The Studeblogger

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rain Delay! and alternator woes.

Well, Southern California is finally getting some rainfall after several years of record drought, and I'm not complaining - we surely need it and thanks be to God! Downside of this is that there's no Studebakering until the wet stuff stops. Poor Barney sits under the cover that's glued to him like a prom dress on a cheerleader until after the rain is done.

In the meantime, the rain was delayed long enough that on Sunday I was able to pull the alternator for service. About a week ago, I took Barney for his first twilight drive with lights blazing, and saw the ammeter doing a weird little dance afterward - after powering up a nearby hill at 50 MPH, I came off the throttle and saw the dash and headlights dim dramatically as the Amp needle fell halfway to the "D"ischarge mark.

At first I thought perhaps the drive belt was slipping during the high-speed (!) run, so I tightened it up the next day and saw the ammeter behaving like it should. But the problem reoccurred, so I asked around and found that Richer Auto Electric (official electric shop for the Little Guys street rod club)was located literally around the corner from me.

So off I went on Monday and dropped Barney's alternator on the counter at Richer, where Jim took it to the back, strapped it to the test machine and came back pronouncing it non-operational. Glad I found that out before it quit on the car! I guess it pays to have these items tested when you don't know for sure the condition they're in. Jim told me he'll have the rebuild done by the end of the week.

By the way, I found that Wilson Auto Electric makes a direct, bolt-in replacement for the Prestolite ALK-5001 that Studebaker used in many late-model Larks. It's p/n 90-06-1001, and you can get one online here, should you need to.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New coil, better spark.

Driving Barney around, I've been trying to figure out why there's such a strong fuel smell at times; I've gone through the whole fuel system and ruled out leaks, from the carb to the tank. Also, I've noticed hard starting, even after just a day of not being driven - much harder starting than fuel bowl evaporation could account for. Starting often required a loooong 10-second crank (to prime the carb, I'd assumed), followed by a second crank during which the engine would catch, crank a little more, then fire. Starting idle wasn't too smooth, either.

After thinking about it a bit, I started to focus on the coil. It's one of the few parts of the electrical system I hadn't touched. Looking at it, I found that it was a very old Delco-Remy. Was it OE? Who knows? At the very least, it wore two coats of black paint; one original and one from the engine bay repaint. There was rust showing on the case, and some corrosion in the tower. So I decided to replace it.

NAPA shows Echlin #IC12 as the OEM application for a '63 Lark, so I footed it down to my local store and picked one up last night. At lunch I went out and replaced the old Delco, and when I turned the key -- presto! Barney fired right up. This is noteworthy because my last drive was on Saturday, 3 days ago - plenty long enough for fuel to evaporate from the bowl and cause a hard-start condition if that's what the trouble was.

But with only one pump of the go pedal to set the choke, the engine caught with a healthy roar after only 3 turns of the crank, and ran smoothly at fast idle, just like it ought to. I think that the old coil, while still operative, was probably not putting out enough spark to economically run the engine, a problem the new coil solved.

Goes to show how sensitive gas engines are to good spark output, I guess.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Reed's first drive.

Remember your first time driving? For me, it was behind the wheel of my mom's '70 Impala. (I loved that car... wish I still had it. Along with the teeth I lost when I crashed it into a light pole.) Well, I wanted my son's first time at the helm to be memorable, too, so yesterday, on the last day of our Christmas vacation, we hopped in Barney and drove to El Camino High School, where a big, empty parking lot beckoned!

After some instruction on how to use the various controls ("don't press too hard on the gas", "keep your foot on either the brake or the gas - never away from the pedals", "always put the transmission in 'park' before you set the parking brake"), we swapped positions and I navigated Reed through several roundabouts of the parking lot, being careful to give a wide berth to the single light pole in our vicinity :) We talked about how steering while the car was in motion, no matter how slight, was so much easier than trying to muscle the wheel around while parked. I explained what the gauges' normal range was, and what to do if they left that range. I told him that small control inputs were much better than large ones; a warning he found to be true through slightly over-anxious applications of gas and throttle. And when we were done, we swapped seats and drove home, but not before I got the picture below. The smile says it all :)

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