The Studeblogger

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lark Heater rebuild, Part 3: Installation

In Part 1, we yanked the old heater from the car. In Part 2, we made it all pretty again. In Part 3, we'll tackle putting all the disparate parts back together and making a functioning system again.

As the diagram shows, there are quite a few parts that have to go together - more little bitty ones than you'd generally expect. Luckily, as mentioned in an earlier post, most everything essential is available new from Studebaker vendors, even previously hard-to-find things like the Ranco water control valves that invariably wear out and leak.
First things first: Assemble all your bits. Here you can see all the stuff I've collected that make up the Lark's heating system: blower and core housing assembly, core gasket, newly-rebuilt heater core, refurbished heater/diverter box, molded coolant supply and return hoses, firewall hose grommets and Ranco valve + mounting bracket.

Before beginning installation, take a moment to lubricate your heater control cables. There are three; one that goes to the water control valve, one to the defroster mode flapper in the heater box, and a third to the air control flapper, also in the heater box. Studebaker used coil-wrapped control cables, so they are easily lubricated. I drenched mine liberally using a spray silicone lube.

The first item to go back in is the core/blower assembly, but first we have to reunite the core with its case.

I had my core rebuilt by what I think is the last old-school full-service radiator shop in North San Diego County, S&S Radiator King in Oceanside. S&S has been at it over 30 years, and they can fix or fab just about anything. I took my old core to them for testing and they confirmed that it was dead. "We'd solder one hole, and another would open up," said Mike, the owner. They searched around for a new core, but that size isn't made anymore. They scared up one that was about a quarter inch narrower, but still fit the tanks, and my heater was back among the living.

When I disassembled the core initially, I found that the factory used a generous glob of plumber's putty in each corner to keep the core from vibrating around in its case, so I did the same. I also found a small, triangular rubber bit that was placed in a crevice in one of the tanks; I don't know why it was there, but I saved it and replaced it.

Once the core was seated back in its case and the two mounting screws secured it to the flange, it was ready to re-mount under the dash.

The core is a very tight fit in the dash opening, and the mounting studs affixed to the dash are at the extreme corners of their mounting positions, so the core case must go onto the studs absolutely straight in order to make it up into the hole correctly. Don't forget to place the foam sealing gasket around the core before beginning the reassembly. I didn't use any sealer or caulk to hold the gasket on; bolting it into place is all the sealing it needs.

The core is held on by four nuts with anti-shake shoulders, like the ones shown at the right. You've probably already seen that the black ground lead from the blower motor ends in a ring terminal; it needs to be placed between the core case and one of these washers to complete the blower motor power circuit. Tuck the other two leads out of the way for a moment.

Now that the core and blower are reinstalled, we can mount the Ranco water control valve back under the dash. On earlier cars, this valve was mounted in the engine room on the firewall, but ours is in much closer proximity to the core and easier to service and install. Note the capillary tube that senses the ambient temperature; this needs to be coiled and located on top of the valve. I wound mine carefully around the handle of a screwdriver. The bracket screws to the lip on the underside of the dash with two big, honkin' sheet metal screws. It's best to connect the control cable to the valve before mounting it, since the tab that the cable screws to is harder to access with the valve in place.

Here you can see the relationship of the inlet and outlet nipples on the core and water valve, now that both have been mounted in the car:

What you can't see in the photo above are the holes in the firewall through which the heater hoses enter the cabin. That's right -- they're behind the blower case. There's enough room to get them by the case and onto their respective nipples, but only just.

It's time to start connecting hoses. The factory shop manual recommends using gasket shellac to paint the nipples with; not only will this lube the metal and make it easier to get the hoses on, but it will set up quickly and seal any gaps between hose and pipe, preventing leaks. I got a bottle of ol' skool Indian Head gasket shellac from my friendly local NAPA, where they've gotten to know me on sight since Barney arrived :) It works as advertised: paint the pipe, slip on the hose and tighten the clamp - you're done.

The factory used spring wire hose clamps, by the way, but I hate those things, so I use tower clamps instead, available at any auto parts store.

Although the long hoses with the molded ends that run from the engine into the cabin are available from Studebaker International, the short molded elbow that connects the water valve outlet to the heater core inlet is not. I took the old elbow to my NAPA and, bless their hearts, they picked a molded hose out of their parts bin that filled the bill. (It's a lot closer in dimension to the original than the photo makes it look.) It's NAPA part #11658, in case you're in need of one.

As the Body Manual diagram shows, the straight outlet on the water valve connects to the short pipe on the heater core, using the molded elbow shown above. Once that's connected, it's time to connect the two long hoses from the engine.

The hoses need something to protect them from being cut apart by the firewall, so there are rubber grommets that perform that function, again available from all the usual sources.

