Things To Do After You Bought That Studebaker
By: Ingvar Vik, with a foreword and uodates by Herb Phillips
FOREWORD: The following
article was published in the October 1978 edition of TURNING WHEELS Magazine,
and is used here with permission. A few items have been updated
by the author, Ingvar Vic, and the changes are in parentheses. I
have also made a few notes of my own, identified by my initials.
The subjects are separated by paragraph, and it can therefore be used
in the form of a checklist. I recommend that you print a working copy,
and check off each section as it is performed. Obviously every vehicle
is unique, and your own judgment must be used as to the extent of any
Ingvar and I agree that any serious Studebaker love affair should begin
with two things: A genuine Studebaker Shop manual, and a membership in
one of the outstanding clubs dedicated to the preservation of this remarkable
make. The information presented in this article occasionally references
the Shop Manual, but many tasks can be easily performed before yours arrives.
Ingvar is presently one of the 9 Technical Advisors to the Studebaker
Drivers Club magazine, TURNING WHEELS, and can be contacted through it
for specific advise at no charge. SDC also publishes the SDC ROSTER,
which contains the names, addresses and phone numbers of every member,
and also contains an INTERNATIONAL PARTS AND SERVICE DIRECTORY listing
over 400 companies and individuals by State or Country. Excellent
advice is also available through the Studebaker Discussion Newsgroup (alt.autos.studebaker)
Please be aware that the quality of advise obtained through a Newsgroup
can vary, as these forums are open to the general public.
Studebaker is gone, but through the efforts of un-paid volunteers like
Ingvar, and 13,000 dedicated members in SDC alone, the magnificent products
created over it's 112 year history live on.
This article stands as the finest mechanical overview that I have seen.
If you wish to return a Studebaker vehicle to it's original safe and reliable
operating condition, short of a complete restoration, Start reading!
Old Kentucky Studebaker
Okay, you finally
convinced yourself and your spouse that you really needed another Studebaker,
and it is now sitting there in the driveway. "What do I do now?"
you ask yourself. Well, here are a few things that you can do to that
new (to you) Stude that will help you while away a few evenings and weekends.
While you are At it you should probably do something to that faithful-old
Stude that you have been driving all these years too. All used cars require
some attention and minor repair work. After all, many people do not service
their cars as often as they should, or they just get enough done to them
to keep them alive until they can unload them on some Stude nut.
NORMAL WEAR ITEMS
Some things wear out with normal
use, like tires and brakes. Batteries deteriorate with age and use. The
first thing to check is the battery. Determine its age and condition,
and if you suspect that it is old, replace it. Of all the used cars that
I have owned, I have had to replace the battery in all but one within
six months. Buy a good battery. After all, you are going to keep that
Stude for a long time.
Check for tread depth, cuts,
bulges, etc. Are the tires the same size? They should be, but at least
make sure that both fronts and both rears match.
Take off one front hub and
drum. The front brakes wear most. If the linings are thin, you can look
forward to a brake job. If they look new, check the rear brakes. Some
cheapskates replace only the front brakes and then sell the car.
(NOTE: Removal of rear brake drums when mounted on tapered axles requires
a special drum puller. All Studebakers except for the last few years of
production used tapered axle shafts. Do NOT attempt to remove the drums
from these without obtaining this tool, and reviewing the shop manual
procedure. This is not something to be apprehensive about, it is just
a little different from today’s cars. With the right tool, the job
is simple to perform. Without it, you will probably destroy more than
you will repair. HP)
When replacing the brake linings
be sure to replace the hydraulic cylinder seals and cups. Wash all the
cylinder parts in alcohol. Do hot use gasoline, kerosene, or solvent.
Even if the brake linings look good front and back, you should get after
the hydraulic system. Those $34.95 brake jobs don't do anything to the
hydraulic system, and after a few years they get loaded up with dirt and
water. Rebuild the master cylinder too. If you have a hill holder, take
it apart and clean it. Flush the lines with clean brake fluid. Check the
flexible lines. Sometimes they have worn spots from rubbing on the frame
or suspension. Replace them if they are cracked, swollen, or cut.
