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Old 07-18-2018, 10:56 AM   #1
rozzi
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Default Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Hello all,


I recently picked up a 39 Ford standard coupe that has a Columbia overdrive in it. The car has been sitting for a very long time, since at least 1994, but probably longer than that. We have serviced it and it is now road worthy. Is there a way to test the Columbia other than at speeds on the road? My fear is something catastrophic happening when it is engaged for the first time since sitting so long. Any advice? Thanks!
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Old 07-18-2018, 12:03 PM   #2
Jerry Huntngton Beach
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Block front tires. Suspend rear frame rails on two (2) jack stands. Start engine, shift to third gear and operate Columbia controls. Right wheel should be rotating.
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Old 07-19-2018, 05:46 AM   #3
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

You will need to lube the vac piston on the rear end. After setting all that time I would guess it is dried out and maybe flat on one side. It is made with leather. If the rear end has lube in it yet, then the gears should be fine. I would advise getting a parts listing and installation/driving instruction booklet from one of the peddlers. Those are commonly available for the different year C's.
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Old 07-19-2018, 06:10 AM   #4
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

jimTN is on the mark, after sitting so long the leather cups in the rear end vacuum canister/cylinder have probably dried out. Remove the canister from the rear end, carefully remove the piston shaft with the leather cups from the cylinder and throughly soak in Marvel Mystery Oil. If leather should be pliable, if it is damaged damaged a rebuild kit can be obtained from John Connelly at Columbia Two Speed Parts, LLC in Arizona. Be sure the inside of cylinder/canister is clean and free of pits (this will create vacuum leaks). Parts are also available from John.


Testing instructions, with rear wheels off the floor, start engine, shift transmission into high gear and set hand throttle so speedometer registers 20mph. Now, without changing engine speed, shift into overdrive you should hear a click at the rear end. If equipped with the proper speedometer changer the speed reading will increase.


You are correct if it operates improperly catastrophic damage can occur. When operational they are the best accessory available on a stock vehicle. Any questions call John Connelly 951-719-4077 he was extremely helpful to me. LouB.
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Old 07-19-2018, 08:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Should the clutch pedal be depressed when shifting into overdrive?
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Old 07-19-2018, 10:51 AM   #6
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Been told to me...A strong unit out of OD but weak unit in OD ... do not hot rod a Columbia in OD as you will break something,i have one in a Model A pu works ...at speed just let off on gas a flip momentary switch on dash and you are in OD..they work off vacuum on manifold,,sc
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Old 07-19-2018, 11:02 AM   #7
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

I have a 46-48 model year Columbia in my car which is electric/vacuum controlled, earlier years were not. Yes, depressing the clutch pedal is necessary to shift but my control is a electric switch not a manual switch as the earlier cars. In earlier cars you have to shift back to standard before stopping, in the 46-48 model the Columbia automatically returns to standard when the clutch is depressed, the earlier cars do not. I have never driven and earlier Columbia equipped vehicle, so I tried to stay generic with the testing instructions. LouB.
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Old 07-19-2018, 11:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

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Old 07-19-2018, 11:13 AM   #9
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

even if it works I would strongly advise rebuilding/bullet proofing it.if it lets go it aint pretty.ive got one in my 46 coupe and one in my 39 coupe and one in my 41 zephyr and just love them.
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Old 07-19-2018, 12:20 PM   #10
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle buck View Post
Should the clutch pedal be depressed when shifting into overdrive?

The shifting of the Columbia requires a momentary release of the clutch and throttle.. This action is kind of akin to patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time.
The '46-48 style of Columbia with the electric over vacuum shift controls are much more user friendly.
My '36 had the early style of mechanical over vacuum controls. I found it to be quite difficult to shift, if the shift to high/low range was missed, the differential gears would not line up which usually required almost coming to a complete stop.
In 1954 I replaced the original Columbia under my car with a '46-48 unit with the electric over vacuum controls.
I have never had a trouble with my Columbia, it shifts great, very smooth which usually is very seamless.
The gear ratio in my axle is 3.78, the engine is a well built 59AB which runs very well. Trans is a column shift 28 tooth unit out of a 47 Merc.
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:25 PM   #11
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Thank you all for the comments and advice. I really appreciate it!
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Old 07-19-2018, 04:45 PM   #12
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ford46 View Post
In earlier cars you have to shift back to standard before stopping, in the 46-48 model the Columbia automatically returns to standard when the clutch is depressed, the earlier cars do not.

In the earlier models, if you do inadvertently stop while in overdrive, just shift to reverse and back up a couple of feet to drop the rear end out of overdrive. Although not recommended, you won't hurt anything by pulling off in overdrive, but it may take a few miles off your clutch.
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Old 07-20-2018, 08:45 AM   #13
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Thanks for the detailed explanations on shifting one
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Old 07-20-2018, 10:51 AM   #14
Ken/Alabama
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ford46 View Post
jimTN is on the mark, after sitting so long the leather cups in the rear end vacuum canister/cylinder have probably dried out. Remove the canister from the rear end, carefully remove the piston shaft with the leather cups from the cylinder and throughly soak in Marvel Mystery Oil. If leather should be pliable, if it is damaged damaged a rebuild kit can be obtained from John Connelly at Columbia Two Speed Parts, LLC in Arizona. Be sure the inside of cylinder/canister is clean and free of pits (this will create vacuum leaks). Parts are also available from John.


