The Studeblogger

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Safety first... or, at last.

Today I finally got a few minutes to do something I should have done a long time ago - install a proper set of seat belts in Barney.

There was already a set in there, but they may as well have been absent. They were installed in such a way as to be pretty much useless, had there been any sort of  accident. Seat Belts should always be anchored directly to the floor, with precautions to make certain they can't pull loose when stressed.

As you can see, mine were worthless - one side fastened under the seat-to-floor attaching bolt, the other even worse: screwed to the seat frame itself using a skinny little 1/2" #6 screw. Like I said, worthless. Luckily, adding proper seat belts to a Studebaker model year 1962 or newer is pretty easy, as the Federal government mandated that automakers include provisions for seat belt installation on all cars, whether they were optioned with belts or not. This makes installing belts simple.

So let's get to work! First slide the front seat as far forward as it will go, then flip up the back seat and pull the carpet forward. See those two small rubber plugs about the middle of the photo? Those are the Lark's built-in seat belt anchors. The plugs protect the cage nuts on the other side of the floor; once they're pulled, we can screw in the belt anchor hardware.

I used a flat bladed scraper to pull up the plugs (which came out in two pieces), revealing virgin 50-year-old machine threads ready for use. Sweet! Don't worry if the plugs come out in two pieces (mine did); you won't be using them again. Although I couldn't bring myself to throw out the intact ones; I doubt if even the SASCO inventory included any of these.

If your car is undercoated, however, you may have to do a little spelunking underneath before you can proceed. Here's what mine looked like: covered with undercoat and barely visible. Looks tougher than it is, though; a little scraping and it was ready for use.

One more thing, though - gotta cut the carpet. First slice the jute underlay, then make a discreet slit in the carpet. Not too much - just feel for the bolt hole with your fingers, then put a little "x" right in it. That'll be plenty for our purposes.

My seat belts (a Christmas gift from my lovely wife, purchased from Studebaker International) came with all the hardware needed to attach them to the Stude mounting lugs.

The big eye bolt threads into the floor mounting point. Once it's tightened down, the big hardened washer is placed on the threads between the floor and the lock washer and nut. In the event of a sudden shock on the belts, the washer will spread the force against the floor pan, preventing the anchor from tearing out of the floor.

You can see that there's a lot of thread visible underneath once the eye bolt is threaded in. I used a 12" adjustable wrench to tighten the bolts down. Once they're tight, you can put the bottom hardware on, but you may need an assistant to keep the eye bolts from rotating while you tighten the nut from below.

Do the same for the other 3 eye bolts (assuming you're installing a pair of belts), and you're ready to attach the belts. There is no torque value given in the Shop Manual for these anchor nuts, so just tighten them down as tight as they'll go. A little bit of Loctite Blue wouldn't be a bad idea either.

At this point, my installation took a little bit of a side trip. The outboard anchor on the passenger's side was located closer to the frame rail than the one on the driver's side, and the big washer would not clear it -- there was a quarter-inch too much washer.

So I improvised a little and stuck the washer in a vise, and used my Dremel and a cutoff disc to remove enough material to let the washer fit. After this was done, it slipped over the eye bolt and snugged up against the frame like it was born that way. The inboard cage nut in the floor was a little recalcitrant too - I needed to chase the threads with a tap, and even then it took a lot of grunting and sweating, a half-turn at a time, to get the eye bolt home.

After all the hardware is snugly attached, you can install the belts. Generally, the belts with the buckle assembly are mounted inboard; the bayonets are outboard. Thread them through the gap between the seatback and lower bolster. Each belt end has an opposing set of J-hooks that clamp to an eye-bolt, and are then held together with a cotter pin. It doesn't matter which way the cotter pin goes in, but I recommend orienting it so that the spread ends face the carpet, for cosmetic reasons.

You're done! Put the seat back to driving position, adjust those slick new belts, and head for the road! You're about 100 times safer now than you were an hour ago.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adjusting your Studebaker's steering gear.

There's nothing worse than going down the road sawing at your steering wheel, trying to keep your car in its lane. Hey, it's a 47-year old car -- it's bound to have a little play in the steering gear, right? Even with a newly-rebuilt suspension, new tie rods, springs, bushings and everything, you've got to expect a little slop.

Except that you don't. There's a simple adjustment you can make that will bring your steering gear back to proper working order.

Barney's steering gear had about 4" of slop in it. That's right - four inches of "I'm doing NOTHING!!!" before any change of direction occurred. So, after scouring the Tech board at the SDC Forum, I found the secret to fixing it.