(NOTE: This was written
20 years ago. The newest Studebaker will be 32 this year, and was never
really expected to last this long. When you combine this with the fact
that most of the brake systems were using a single master cylinder, and
it was filled with the finest paint stripper/moister absorbent 1940’s
technology could devise, (DOT 3 brake fluid) you have an accident looking
for a date. If you are still using DOT 3, OR if you cannot verify the
age of the hydraulic lines and hoses, REPLACE THEM NOW! The emergency
brake is a sad myth. It may slow you down a bit, but try it sometime in
a simulated panic situation. Do you really think it will save your hide
when an internally rusted brake line pops open? If you have a later Studebaker
with the modern dual master cylinder, you will be in a lot better position
in an emergency, but losing half of your normal braking ability is no
picnic either. Ingvar and I agree, that a full line and hose replacement
is the only way to go on the unknown car. After that, an upgrade to DOT
5 silicon fluid will probably eliminate the need for any further hydraulic
work during your ownership of the vehicle. -HP)
While you have the brake drums off, check to see if they are grooved.
If so you should have them trued up on a brake drum lathe. Most good auto
parts stores have facilities to do this work. If you get the drums trued
you should get oversize linings and have them arced to fit the new drum
diameter. While you are working on the brakes, don't forget the hand brake.
Adjust it after you get the service brakes set. Oil the cables with engine
Bearings and seals
Before you put the brake drums back on, you should clean and pack the
wheel bearings. The rear ones too! To pack the rear bearings, you must
have the hub and drum off. Then remove the backing plate. Don't lose the
gaskets or the shims. You can pull the axles out by using the hub and
drum as an impact puller. Put the hub on the axle without the key, then
put an axle nut on at least four turns.: Rap the hub against the nut a
few times. This should pull the bearing race out of the axle housing.
The bearings should be washed in solvent and packed with wheel bearing
grease. With the axles out, clean the ends of the axle housing and replace
the inner seals. These seals keep the oil in the differential from running
out and washing out the wheel bearing grease when the car is parked on
a side hill. By replacing them now you will alleviate any problems later
on. When you put the rear backing plates back on the car you should set
the axle end play. The shims that were between the backing plate and the
axle housing on the right side are for this purpose. There should be from
.006 to .003 end play. The best way to check it is to use a dial indicator
with a magnetic base. Put the contact button on the end of the axle and
try to move the axle in and out. Take but shims till you get the correct
reading on the indicator.
(Note: DO NOT under any circumstances put the drum
back on the tapered shaft axle with any type of lubricant on the mating
surfaces. It is tempting to do this after seeing how much power must be
exerted by the drum puller to pop them free. When reassembling, the surfaces
should be clean and dry. If lubricated, as you tighten the attachment
nut to the specified torque, the axle will continue to slide inside the
drum hub, eventually splitting it open. The friction of the dry surfaces
is allowed for when torqing the nut. It may sound strange, but this design
works, and did so for many decades. Just get the tool! HP)
Now that you have done all that, let's look at the engine. There are five
systems to check: Cooling, Electrical, Fuel, Lubrication, and Mechanical.
THE COOLING SYSTEM
The cooling system probably needs flushing and some new hoses. Check the
hoses first and replace the ones that are soft, cracked, or swollen. Next
check the water pump. Grab the fan and try to move it up and down or back
and forth. If there is any movement there at all, replace it. They usually
get noisy before they get loose, so if you hear a rumbly or chirpy noise
from the front of the engine, it could be the water pump.