Testing instructions, with rear wheels off the floor, start engine, shift transmission into high gear and set hand throttle so speedometer registers 20mph. Now, without changing engine speed, shift into overdrive you should hear a click at the rear end. If equipped with the proper speedometer changer the speed reading will increase.


You are correct if it operates improperly catastrophic damage can occur. When operational they are the best accessory available on a stock vehicle. Any questions call John Connelly 951-719-4077 he was extremely helpful to me. LouB.
If you set the hand throttle @ 20 mph on jack stands and engage the Columbia you should still get 20 mph if the speedo changer is working. If the rear wheels are on the ground the car speed will increase if you maintain the same engine rpm but usually you want to maintain same speed so by engaging the Columbia it slows the engine rpm to save gas . Since the engine and driveline have slowed, the speedo changer corrects this.
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Old 07-20-2018, 11:20 AM   #15
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

The speedo changer/gear box is a change of around 10-12 miles per hour.
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Old 07-22-2018, 11:42 AM   #16
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

In my response #10 to the shifting. etc., of a Columbia I clearly stated that shifting required a momentary release of the clutch, this is true of the up and down shift. I don't recall if the early mechanical shift controls had a clutch safety switch, I know the '46-48 electric over vacuum had one, that was energized when the clutch was depressed.
The shifting process also required the momentary release of the throttle, which increase's the vacuum pressure and minimized the torque on the drive line.
I do not see how a Columbia could be properly shifted, with the vehicle jacked up with the hand throttle set to 20 mph and the gear train under power.
If a '46-48 Columbia is in the OD range and an attempt is made to shift the trans to a lower gear, the minute the clutch is depressed the Columbia down shifts to low range which puts the trans in 2nd gear. Shifting the trans to high gear results in the OD staying in low range, until it is shifted to OD.
In reality the Columbia gives the vehicle six forward gears if the operator wants to use them.
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Last edited by blucar; 07-22-2018 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 07-22-2018, 03:06 PM   #17
Ken/Alabama
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

The Columbia regardless of year should never ever be shifted with the clutch being depressed. The early ones like on my 40 has a rod from the clutch to the switching valve mounted to the steering box. When the clutch is depressed the rod pulls a lever that opens a vent on the valve and that allows air to come into the shift can piston while vacuum is pulling it. It will stay in OD untill the operator takes it out. The Columbia can and should be shifted for the first time with the rear wheels off the ground to allow the oil to circulated through the unit and make sure it shifts correctly. The gear train is not under power if the clutch is used.
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Old 07-22-2018, 06:06 PM   #18
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

I believe that the Columbia rear axle has two sections that have gear oil in them, so you want to check both of them. Since the vac piston seals are leather, Neat's Foot Oil would probably be a better choice to soften & lubricate them.
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Old 07-22-2018, 07:05 PM   #19
Ken/Alabama
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

Only check and add oil to the oil plug on the Columbia housing. Don't use the one on the Banjo. There is not two different sections for oil.
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Old 07-22-2018, 07:07 PM   #20
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Default Re: Columbia Overdrive Question / Information

A Columbia rear axle provides approximately a 27% overdrive, so to test if you set the hand throttle at 20mph, with the vehicle rear raised on jack stands, and in high gear on the transmission if you shift the Columbia into Overdrive from Standard (if all is working properly, axle and speedometer gear changer) the speedometer will show a speed of 27mph under those conditions (the rpm's are set and constant). Under actual driving conditions it will require less rpm to maintain the previous speed in Standard.


For a 37-41 Columbia the control selector was pulled out to activate Overdrive, pushed in to activate Standard.


All Columbia axles should be shifted by releasing pressure from accelerator pedal, depressing clutch, selecting Overdrive or Standard, releasing clutch after hearing click and depressing accelerator pedal. In the 46-48 models with the electric/vacuum you depress switch and hold, lift off accelerator and depress clutch (hear two clicks, solenoid and axle) release clutch and press accelerator, to shift back to Standard on 46-48 you just lift off accelerator and depress clutch. Shifts to either Overdrive or Standard ratio should always be made with the car in motion. If a shift is attempted and the car is NOT in motion, the shifting clutch in the axle may not engage, resulting in a ratcheting noise when the engine clutch id engaged. To engage the axle, shift the transmission into reverse gear and partially re-engage engine clutch.


To check the gear oil in a Columbia rear axle use the oil level hole on the Columbia axle housing (DO NOT USE FORD oil level hole!!!) Will now hold 4-1/2 pints of lubricant...today's 85/140 multi-grade oil is recommended, for a purist S.A.E. 140 in summer and S.A.E. 90 for winter. Each fall and spring, or every 5,000 miles, whichever comes first drain and refill to new oil level hole in Overdrive axle.
Every 10,000 miles remove the vacuum cylinder from Overdrive axle and lubricate leather cups, also lubricate walls of cylinder lightly with 3-in-1 oil or its equivalent (Marvel Mystery Oil).
This information is all in the Owners Manual & Primer and installation instruction sheet. LouB.
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