showed no sign of this kind of wear neither did the hoses.
I am using dot 4 fluid and have not mixed fluid types, ever.
The inside of the rubber cup shows no sign of wear and the rear cup on the master cylinder is perfect and has no wear on it at all. The bore of the master cylinder is clean and not pitted. So I'm stumped.
The problem is that these parts are almost install and forget because they are difficult to get at, but from now on I'll be checking this rubber cup every couple of years!

David, I guess we could be talking about the same pass in the Lake District, that was the Honister Pass leading to Buttermere, past the slate mine?

It was scary enough at the time, but now!!

Thanks for all your replies, I'm getting a Moss repair kit tomorrow.

Mike Christie

Mike - My wife just went through the pictures of our England trip and found that it was the Kirkstone Pass that we went over. When I looked at the pictures that were taken on the trip over the pass, it is some spectacular scenery, but I was not able to enjoy it at the time because I was concentrating so hard on staying in the correct lane of the road and avoid hitting anything (not completely successful). Cheers - Dave
David DuBois


No need to pay Moss' price. The M/C rebuild kit is Lockheed KL 71408, and should be quite plentiful in the UK.

Just don't use any of that silicone stuff in your system.

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qué.

Gordon A. Clark

It almost looks like some kind of organism was eating the rubber, doesn't it?

I had that problem at a stop light about 40 years ago! A policeman told me kindly to go back and respect the stop! I went to repair shop who said immediately, oh, it's the master cylinder, and they fixed it.

1950 MG TD
Denis L Baggi


David, we didn't do that one, something to look forward to though.
How they did the Honister Pass with wagons and horses I'll never know, especially coming down a 1 in 4 from the slate mine fully loaded. Apparently the starting age at the mine was 8!
This link has some photo's of what happens to cars that try the Kirkdale pass in snow!

Gord, thanks for the information, the new (but now obsolete) number is LK 15806. No one here has the original kit any more but Moss prices compare favourably with other suppliers.

Tom, yes it's certainly weird, especially as the surface that's deteriorated is not a 'sweeping' surface and in fact I don't think it comes into contact with the MC bore.

Anyway, new bits in today and hopefully this won't happen again. In the future I'm going to check these seals every brake fluid change.


Mike Christie

I ones had the same shocking experience when a halfshaft came loose in the backaxle of my 1935 Singer Le Mans. The wheel with the brakedrum and axle as one piece was sticking out of the car at least 50 cm....result: no brakes, no gears, no nothing! It happend between two mountains in the Swiss Alps and I rolled the car in a very small village and stopped the car in the rain, after investigation, it turned out that a locking ring was broken in two. A blacksmith was nearby and in his small workshop (with oldfashioned fireplace) made me a new ring, problem solved! But I never forgot that moment of putting the pedal to the floor and the feeling of panic that struck me...

My god I still am grateful for that little angle on my shoulder :-)


Joop Terpstra

Mike.... you were indeed very not have had that happen...silicone... while you were in the mountains...silicone... happy that all went well and you to return safely!!!!!!

the other gordon
gblawson - TD#27667

Hi Joop,

I had the same experience when driving a van on the flat streets of south London. Turned a corner and the offside rear wheel extended away from the van about 18 inches. Looked really odd!
What will we do when there are no more blacksmiths or craftsmen who knw how to work metal?
Lucky you were going downhill!

Hi Gordon,

The references to silicon were to remind me to use it or not to use it? I ask because in the short time that I've been trying to find out why this happened, several suppliers, including the guy at Moss asked if I'd been using silicon as he/they had heard some disturbing stories about what it does to seals??
Yup, I was very very lucky.



Mike Christie

Sorry... If you replace 'all' the seals and or lines and clean the whole works completely...then you could add silicone fluid...
Should really be done after a complete rebuild when no 'older' fluid is in the system.
Without starting a never ending series of posts, a lot of people swear by it for cars not used as often as daily drivers. I replaced all the brake components 4 years ago and changed over to it...seems to be fine!
gblawson - TD#27667

Mike - Thank you for the link, that brings back some mixed memories of the drive. I absolutely cannot imagine trying to drive that pass in the snow! I would like to go over the pass again sometime, only in an MG the next time. that was part of my problem when we were over there. We drive MGs exclusively (either the MGB or TD) over here on nice wide lanes. When we got to to England, we were given a full sized Toyota to drive on very narrow lanes and it took me some time to get everything under control. Cheers - Dave
David DuBois

Hi Mike, thanks for your story about the truck with the same problem. You know that blacksmith I was mentioning in that swiss village was living above the workshop with three sons, all around 20 to 25 years old. And it was funny because that sons all came downstairs to the workshop when they saw me arrive with that wheel sticking out of the car. When I saw them they all had black faces and dirty working suits and looking like guys digging for gold in some mineshaft! Anyway the first thing they did was fighting each other who was allowed to make that new locking ring for my Singer Le Mans. And than father step forwards and spoke some strong words and they disappeared upstairs again. I also remember that my co-driver was so afraid that after the repair he didn't want to sit in the car anymore, still shaking from fear and seeing that mountain walls coming closer and screaming tyres and my panic to steer into that village....real horror! But after smoking a cigarette and speaking to him that all was fine now he calmed down and on went our trip to Italy through heavy weather and lots of rain :-)

Real adventure with a nice car sticks in the brain for ever!