The next item to check is the core plugs, or soft plugs. You might as
well replace them now. Some radiator cleaners cause a galvanic corrosion
between the mud that has accumulated in the block and the mild steel in
the core plugs. These plugs are inexpensive but they are sort of messy
Here is what to do: Run the car up on some ramps about 19" high,
preferably on a gravel driveway. Drain the radiator and remove the two
pipe plugs at the lower sides of the engine block toward the rear. Six
cylinder engines have only one plug - on the left side toward the rear
above the starter. The coolant should drain out. If it doesn't, jam a
screwdriver or an icepick in the hole to break the dirt loose. After the
block has drained, take a punch and hammer and punch a hole through each
core plug, then pry them out. (These are sometimes referred to as freeze-plugs.
HP) On V8 engines you have to remove the starter from the drivers side.
Now comes the messy part. Get a garden hose and nozzle. Stick the nozzle
into each core plug hole and flush out all the mud and sediment that has
accumulated in the block.
(Note: it is common to find strange bits of weird looking wire in
these dark cavities. These are old casting form wires that were sometimes
left in place at the factory. Pull them out and dig around in there with
coat hangers, tentacles, whatever, until it is as clear as you can make
After you have accomplished that, you can install new core plugs. Coat
the edges with zinc chromate primer and put them in with the convex side
out. On the older style engines without the full flow oil filter, the
holes have a shoulder inside with the plugs stop against. Hit the plugs
in the center with a punch and hammer so they will swell up and stay in
place. Seat them firmly - it is sort of embarrassing to suddenly lose
all your antifreeze on the freeway. On the blocks with the full flow oil
filter the core plug holes are bored the same size clear through. You
can use either the cupped type core plug, or some that can be expanded
with a wrench. Dorman makes a copper plug that works well because it is
difficult to get a hammer up there, but there is enough room for a wrench.
The Dorman part number for the V8 engines is DC-9. You will need six of
(Note: Full-flow filter type engines have the oil filter canister
screwed directly onto the side of the block. The older engines were sometimes
equipped with an optional partial-flow type filter system. These were
filters mounted on brackets and had steel lines running to fittings in
the block. On partial-flow blocks, not all of the oil was forced to go
through the lines and filter, hence the name.- HP)
Now that the plugs are installed, get a can of heavy duty radiator flush.
The kind with the cleaner in one end and the neutralizer in the other
end. Follow the instructions on the can. Drain and flush the engine thoroughly
each time too. And be sure to open the heater valve so the heater will
also be flushed. The best way to flush the system is to remove one of
the heater hoses and stick the garden hose nozzle into the end of the
hose and run lots of water through it with the drains open. Be sure to
flush out all the cleaner and neutralizer. Then fill the radiator with
clean water or antifreeze. Add a can of water pump lubricant and cooling
system conditioner at least once a year. It will make the water pump last
THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
Start with the ignition system. Check the condition of the points. Replace
them if they are pitted or burned. They can be replaced without removing
the distributor, but you have to be careful about dropping the screws
in the distributor. I find it a lot easier to remove the distributor and
hold it in a vise. This gives me a chance to clean it up good and check
the condition of the advance weights. Incidentally, I was given a nice
'64 Cruiser with disc brakes and reclining seats just because the distributor
self-destructed and the owner had to have the car towed home. If you take
the distributor out you have to be sure to get it in time when you reinstall
it. Take the distributor cap off and jog the starter until the rotor points
forward before you remove it, then when you reinstall it, put it in the
same way. You will still have to set the timing, but you should do that
anyway. Check the condition of the rotor and distributor cap. If the contacts
are all pitted and burned or greenish, you should replace them. If you
do not replace them, at least clean the inside of the cap with solvent
or WD-40. Later model Studebakers used spark plug wires that had a powdered
carbon conductor to suppress radio noise. These will build up a lot of
resistance as they get older and should be replaced with a new set using
a nickel conductor. A good set will cost about $15, but they are worth
it. (Note: Ingvar and I part company here. I would rather have a static
Take the spark plugs out and check their condition. If the tips look like
they have been fried or they are all carboned up, replace them. Studebaker
recommends Champion H14-Y's for the V8's and OHV sixes. They are OK for
normal driving, but it you drive faster than average or take a lot of
trips, you should try the next range cooler, which is J12-Y. If they are
still too hot, try JIO-Y. I use J10-Y's in my 63 Daytona 289 V8, and J12-Y's
in my wife's car. with a 259 V8. Set the gap at .033 to .038 inches before
The points should be set with a dwell meter before setting the timing.