I spent a while figuring out how to get the grommets and hoses mounted in the car, and on my first attempt, I tried putting them in their firewall holes and feeding the hoses through them. Wrong move; I should have known that the friction between the rubber parts would prevent this from working. And once installed, the grommets contract a bit too - there was no way this method would work.

I realized that I'd have to slide the grommets on the hoses, feed the hoses through the firewall (one at a time) and then finesse the grommets into place. As you can see, one lip of the grommet is split so that it can compress enough to fit through the sheet metal and grip the other side. Once you've got it started in the hole, you can use a wide screwdriver blade around the perimeter to ease it into position. Or, perhaps, a piece of twine in the mounting groove to install it like you would a car window. (I used the screwdriver.)

Be sure to secure the two hoses to the fender using the strap just behind the alternator. If yours is missing, you can fabricate one or get one used from Stude vendors. On V8 cars like mine, the shorter of the two hoses runs from the elbow on the top of the water manifold to the water valve inlet; the lower hose runs from the lower nipple on the manifold to the long pipe on the heater core.

If you have a 6-cylinder car, the top hose runs to the elbow at the rear of the head and the bottom hose goes to the nipple near the water pump.

When the connections are complete, the core and valve look like this:

The next step is to install the diverter box and connect its control cables. Installing the diverter box is pretty simple; just slip the end over the blower outlet and raise the other end, then secure it to the bracket on the dash using the big screw that held it in. Don't forget to include the wiring harness clip; tuck the wire bundle that goes to the neutral safety and directional switch into it and you're done.

Now for the control cables. Slip them onto the actuator arms for the fresh air control and defroster diverter, and secure them to the metal tabs using the little squiggly spring clips discussed previously. The tang goes into the little hole in the mounting tab, and the other end snaps over the end of the tab These clips are tough to get on by hand, especially if you bought new ones; the easiest way to do it is with a pair of pliers to snap the end, as you can see in the photo below:

After the cables are on, you can connect the defroster ducts to the outlets on the diverter box. As I did with the other end, I used Zip ties to make sure the hoses don't blow off or come loose. I also used a Zip tie to secure the longest hose to the edge of the dash using one of the convenient factory holes. The factory used a metal strap of some kind to do this, but it's no longer available and the Zip tie is just as good.

There's just one thing wrong with this picture: after I connected the blower leads to the dash harness, there was a lot of extra wire. There was no way I was going to leave it like that. More modern tech to the rescue: these spiffy little self-adhesive cable locks I found in the automotive department at Wal-Mart. A couple of these stuck to the bottom of the diverter box and the mess was tidied.

Only one thing left to do: install the screen filter that keeps leaves and other debris from getting into and plugging the heater core. This is a woven metal mesh that slips into the firewall from the engine compartment, and has a rubber seal on the edge that keeps fumes and moisture out. These are available from Studebaker International. My original was shredded thanks to the rodent tenant, so I got a new one.

Congratulations! The heater is now functional again, ready to make your Stude comfy on those winter outings. It's one of the few times when plenty of hot air is a good thing :)

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lark Heater rebuild, Part 2: Refurbishment

With the heater system removed from the car and disassembled, you can start refurbishing the parts that are salvageable and hunting down the replaceable parts (hoses, clips, cables, etc.).

 Here's yet another great reason to get a copy of your Shop and Parts manuals on CD-ROM: you can print out individual pages. The one above shows all the bits that go into the '62 - '63 Climatizer system. Almost all of the larger parts (fan case, diverter box) are available used if yours are missing or damaged beyond repair; almost all of the small parts (cables and cable clips, fan cage, molded hoses, water valve, heater core, defroster duct hoses) are available new from Studebaker International or other Stude vendors.

A lot of my larger parts were rusty thanks to the leaky core and valve dripping antifreeze all over them for - well, probably years. I decided that this would be a good time to try using electrolytic rust removal, a process that uses electricity instead of blasting or wire-wheeling to get rid of the corrosion on steel  parts. You can read about the process in detail at The Stovebolt Forum, but here's the process in a nutshell: Find a plastic container, fill it with water, and add a tablespoon of Arm & Hammer baking soda for every gallon. Stick a piece of rebar or other sacrificial iron or steel stock in the water to use as an electrode; your rusty part becomes the anode. Submerge your rusty part in the water and connect your battery charger's negative cable to it; connect the positive cable to the electrode bar and switch it on - the more amps, the better. (One SDC Forum member told me confidentially that he'd derusted an entire engine block this way using a stainless tank and a welding power supply. I do not recommend or endorse this method!) Don't submerge your clamps, or they'll get eaten away! I decided to try this on the blower fan, which had surface rust all over it. Here's how it looked just after switching on the juice:

And here's how it looked about four hours later:

This nasty muck is all the rust that's been electrically removed from your part! Don't worry, it's not toxic, just fugly. After about a day, here's what came out of the soup:

It may not look very pretty, but it's no longer rusty :) That black coating is what's left behind by the process in place of the rust; a swipe with a kitchen Scotchbrite pad removes it and exposes shiny metal that can be primed and painted. I used this method on all of the blower case parts. The top of the case that holds the core started out like this:


...and came out like this. One of the side benefits of the process is that it loosens most paint, so it comes right off. I buffed the clean metal with a Nyalox wheel from Divine Brothers.

