The Studeblogger

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Checking specific gravity on a sealed battery

While I was sussing out my battery troubles, I came across a formula to calculate the specific gravity of a sealed battery (an indication of the water-to-acid ratio in the cells, which indicates its state of charge. You used to be able to perform this test with a hydrometer on open-cell batteries, but those days are gone. So, just for reference, here is the process:

  1. Disconnect the battery cables.
  2. Measure the voltage between the posts.
  3. Divide the voltage reading by 6 and then subtract 0.85 from the product.
So, say you measured 12.6 volts at the posts. Dividing by 6 equals 2.1. Subtract 0.85 and the result is 1.25, is the specific gravity of the battery.

The Studebaker Shop Manual helpfully lists what the specific gravity test reveals:
  • 1.260 = Fully charged.
  • 1.220 = 75% charged.
  • 1.170 = 50% charged.
  • 1.120 = 25% charged.
  • 1.070 = Discharged.
The manual also suggests that any battery that measures below 1.220 specific gravity should be recharged.

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How's it going?

Status update: Here's what's going on with the Lark. After getting him running for the first time, he sat a few days while I figured out how to deal with a fuel leak at the fuel pump output elbow. After many tries at reinstallation and with the help of the SDC Forum... I gave up and ran some fuel hose from the pump to the carb on a temporary basis. I suspect that the NOS fuel line I have has a hairline crack. Once he's on the road for real, I'll have a local shop fab a new hard line.

After getting the fuel leak dealt with, I fired the engine up again and quickly had him running at around 1,500 RPM. After running him a couple of minutes, I bumped the carb off the fast idle cam and the revs came down... to zero. A re-start attempt was unsuccessful - my new Sears DieHard battery had - well, died. Not so hard, either.

Not having had enough running time to inspect any gauges other than the oil pressure gauge installed under the hood, I had no idea whether the alternator was charging properly or not, so I charged the battery up overnight and stuck it in the next day. The engine fired right up, and after tweaking the distributor angle a bit, the revs were up to about 2,000 RPM. The ammeter in the dash showed that the system was charging - that was reassuring.

Again, after a couple minutes at high idle, I bumped the throttle to get to low idle so I could adjust the timing and ... he died. A couple of attempts to restart at low idle proved unsuccessful. Also, once the engine shut off, light smoke began issuing forth from under the driver's side exhaust manifold. Dunno if this is the factory coating burning off the manifold, or if the Smoke Faeries left me a gift smudgepot? I made sure the starter cable was safely away from the manifold (it was); now I'll have to watch and see if it occurs again.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday funday.

I got a little bit more work done today. Tried to fix the fuel leak I talked about in the last post, but the pipe godz were not smiling. I removed the pipe and reinstalled it several times, fiddled with the angle of the brass elbow, but everytime I cranked it over, gas began to dribble out of the joint where the pipe exits the nut. (At the current price of gas, I figure I spilled about $4.52 onto the concrete.)

So I moved to another small project (that means: I gave up for a while) - making the heater work. When I got the car, the heater was bypassed, and for good reason: the control valve is corroded half-open. With the heater hooked up, you literally couldn't shut it off! Plus, the tubes from the heater plenum that go to the defogger vents were just done. The original tubes were made of cloth with a spiral wire inside; someone had wrapped them in duct tape just to keep them together. Over time, the duct tape remained while the cloth rotted and the wire rusted! So I got those pulled off and replaced with some new rubber/plastic spiral tubing from Studebaker International, and I pulled out the old Ranco heater valve, green and ugly with corrosion. At some point I'm also going to have to drop the blower motor/heater core assembly to remove the rat's nest built on top of it and have the core pressure-checked.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's ALIVE!!!!

Today was the day Barney came back to life!

We had a couple of false starts. I tried to start him up last Saturday after filling up all the fluids, but the new Sears battery I had was defective... The solenoid just clicked when I tried to turn it over. So, after getting a replacement on Monday, I turned the engine over once without the coil wire - just to make sure it would turn! (I'd worried myself silly the two days before thinking about what could be wrong besides the battery. Engine too tight... bad head gasket let coolant leak into the cylinders and hydro-locked the engine... bent pushrod...)

The week has been busy at work, and the couple days I'd wanted to try to start it were filled up. Today, I vowed to put the spark to work.

As you can see from the video, it took a few tries, but that's to be expected. Once he got running, revs came up smooth and strong to about 1,500 RPM; the duals were both blowing hard and sounding good. That's when my wife noticed the leak: gas pumping out of the 90-degree fitting on the output side of the fuel pump. I shut him down and disconnected the battery, careful not to make any sparks...!

Tomorrow I'll fix the leak and re-clock the distributor (when it's rotated to the proper position to run, it's about 90 degrees off from where it should be, and the vacuum advance is hitting the firewall - d'oh!

B-I-G thanks to my lovely wife Terry for encouraging and supporting this project and being a cheerleader whenever I got discouraged. And to Bob Kabchef, Bob Palma and Rich and Dave Gahlbeck and everyone else on the SDC Forum for answering my questions, no matter how stoopid they were :^) And to my buddy John Dick, who pitched in and helped time after time.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Driveshaft Away!

A gorgeous day in SoCal was a great opportunity to get out and under the Studebaker today, and I determined to get the Lark's driveshaft and starter put back in. These are literally the last couple of things I have to do prior to starting her up.

I got started around 11AM (yeah, I know, but it was Sunday!) and began by jacking up the rear of the car and placing jackstands (I know you can't see them in this shot, but believe me -- they're there) under the car.