The timing should be set with a timing light with the hose from the distributor
disconnected from the carburetor. Idle the engine as slow as it will go
and set it on the IGN mark. The number one cylinder is the front one on
the drivers side, except for England, Japan, and Australia (and maybe
a few other countries where they drive on the wrong side of the road).
Now that you have that done, let's look at the generator or alternator.
About all that can go wrong with them is the brushes get worn short or
the bearings get loose. On generators you can check the brushes by shining
a flashlight in the back end. If they are 1/2" long or less or it
looks awfully dirty in there, you should take it apart, clean it, and
install new brushes. You can wash the generator in solvent, or use GUNK
and hot water, but you should blow it out with compressed air to dry it
out. If the commutator is arced or grooved it should be trued up on a
lathe. Most auto parts stores can do this for you.
When you reassemble the generator be sure that all the contacting surfaces
are clean. Electricity won't go through dirt or rust. (Note: An excellent
product to keep around the garage is something called PENETROX. It is
sold at electrical supply houses for use in building wiring. It is an
electrically conducting paste, and will prevent corrosion on any connection.
I have used it for years on cars, jets, and helicopters-HP)
Oil the generator bearings sparingly. Too much oil will run out and mess
up the inside of the generator. When you put it back in the car, be sure
you hook up the wires to the correct terminals. If you are unsure, you
should label them when you remove them. Adjust the fan belt so it is snug.
Having it too tight will wear out the generator or water pump bearings.
if it is too loose it will chirp and squeal.
Next let's check the voltage regulator. About all you can do is watch
the ammeter. If it jiggles a lot, or if the needle stays way over on charge
all the time, or if it stays in the middle and then goes to discharge
with the engine running and the lights and heater on, you should replace
it. They can be cleaned and adjusted, but that takes a lot of time and
patience. Be sure to polarize the new regulator before you start the engine.
Follow the directions that come with the new regulator.
Now let's look at the starter. These little gems suffer more from dirt
than from wear and tear, so a cleaning job will usually make them run
like new. You can do this while you have the starter out to replace the
core plugs. Check the brushes and oil the drive unit with WD-40 or equivalent.
If you use oil and live where it gets cold in the winter, the oil will
congeal and give you some problems when you try to start your car at -30
F. The whole unit can be washed in solvent or Gunk and hot water. Blow
it dry with compressed air. Here again, make sure that all contacting
surfaces are clean.
Check the battery cables while you are at it. Lead is a good conductor,
but lead oxide is not. Take the cables off the battery posts and scrape
them inside with a pocket knife or scraper till they are shiny. Then scrape
the posts too. Do not oil the cables or terminals until after they are
clamped securely on the posts.
(UPDATE: Ingvar is a firm believer in the serviceability of a well
maintained six volt electrical system. 12 volt systems are cheaper to
mass produce, and tolerate dirty connections better to some degree. Beyond
that, there is no advantage. Both types develop the same horsepower at
the starter. Be sure that the cables are as fat as Groucho’s cigar,
and that the connections are clean, and you will have no more problems
than any of today’s 12 volt systems. Also, ALL Studebaker 6 volt
systems are POSITIVE GROUND!!! -IV/HP)
Now let's set the valve clearances (tappets). Chances are they have not
been set in a long time. They should be set (on a V8) at .023 to .025
hot, or .025 to .027 cold. The best way to set them is at top dead center
on the firing stroke, one cylinder at a time. The shop manual outlines
the procedure as follows:
Take off the distributor cap and rotate the engine either by turning the
fan or jogging the starter solenoid with a remote starter switch until
the rotor approaches the position corresponding to the number one spark
plug. Then carefully rotate the crankshaft until the IGN mark is under
the pointer near the crankshaft pulley. You now have it in position to
set the valves of the number one cylinder. The cylinders are numbered
from front to back 1,3,5,7 on the drivers side (left facing forward),
and 2,4,6,8 on the passengers side. To set the other cylinders at top
dead center, hook up a 12 volt bulb with one contact grounded and the
other one attached to the terminal on the coil that goes to the distributor.
