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Homepage. This page: The MOT man won't be impressed, but years ago using these adjusters was quite common.

Adjust out the slack in a car's brake cables.

Use these today and the car will I'm told fail its MOT (assuming it still requires one), but "back in the day" rather than replacing tired, stretched brake cables, it was quite common to instead eke out more life from the existing cables, by using adjusters of the type shown below. Nowadays using them is considered something of a bodge, but at a time when filling a car's rotten front wing with a mixture of newspaper and cement, or quietening a gearbox with sawdust, was nothing to worry about unduly, cobbling up the cables rather than replacing them rarely raised an eyebrow, and was seen as a neat little dodge to save a few shillings.

An example of pre-war adjuster.

The first example was found in a 1937 copy of a Seagreen catalogue. It seems the company was a supplier of various motoring-related products to the trade, the neat cable adjuster being one of them. Compared to later efforts, theirs was a well-designed item. It offered "micrometer" levels of adjustment, and a pair could be purchased by the pre-war car owner for the grand sum of three shillings, ie fifteen pence. To fit it, the adjuster's two rollers were placed over the cable, and the hook with a threaded wing nut on the other end, simply pulled the cable down, thus removing excess length in the stretched cable. Simple and probably effective, at least until the adjuster ran out of thread and the only option left was to buy new cables. Or if the fraying old cable simply snapped. With many pre-war cars being run on a shoestring before and especially after WW2, such gadgets would prove to be a popular buy with cash-strapped motorists.
A Halford's catalogue from 1939 lists three different makes of adjuster, including the Seagreen version, the latter also priced at three shillings a pair, but they would also sell them individually too.
The answer to worn brake cables

Into the 1950s.

With so many cars on the road in the 1950s still having cable-operated brakes, it's no surprise that these little gadgets continued to be on sale. A large trade catalogue from the early 1950s lists the "Justit", which did the same job as the Seagreen product but looks to be more cheaply-made, with no rollers to support the cable. This model also featured in the pre-war Halford's catalogue.
The Justit adjuster
Two more examples of the brake system accessory
As the 1950s headed into the 1960s, more and more new cars were hitting the roads, most now equipped with hydraulic braking systems. Despite this, some of the die-hard older-car enthusiasts, and a sprinkling of spend-thrifts keen to keep their increasingly aged motors on the road for as long as possible, still had a need for these items. The Halford's catalogue of 1959 lists two examples. One incorporates a hook, reminiscent of the Seagreen product and comes in a black crackle finish. The other looks like a "Justit". I've had one or two cars myself fitted with the latter when I've bought them, the Austin 10/4 had a pair in place, and I've a feeling that a Triumph Spitfire I once owned had a single adjuster on its handbrake cable (until I replaced the latter for a new one). The 1965 catalogue by comparison, lists just the one type, but they continued to be available - mainly used on handbrakes by this point - for many years to come.
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