In this post, Tom Bredehoft posted the procedure, which is really simple. Let's dive in! My Lark has a Saginaw recirculating-ball steering box, but the procedure is similar for the Ross cam-and-lever box as well.

The adjustment for the steering box is on the driver's side of the car, just above the frame rail, and has to be accessed from the wheelwell. So we'll get started by jacking up the front end and removing the driver's front wheel and tire.

Once the wheel is off, you can see the heavy composite dirt guard stapled to the inner fender to keep dirt, mud and water from entering the engine compartment. Grab this from the bottom and lift it up to expose the steering gear adjustment screw.

There's a lock nut holding the adjustment screw that must be loosened before you can turn the screw. This area has a lot of grit and grime and oil in it, and likely your steering box will be just as grimy as mine. I used a steel brush to clean the crud out of the threads, then backed off the lock nut with a 5/8" box wrench. Once the nut is loose, turn the screw clockwise until you feel resistance, then back it off a bit and snug up the lock nut. Turn the steering wheel lock to lock and make sure that there are no points where it binds; if it does, you've tightened the screw too far. Undo the lock nut, back the screw off, and try it again. Make sure the steering moves smoothly through its entire range without any tightness. Be sure the lock nut is tight, put the wheel back on, and lower the car.

Ready for a drive? No you're not. One more thing to do before you hit the road: check the lubricant in the steering box.

Pop the hood and locate the steering gear filler plug. It's the big, square plug just above the Pitman arm. Unfortunately, it's in a slightly unhelpful location, down at frame level, slightly obscured by the brake lines and parking brake cable.

I put together something with a little reach; a 1/2" crowfoot wrench on a 16" extension. This allowed me to snake down amongst the cables and wires without trying to muck around down there with a spanner in the limited space available.

Once the plug is out, shine a light into the gearbox and see if you need to top off the lubricant inside. Chances are, you will. In fact, my gearbox was so empty I could see the worm gear. To fill the box, you'll need a special lubricant.

Originally, Kendall 999 gear lube was the specified lubricant for the Saginaw box, but Kendall is long gone, unfortunately, and Brad Penn, their successor, has no modern equivalent. Fortunately, Studebaker International has a re-creation: Semi-fluid Steering box grease. it's part No. 801651. This stuff comes in a caulk-type tube that's got enough in it to refill an empty box. A good thing, because mine took nearly everything in the tube! Just one more thing that makes me wonder why this car didn't drive into the ditch years ago... Who knows when anyone last checked it?

Once the box is full, stick the plug back in. But before you go for a drive to test the steering gear adjustment, make sure your lug nuts are torqued properly - the Studebaker shop manual specifies 74 - 85 lbs.-ft. I mention this because I had neglected to re-torque my lugs after I brought the car home from the brake shop, and they came off far too easily when I went to remove the wheel. (Could account for the front-end shimmy on my last freeway outing.) I usually split the difference, so I set the wrench for 78 lbs.-ft.

Having done this, I took Barney on the road. You would not believe the difference in the steering! The slop is now completely gone, and the car tracks straight and true down the road with no wandering. Bonus: it was a beautiful day in San Diego today. Great day for a photo in the park!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Just killin' time...

Not much going on here lately. This time of the year is very busy for me, as my job takes a lot of preparation for a major trade show that happens each spring. Also, it's been raining every weekend, so every time I plan to take a Saturday to go out and futz with the car... you guessed it.

But I did get some Studebaker time today. Had a lot of errands to run and since it was sunny, I took Barney out for a bunch of round-town stops. He ran really well, kept his cool in the stop-n-go, and all in all everything was great. Got some attention and quite a few smiles at Costco when I stopped in to fill up (gas mileage up, from 9.5 to 10.59! I really wonder if the engine wouldn't be happier with a 2bbl carb; the WCFB may just be too much for it).

Part of the trip had him on the freeway for a good 5 miles. I hadn't logged more than a mile on the freeway before this, and I was surprised at how quiet the car was cruising at 65, even with the driver's window halfway down! There was a little bit of shimmy in the steering at 65 mph, though, which (since the front end has been totally rebuilt and aligned) I think may be attributable to the steering gearbox I haven't yet had time to adjust.

Later, I went down to Ace Hardware after dinner for a couple of repair items for the house, and the headlights managed to stay on both ways, regardless of the wonky switch.

All in all, a fun day on the road!

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