Turn on the ignition switch and rotate the crankshaft slowly until the
bulb lights up. You are now in position for the next cylinder. Follow
the firing order around till you have set all 16 valves. Then go through
them all again to double check your work. Be sure to put new gaskets on
the valve covers. Use the neoprene type if possible. They can be re-used,
and they are not as likely to leak.
While you have your hands dirty from setting the valves, you should remove
the oil pressure relief valve and clean it. There is a small orifice in
the plunger that gets clogged up sometimes and when this happens your
timing gears won't get any oil when the engine is running slow when it
is warm. The pressure relief valve is located on the lower block toward
the front, below the water pump on the passengers side. Use a 3/4"
socket with a short extension and a ratchet to remove the cap. Take out
the spring and plunger. If the plunger won't come out easily, a small
magnet-tipped rod will usually coax it out. Sometimes a small screwdriver
or a 3/16" drill can be used if you can get it into the hole in the
plunger and, lifting up slightly, pull it out. Do not enlarge the hole
on the plunger. Wash the parts in solvent before reinstalling them. Do
not stretch the spring either.
If the engine smokes some and you are uncertain about what to do about
it, try this before you talk yourself into a ring job. Remove the spark
plugs and check the compression pressure. Write the readings down on a
piece of paper. Then squirt some oil into each cylinder through the spark
plug hole (about three squirts from an oil can). Then check the compression
pressure again. If the pressure has changed, you have worn rings. If the
pressure did not change and is high (145 psi or so) on all cylinders,
your rings are good. If it is high on some cylinders and low on others,
and the readings were the same both times, you have leaky valves. Repairing
either leaky valves or worn rings requires some major surgery. However,
if the compression pressure is high on all cylinders and the engine smokes,
you probably need to change the valve seals. These seals are sort of like
umbrellas and are designed to keep the oil from flowing down the valve
guides. They are neoprene and will deteriorate with age regardless of
the miles on the engine. They can be replaced simply and inexpensively.
The shop manual gives a run down on how to replace them without removing
the cylinder heads. Special tools are required, but they are easy to make
if you have access to a lathe. I made up a set to do my cars, and I will
send a sketch of them to anyone who wants to make up a set of his own.
Tool 1 reaches through a spark
plug hole and holds the valve up against the seat. Tool 2 compresses the
valve spring so the keepers can be removed safely. All you have to do
is remove the rocker arm covers, the rocker arms, and the spark plugs.
Then insert tool 1 through one spark plug hole to hold up the valve. Bolt
tool 2 to the cylinder head and compress the spring. You can now remove
the keepers and release the spring and remove it. The seals are then accessible.
Remove the old one and install a new one. Repeat this for the other 15
valves and reinstall the rocker arms. Be sure to set the valve clearances
(Note: On overhead valve engines there is another trick that works.
Buy about 15 feet of smooth, flexible nylon rope about the diameter of
a pencil. The best type has a shinny, silk look to it and is very soft.
With the piston down a few inches from TDC, feed the rope into the plug
hole, but don’t loose the end you are holding! Now move the piston
up by turning the engine crank BY HAND until the pile of rope seats against
the bottom of the valves, and resistance is felt. Now, you should be able
to use tool 2 to compress the spring as outlined. When done, move the
piston down again, and pull out the rope.-HP)
THE FUEL SYSTEM
Take the sediment bowl off the fuel pump and note what comes out. If there
is a lot of rust and water the tank should be removed and cleaned out.