After the buff, the pieces were so pretty I was almost tempted to clearcoat them and leave them this way :) But everything got a nice coat of Rustoleum primer and gloss black and were set aside to cure.

While all this cleaning and painting was going on, I was ordering parts from SASCO and SI: hoses, a new blower motor, and other small but essential parts. Once they arrived, it was time to start reassembling the cleaned and painted parts. To attach the blower motor to the case, place the gasket over the long machine screws installed in the motor case and place the case over the threads. New locknuts on the blower side hold it all together; I put a little Loctite on the threads to make sure the blower vibration doesn't loosen the assembly. Make sure you orient the motor so that the power leads exit toward the blower case outlet.

Next, push the fan cage onto the motor shaft. Use care here; you don't want to bend the fan off-center, so don't push on the rim - push only on the hub. A socket on an extension handle can be used to get the hub down on the the shaft.

Leave about 3/16" of shaft exposed for the spring clip that goes on top to keep the fan from leaving the shaft at speed. New ones are round versus rectangular originals, but functionally they're the same. Use the socket to slide it tight against the fan hub.

After the blower fan is reinstalled, you can reassemble the blower case. Since a previous owner had used the wrong screws, I re-tapped the holes and installed the correct screws to hold the case together. Set the assembly aside; it's time to work on the air diverter box.

As mentioned in the previous installment, the fiberboard diverter flaps inside the box that control fresh air flow and heater/defroster mode had long ago lost the rubber sheets stapled to them. This meant I would have to disassemble the box, since there is no way to access both flaps from the outside. I also decided to use something a little more durable than rubber sheet to re-surface them.

Chances are you will need to perform this operation as well, so you'll need to remove the old-school rivets that hold the formed cardboard top onto the molded plastic bottom. It's that old-time thermo-plastic with the fibers impregnated to give it strength. But it's still soft plastic, and I didn't want to drill out the rivets because they'd spin and enlarge the rivet holes, so I used needle-nose pliers to bend up the tabs and remove them.

Once the top's off, the flappers can be removed and re-surfaced. I got two 8.5 x 11" sheets of black felt from Michael's; one with self-adhesive backing and the other plain, and laminated them together to obtain the correct thickness.

The residue left on the rectangular piece indicated that the original covering wrapped around the end of the piece opposite the hinge rod. After cutting the felt sheet to the proper size, I glued it to the hardboard using a liberal coating of E-6000 cement. I did the same to the round flapper, applying the felt to both sides.

Note that there is a small washer at the top of the shaft on the rectangular flapper. Don't lose this! It needs to be on the shaft when you reinstall it so that the flapper will move smoothly and stay at the correct height.

As mentioned before, the top of the box is made of pressed cardboard; mine looked a bit tatty. On the advice of a poster on the SDC Forum, I brushed it with a mixture of carpenter's glue and water. Not only did this visually rejuvenate the aged cardboard, it also stiffened it and made it water-resistant (just in case the heater ever decides to leak again). The results were really spectacular, and after the glue wash dried it was time to re-assemble the halves of the box.

Start by locating the diverter flaps in their holes in the bottom of the box. Note that the arm on the round flapper is pointing down. After the flappers are located, the top can go back on.

I tried a couple of things to fasten the top back on; at first I used plastic pop-rivets but they didn't grip - they loosened right up. Then I tried an aluminum rivet, but it took too much force to tighten and I was afraid of cracking the plastic. I wound up using #6 machine screws with lock-nuts to secure the unit; not correct, but not damaging. And, if I ever need to open it up again, it'll be easy to do.

Now that the blower and diverter box are refurbed and reassembled, we're ready to re-install them in the car. Stay tuned for Part 3!

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Lark Heater rebuild, Part 1: Disassembly

Here we begin a three-part series on how to R&R your non-functional Studebaker Lark Climatizer (Studebaker's term for their temperature-maintaining heating system). There are of course variances between years, but your Shop and Parts manuals (you do own them, right? If not, get them from Studebaker International or one of the other Stude vendors, either printed or on CD-ROM) have year-specific exploded diagrams and parts lists. Since I have a '63, this series will be specific to '62 - '63 Larks, but the procedures are pretty much the same for all years.

