The Studeblogger

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The finer points of Studebaker Batteries

Wow, can't believe it's been a year since I wrote anything here. I guess that's because Barney has been such a good boy that I haven't had to fix anything in quite a while. He's kind of in a state of stasis at the moment; there are things I need to attend to (a few rust bubbles, window seals, etc.), but he drives so well that I've just been enjoying the ride.

Summer, however, is when things get stressed on any car. One of the most common things to fail in the summer is the battery; heat and storage cell technology do not mix well. That's why, at least in the Southwest, batteries fail more often than any other time of year.

And so it went this past weekend. I'd been watching a slow decline in cranking power since April, but since I'm a tightwad (I drive a Studebaker, after all!) I put off doing anything about it... until last Saturday. I sat down and started to crank him over, and Barney...groaned. About 15 seconds of slow turn with no fire, and I let the starter rest; on the second try the engine made exactly 3 revolutions before the battery gave up for good.

The nuance of Studebaker batteries
Studebaker sedans from 1956 - 1966 use a pretty standard-sized Group 24 battery. Notice I said "Group 24" - not the more commonly available Group 24F.

(Also note that Hawks and Avantis use different batteries - Group 24 applies only to sedan-based Studebakers and Larks based on that chassis. Be sure to look up exactly what you need.)

What's the difference? On a Group 24 battery, the terminals are placed so that, with the positive terminal located at the rear, both terminals are located inboard of the fender, as shown below:

On a Group 24F battery, the terminals are reversed; that is, the negative and positive terms are swapped, so that, installed the way you see above, the negative terminal is up front, toward the radiator. This doesn't work: the positive lead to the starter solenoid is placed just behind the battery tray, while the negative lead comes around the front of the battery from its connection point on the block. With a Group 24F, you'd have to swap the cables, and they don't reach.

"No big deal", you say, "just turn the battery 180 degrees." Nope - won't work, and here's why.

It has to do with the contour of the hood. Notice in this view that the hood center rises from the fender to provide extra clearance for the radiator, air cleaner, and battery terminals.

In this view, with the battery reversed (as it would be with a Group 24F installed backward), the terminals are much closer to the fender - and under the lowest part of the hood. Installing the battery this way does not provide enough clearance for the battery posts and installed cables to clear the hood - virtually guaranteeing a dead-short and electrical fire caused by your battery contacting your hood.

So, it will take a little more effort to search out the Group 24 battery, as the F variant is much more common these days. And, even when the counter dude (or chick) hands you your battery, be sure you double-check it; they don't always know the difference between a Group 24 and Group 24F.

Happy battery, happy Barney

One more thing: don't forget the battery hold-down. Yes, mine is not factory stock, due to the battery tray having rusted out and fiberglassed somewhere in the recesses of time B.C. (before Clark). But, it does the job and holds the battery in place, which is essential - you don't want that 75-pound lump coming loose and knocking into your fan at speed, or contacting the block and starting a whooping-good engine bay fire.

Barney is happy now with his new battery, and so am I - one quick flick of the key and he's off to the races. Which makes it yet another good day to be a Studebaker driver!

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  • Why not install longer battery cables?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:02 AM  

  • Longer cables will work with a Group 24F, but the problem with doing it that way is that the hood is too low at the edges (where the terminals are on a 24F), and the hood may contact the terminals and short them, causing an electrical fire.

    Using the proper Group 24 battery moves the terminals inboard, toward the center of the hood, where there's more clearance. No possibility of shorting them out.

    By Blogger Clark, at 10:25 AM  

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