Here in the Puget Sound region where the humidity is high there seems
to be a lot of moisture condensing on any surface. This happens inside
of gas tanks, too, especially if the car sits outside. If you don't want
to remove the tank, you can add some de-icer type stuff to the gas with
each fill up. This stuff is available at most auto parts stores. If absorbs
the moisture and cleans out the fuel lines.
Next check the fuel pump pressure. A vacuum gage usually has graduations
on it for fuel pump pressure. If it is weak, you should replace it. (Note:
It is also a good idea to check the suction side of the pump. A quick
way to check is to put a finger over the inlet port and stroke the pump.
It should make a little circle on your skin and the suction should be
obvious. Pumps can put out normal pressure, but have low suction. The
problems thus created are hard to troubleshoot, but usually show up during
very hot weather. Also, Ingvar now recommends using modern rubber compounds
to alleviate any potential problems when using modern fuels. Several Studebaker
vendors sell kits to make this improvement. If the pump starts to leak
internally, fuel will run into the engine’s crankcase and mix with
the oil. A little bit won’t damage anything, but it does increase
the danger of fire, and it will reduce the lubrication ability of the
oil before it evaporates through the crankcase vents. Avanti owners need
to be particularly cautious about keeping the fuel pump in good condition.
The Avanti fuel tank sits above the level of the engine, and if the pump
leaks internally, has been known to empty it’s entire contents into
the engine! -HP)
Next comes the carburetor. If the outside of the carburetor is dirty and
gummy, chances are it hasn't been touched in a while. The biggest problem
for carburetors is trying to digest water and dirty fuel. If you have
a shop manual, you can take the carburetor off and rebuild it. Carb kits
are available at most good auto stores. Take the carb apart and wash the
parts in carburetor cleaner or lacquer thinner. Blow out all the passages
with compressed air before reassembling it. Set everything the way the
shop manual says. Any experimenting with different settings will bring
you grief and poor mileage. Incidentally, I have gotten some good mileage
out of my Studes. Some of my non-Studebaker driving friends have a hard
time believing me, but I got 25 MPG with a 289 in a '63 Daytona.
When reinstalling the carburetor on the engine, be sure to adjust the
throttle linkage. This affects the automatic transmission settings. The
shop manual outlines the procedure for setting this. I strongly recommend
that you install a fuel filter and a fuel pressure regulator in the fuel
line between the fuel pump and the carburetor. This will reduce your chances
of flooding with a hot engine. Be sure to change the air cleaner element
The automatic transmission is a complex unit and is very susceptible to
dirt, misadjustment, and sloppy mechanicing. I would advise against trying
any major surgery unless you have some experience, the right tools, and
a shop manual. There are a few things that you can do, though, such as
changing the fluid and adjusting the shift and throttle linkages. Studebaker
recommends changing the fluid and cleaning the oil pump screen periodically.
If the seal at the propeller shaft leaks, you can change it while you
have the transmission drained. The transmission and torque converter hold
about 9 quarts of fluid, so get the fluid (Type F) and a new pan gasket
before you start.
Before draining the fluid, run the front wheels up on some ramps so you
can get under it. Do not ever crawl under a car that is held up with a
bumper jack! Block the wheels firmly so the car can not roll over you.
Take a 1 1/16 open end wrench and remove the tube that goes from the engine
compartment to the rear of the transmission pan. On earlier models there
is a drain plug on the back of the pan. Drain the fluid in a pan. This
will get about 2/3 of the fluid. To drain the rest you have to turn the
engine flywheel with a big screwdriver prying on the gear teeth until
you see a 7/16 hexagon pipe plug in the torque converter, looking through
the access hole in the converter housing. Remove the plug through the
access hole and catch the fluid in a pan. As soon as the torque converter
is drained, replace the plug so you won't lose it.