Barney's heater didn't work from the day I bought him. The PO had disconnected the heater hoses because the water control valve had failed, then leaked and frozen in a partly-on position; the continuous drip had also corroded the control cables and frozen one of them solid. Besides that, the heater fan would not operate; not only had the hacked wiring harness caused a power feed to the blower circuit to be disrupted, the core had leaked and let water into the fan motor itself and corroded the bearings. So nearly every part of the heater system would need to be replaced or refurbished.

The pic above shows the blower case and core assembly, which is located in the cabin underneath the passenger's side of the dashboard. On earlier Lark models, the core and blower are located in the engine compartment, on the passenger's side fender, and fresh air is fed through a hose connected to the vents inboard of the headlights. With the advent of the four-lamp system in 1961, the core and blower were relocated inside the cabin, but the water valve was still in the engine compartment on the firewall. In 1962, the valve was mounted under the dash as well, which means when they leak (not if, when), you'll know it immediately. Ranco valves can now be obtained again after a long time out of production; I obtained a used one from eBay and had it ready to go in.

The first order of business was to remove the old core and blower assembly. This isn't too hard, as it's held into the dash by four nuts and studs. the top of my core had been the nesting place for a rodent at one point, and though I'd vacuumed out as much of its bedding as I could through the filter slot in the engine room, there was still a lot of organic matter on top when it finally came out, as you can see here. The core is a tight fit in its hole, and even once the nuts are off the studs it requires some finesse to get it out, especially since clearance with the firewall is minimal.

In my Lark, the old core was sealed to the dash opening with some sort of dum-dum or black caulk; either that or the original rubber seal had simply turned into goo after 45 years. Either way, it was sticky and reluctant to let go, but once it was broken, the assembly came down the studs and was sitting in the floor of the car. Since the motor was seized and the wiring harness about to come out, I nipped the motor's power leads and the core was free.

As you can see, there are three major three major pieces to the heater/blower assembly: the heater core itself, the blower motor, and the fan case. The core is the first piece to remove; it's held onto the blower case with a sheet-metal screw on each side. Once removed, the core comes right out.

With the core removed, I found four pieces of ossified white crud in the four corners of the case. Careful inspection revealed these to be preshistoric plumber's putty, put there by some line worker decades ago to hold the core safely in its case.

I then disassembled the blower case by removing the short #6-22 machine screws that ring the clamshell's flange. Well, actually I had only one #6 screw - the rest had been replaced at some point by a motley assortment of wood screws and coarse sheet metal screws. Opening the case exposes the "squirrel cage" blower fan, which has to be removed before the screws that secure the motor to the case can be accessed.

With the fan exposed, I couldn't resist trying to make it spin, so I hooked the leads up to a 12-volt drill battery. At first, nothing happened, but after freeing it up by hand, the fan took off with a loud squealing of dry, seized bearings and I knew for sure that a new motor was needed. Luckily, they're easily available; I got mine from SASCO.

With the blower/core out of the car, the heater diverter box is held on with just one screw, a big one that also holds a clip that keeps the wiring harness from falling on the floor. It's a good idea to remove the control cables before taking out the screw; they're held on by small spring clips that clamp the cable's spring-wound sheath and keep it from moving as the actuator is moved.

If your clips are broken, bent, missing or go flying off to Never-Never land when you remove them, don't fret. Apparently AMC used these clips as well, and they are readily available from Studebaker vendors; they are part #1331825. Some models require just one; my Lark needs two and one was missing and was one of the new parts ordered from SI.

After removing the heater box, the defroster ducts are usually hanging free from the outlets. These hoses were originally made of black paper wrapped with a spring-coil substrate; mine deteriorated long ago and the inventive Previous Owner had fixed the problem by wrapping what was left with duct tape. The black paper then crumbled away entirely, leaving the ducts a sort of automotive fossil part. I discarded these archaeological objects and bought the new rubber ducting with nylon inner-spring sold by SI. The outlets themselves are pressed steel and are held on with a nut on each end, which (with the heater out of the car) were easily accessed with a socket and extension.

Working on the kitchen table, I cut the new hoses to fit using the old ones as templates, and secured them to the outlets using a method not available to Studebaker line-workers back in the day: Zip ties. Slipping the hose as far over the outlet necks as possible and tightening down the Zip ties secures them beyond any loosening, yet enables me to remove them down the road if needed. Since I had the instrument cluster out for the re-wiring project, it was even simpler to reinstall the re-hosed ducts, but it's not bad even with the cluster in as long as you have a good flashlight.

Now the that heater box was out, it was obvious that it would need refurbishing as well. Looking at the two air diverters (one to close off outside airflow, the other to select between heater and defroster mode), I could see that the rubber sheet that was originally stapled to their surfaces to facilitate sealing was long gone. Well, like I said - every part would need refurbishing!

The next installation will cover rebuilding and refurbing the various heater sub-systems. Stand by!

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