Cheers, Joop
Joop Terpstra

A salutory experience! I also like the advice about adjusting the brakes in the manual "when the pedal travels to within 1 inch of the floorboard" Apart from the initial half inch free play, my pedal is always instantaneous!

Chaps - you think Honister and Kirkstone are steep - wait 'till you try Hardknott and Wrynose! I recall many years ago, in my then TC, being flagged down by a Morris Minor driver at the bottom of Hardknott. He had tried and failed, so advised me not to try it and anyway said he, the only way I may get up would be in reverse!
What a challenge! Salutations done, I roared off into the clouds (I was too young to know about half shafts then).
Coming down the otherside in the wet was a different story!

Has. TD 'Doris'
HJ Oldham


Thanks for your comments and stories.

Joop, some 10 or 12 years ago I wrote up an adventure I had in France travelling down to Nice for 'Safety Fast'.
Briefly, I broke a clutch adjusting rod at the top of a track, (I was exploring), and had to coast down the track until I came to a road then jump started the engine by turning it over in gear and went looking for a phone box or garage. Gear changes were fun.
It was the weekend but as I went through a small village I spotted some guys working on a car. I stopped and tried to explain, (in very poor French - I'm English and we don't do languages!) the problem.
They were wonderful, took the rod assembly off, then took me to get the part welded when their Mig welder wasn't up to the job, then fitted it back on. After a great deal of argument they accepted my grateful payment for their help and work and I went on my way. The repair lasted for 4 years, and I now carry a spare rod all of the time.
With people like that around perhaps I shouldn't worry.

Gordon, I was in the position of a 'new' system this year and debated whether to go the silicone route but decided eventually against it. Can't think why now.

Steeper than 1 in 4? Wow.

Anyway, the repair kit, supplied by Moss is installed. And a word of warning for anyone using this kit. Supplied with it is a thin washer that fits between the piston and the master cup. This washer should be cut from 'sprung' metal, but in the kit it is simply cut from unsprung thin sheet metal. Don't use it, the manual goes to great lengths about fitting the correct washer. Also the cup washer in the kit I have, which fits onto the piston, is too big and 'jams' the piston. I have a spare so I've fitted that and it's fine.
I've told Moss, we wait to see if they will withdraw the kits?

So, the brakes are now working, and I'm starting to trust them again. Off to Wales tomorrow, 400 mile round trip, so we'll see.


Mike Christie

Mike, you mentioned that you checked the slave cylinders for leakage but did you also check the rubber cups inside them? Greetings, Huib
Huib Bruijstens

Hi Huib,

Well no I haven't checked the rubber cups in the slave cylinders.
Firstly because there was no leakage, secondly because all of the other rubber parts in the master cylinder didn't show any sign of deterioration or damage and were of the same age as the master cup, and thirdly the slave cylinders were new this year.

Bit of a risk I know, but I'll wait until the new year when I do a fluid change and have a look at them then. Though I bet they will be fine.



Mike Christie


Thanks for the heads-up on the spring washer. I read the TD/TF WSM carefully. In fact, I had to read it 3 times to be sure I understood its value.

Thanks to Collin Stafford, I have some new brass material to sleeve my old M/C which I'm building up as a spare.

I'm off early tomorrow AM for the Stowe British Invasion with many vendors, and where I hope to pick up a Lockheed KL 71408 kit, now replaced with LK 15806, as you have pointed out.

I can only hope that any kit I pick up, has the right spring washer.

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qué.
Gordon A. Clark

Hi Gord,

Can you let me know if you can get the Lockheed kit, because I'm told here that it's no longer available.


Mike Christie

Mike - our brake kits are the same as Morris Minor, so plenty of old stock Lockheed kits around at Autojumbles. Check them out though - some may be ancient! This wouldn't be a problem if all repro kits were of good quality ! Girling 7/8" seals are also fine.

Cheers John.
J.C Mitchell

Hi John,

I cannot for the life of me work out why with critical parts like brakes for instance, the main distributors of spare parts for our cars don't make doubly sure of the quality and fitness for use, before they sell them.
We are paying enough, after all!

The problem with picking up bits from autojumbles, especially rubber brake parts, is that there is no way of knowing how old they are and how they have been stored. If as you say MM's use the same parts, then there's even less reason for us to be sold kits with the wrong parts in them.

I sometimes feel after owning my TD for nearly 40 years, that nowadays the major parts suppliers see it not so much as 'maintaining the breed', but rather 'how much money can we make from these mugs'!

That's the problem with monopolies.



Mike Christie

This thread was discussed between 09/09/2007 and 17/09/2007

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