Next, remove the pan by removing the 5/16" bolts with a socket. You
will then behold the innards of the transmission. There is a fine mesh
screen that should be taken off and washed in solvent. There are some
servos and valves that can be taken off and cleaned, but you had better
have a good memory or a shop manual before you attempt this because you
could put them back together wrong and end up cussing. There are two bands
to adjust, but you should not attempt this unless you have a shop manual
or a Motors Auto Repair Manual. The Motors manual tells you how to adjust
the bands without special tools.
If the rear seal leaks, now is the time to replace it. Take the propeller
shaft off at the rear universal joint and pull the yoke out of the transmission.
You can get the old seal out with a screwdriver or a punch. Pry it out
by sticking the screwdriver through the hole. The new seal can be installed
by tapping it in with a hammer and a block of wood. Be sure to drive it
in straight. When you have everything cleaned up and back together you
can put the pan on, using a new gasket. Connect the dipstick tube. To
fill the transmission, pour 3 quarts of the fluid into the dipstick tube
or the filler through the access hole in the floor of the car. Set the
handbrake, hold the foot brake down, start the engine and put the gearshift
in drive, low, reverse, and then back to neutral. Pour in 5 more quarts
with the engine running, and check the fluid level with the shift in drive
and the brakes set. Add fluid to the full mark.
When the transmission has been filled and checked for leaks, you can set
the shift linkage and the throttle shift valve linkage. To adjust the
shift linkage, disconnect the shift rod at the transmission. Put the selector
in Drive (with the engine shut off) and put the transmission shift lever
in the center notch. Loosen the lock nuts on the shift rod and turn the
clevis in or out until the pin slips freely through the hole. Lock both
nuts on the rod and put a cotter pin through the hole.
To adjust the throttle valve you will need a tachometer and a pressure
gauge that reads to at least 85 psi. Run the car until it is warmed up.
Stop the engine and remove the 1/8" pipe plug that is located in
the front of the case directly ahead of the shift and throttle levers.
Install the pressure gauge with a long hose so you can read it from inside
of the car. Connect the tachometer. Start the engine. Put the selector
in Drive and hold the brake pedal down with your left foot. Accelerate
to 1000 rpm. The gauge should read 80 to 85 psi. If it does not, you have
to lengthen or shorten the rod that goes from the accelerator to the transmission
valve. Do not run the engine at 1000 rpm any longer than is necessary
to get a reading on the gauge. When you have that done, remove the gauge
and reinstall the plug. Then wash your hands and take it for a test drive.
Now, let's talk about standard, overdrive, and four-speed transmissions.
They are relatively easy to work on and quite trouble free if they are
given a minimum of maintenance.
The best indicator of the condition of your transmission is noise, or
the lack of it. Does it stay in gear? If it slips out of gear, you will
have to do a rebuild job, or it could be that the flywheel housing is
not centered on the engine, causing the transmission input shaft to run
at an angle. All transmissions have some gear noise which is natural,
but if you get a loud howl in one gear or a grating sound you had better
plan on taking it apart. The best way to start out with a new (to you)
car is to drain and flush the transmission and overdrive unit. Raise the
car so you can get under it. Block it securely and jack up the rear wheels.
Remove the drain plugs from the overdrive and the transmission. Remove
the filler plugs from the side. Replace the drain plugs and fill the transmission
with solvent, diesel fuel, furnace oil, or light engine oil. Do NOT use
gasoline. Replace the side plugs. Start the engine and run it in and out
of overdrive and through the gears for about five minutes. Drain the transmission
and overdrive immediately. Replace the drain plugs and fill the transmission
and overdrive with SAE 80 mineral oil or SAE 40 non detergent engine oil.
Do not let anyone talk you into using a multi purpose gear lube. This
stuff makes the synchronizers slip and makes overdrive lurch when you
shift it. Be sure to replace the filler plugs. A good method for filling
the transmission is to use a plastic squeeze bottle like you use for ketchup.