I got the shaft out of storage in the garage and blew out the yoke end with compressed air. Previously, I'd installed a new Zerk fitting on the front U-joint and lubed it up; I also shot some lube into the tiny port on the rear U-joint so it wouldn't be dry when I put it back on. Then I cleaned up the saddle bolts and got new nuts and lock washers out of my stash (it's amazing how many fasteners you accumulate when you're working on a car!).

Here, I ran into my first minor roadblock. The Shop Manual says to lube the interior splines and exterior machined surface of the front yoke with some ATF before sliding it onto the transmission output shaft. This I dutifully did. Then I removed the painter's tape StudeRich had me put over the rear U-joint caps when we removed it oh those many months ago, and wrestled it under the car. I lifted it over the parking brake cable, slid the yoke onto the output shaft... for about 1/2". It went no further.

Yanking the yoke back out of the trans, I noticed for the first time a thin film of rust coating the output shaft splines. Seems those months of sitting in my driveway had moistened things up a little! One of the hazards of living near the coast.

After brass-brushing the rust off of the exposed splines, it occurred to me that lubing the output shaft, as well as the interior of the yoke, would be a good idea. But how to get ATF up there without lubing myself in the process?

My wife laughs at me for saving old stuff, but my mind went to the pint-sized ATF bottle with the squirt nozzle I'd stashed in the garage a couple of years ago. Perfect! I filled it with new ATF and wiggled it above the output shaft, dripping little dribbles of red all over the shaft and spreading it into the splines.

Another try: I lifted the driveshaft into position, mated the splines and gave a little shove -- and it slid home, pretty as you please! Woo hoo! A minor problem solved! I was feeling pretty good about things and took a few minutes to slide out and converse with my wife, who had just come back from the store and was beginning to talk of lunch (a favorite recurring subject in our house).

After a little break, I got back under and proceeded to mate the rear U-joint with the flange on the axle input shaft. That's when the second problem asserted itself. The bearing caps on the U-joint must fit between little "ears" cast into the saddle of the axle input shaft. But they didn't want to! They were about 1/16" too wide. What was going on here?

What was going on was, even with my careful attention to keeping the bearing caps on the rear U-joint, one had still managed to come partially loose; four of the little roller bearings had fallen out of their race and were stuck in the old grease at the bottom of the cap.

Luckily, none were missing, so the fix was easy: use some forceps to retrieve the bottom-dwellers and put them back where they belonged. With that done, the cap slid back on as it should, and the U-joint seated between the ears like a nice, proper little part.

After that, the hardest part was torquing the nuts at the top of the differential, but with the car's butt hoist high in the air, I was able to roll in from behind on my stomach and torque them down reaching over the axle.

A note here: Because the nuts are so close to the diff housing, you can't use a regular socket with your torque wrench here - there's no room for the socket alone, let alone the head of the wrench. This is where a crows-foot socket comes in handy; just keep it at a 90-degree angle to the wrench handle and you'll be able to set the correct torque.

With the driveshaft successfully installed, I set the Lark back on all fours and proceeded to jack up the front wheels so I could put the starter in. This would be the 2nd time trying: the first time I was stopped cold by a problem that needed answers from someone smarter than I.

Studebaker starters are held on by special bolts as described in this post. They must be inserted through the bellhousing into the starter, and the nuts torqued on from the starter side, because the bolts are too long to go through the starter flange (they are interefered with by the starter snout casting).

Well, my bolts didn't want to go through from the bellhousing side. The threads would enter, but the shoulder portion of the bolt stopped hard against the bellhousing.

Reversing the bolts and sliding them through from the starter side worked... but as previously noted, it's impossible to mount them in that position.

Guys on the SDC Forum suggested that maybe the transmission inspection plate was misaligned, and that I should loosen its bolts and, after aligning the plate and bellhousing holes using a brass drift, try again. That was a couple of weeks ago; trips out of town kept me from revisiting the issue until now.

So I took the inspection plate off altogether and tested the bolts. Nope! Not gonna work! Curious, I got my micrometer out and started measuring things. The bolt shoulder clocked in at 0.437"; the engine side of the mounting hole at 0.439". So far, so good. But the bellhousing side of the mounting hole measured 0.435" - just two-thousandths too small to allow the bolt shoulder through!

I have no explanation for why this is, but I guess I'm going to have to ream the holes a little to let the bolt slip through. Maybe this explains why common bolts were on the starter when I removed it, instead of the Stude starter bolts!

Giving up on the starter, I did accomplish a few more things before quitting time. Like many '60s cars, Larks came with heat riser valves on one exhaust pipe; these have a thermostatic spring that keeps them closed when the engine is cold, sending exhaust gas up to the choke heat stove and helping speed warmup. When the engine is warm, the spring unwinds and the valve opens to let the exhaust flow freely. Well, mine was gone altogether.

A post from on the Forum advised that one from a '60s Caddy would swap in with some small modifications (NAPA part # 600-1824). Specifically, a portion of the butterfly must be removed to clear the Studebaker exhaust manifold opening (shown marked in the adjacent photo). A little Dremel work and it was ready to go in; fit like a glove and worked freely.

While I was under there, I also sanded the rust off the dent the exhaust pipe made in the oil pan when we reinstalled the engine, primed it, and painted it with black Rustoleum.

So now the starter is the only thing keeping me from firing it up! Hopefully I'll be able to solve this problem quickly and next weekend we can bring it back to life.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Here's to Buddy Romine

Found a great story on John MacDonald's Studebaker photo pages about a fellow rebuilding his '54 Champion 2-door sedan. These weren't popular models back in the day but I think they hold up very nicely now, especially when compared to contemporary GM and Mopar products.

Buddy got an Ohio car and has proceeded to rebuild the engine and get it back on the road. Lots of pics and excellent explanations of the rebuild process here. I love it when another Stude hits the road!

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