(Note: Straight SAE 80 mineral oil is readily available if you look
in the right places. It is still commonly used in large trucks, so try
either a truck stop, or contact an oil distributor directly. It may not
be available at the neighborhood auto parts store. If the lube you are
considering has the letters EP on it, it contains Extreme Pressure additives,
and will lead to the problems Ingvar described above. -HP)
If the rear seal leaks, you should replace it before you fill the transmission.
You can pry the old seal out with a punch or a screwdriver. When installing
the new seal, tap it in evenly until it is flush with the case. Now that
you have that done, you can adjust the shift linkage. You should check
the engine mounts now and replace them if they are bad because if the
engine drifts forward or backward too much you will have trouble shifting.
To adjust the shift linkage, first put the gearshift in neutral, and remove
the clevis pins from the linkage at the transmission. On 1961 and later
models you can put a 3/16" diameter rod or drill through the two
levers on the steering column and through the block between the levers.
Then adjust the length of each rod at the clevis until the pin slips in
easily. On pre 1961's you need a tool or you can feel or eyeball the linkage.
The main thing is to align the two levers on the steering column when
the shift lever is in neutral so the holes line up.
The housing under the steering wheel that holds the shift lever may need
some attention, too. In order to get at this item you have to take the
steering wheel off. For this you need a puller. When the steering wheel
is off you will see two 1/4" nuts that hold the upper housing to
the steering column. Loosen the nuts with a socket wrench. Do not take
them all the way off, just loosen them. You have to unhook the turn signal
wires too. Tag them so you will get them together again in the right order.
The housing should pull up easily. If you pull the shift tube up with
it you have to make sure that the tube lines up with the lower shift lever
arms when you reinstall it. When you get the housing off, clean the lower
end, lubricate it with Lubriplate or chassis lube. Lubricate the top steering
shaft bearing too. When reassembling the shifter and top bearing support,
the two 1/4" bolts have to hook into the notches in the steering
column. Be sure to tighten the nuts evenly. Lubricate the horn contact
ring on the underside of the steering wheel with chassis lube. When installing
the steering wheel make sure the marks line up so the wheel will be level
with the car pointing straight ahead.
(Blatant commercial promotion: If the shift tube is worn out, you
should be able to purchase a new one from any good Kentucky-based Studebaker
parts vendor. They usually keep a box of them in the barn.-HP)
The clutch should be set and lubricated too. On the suspended pedal type,
spray the pivot shaft with WD-40 or equivalent. On the older models with
the pedals through the floor, check to see that the clamp bolt is tight
that holds the clutch pedal arm to the shaft. There is a lube fitting
between the pedals somewhere under all that grease and dirt. Be sure to
lube it every time you service the car. The free play should be set so
you get at least 3/4" of pedal movement before you feel any resistance
in the clutch. If you did everything right, you should have a smooth shifting
As long as you have the rear wheels up, you can flush the rear axle in
the same manner as the transmission. To drain the rear axle on the later
models you have to remove the rear cover. Be careful not to get any dirt
in the gears. Reinstall the cover with a new gasket. On standard rear
axles fill it up with SAE 90 hypoid gear lube. On Twin Traction units
you have to use a special limited slip lubricant. Most auto parts stores
have it, or you may be able to still get it from a Ford dealer.
Every car has some things that require attention but which may be perfectly
OK on the next car. There are a lot of little tinker-type jobs that you
can do to make that Studebaker a real pleasure to own and drive. For instance,
I enjoy showing my non-Stude driving friends how easily the doors open
and close on my wife's '62 Lark 4 door. "Just like a refrigerator"
they say. The car has over 166,000 miles on it now, so the doors have
been opened and slammed a few times. One thing that you should do which
is often overlooked is to aim the headlights. When driving at night I
can judge the condition of an oncoming car by the headlights. You will
notice, for instance, that State patrol cars always have even headlights.
The best way to aim the lights is to pick out a dark straight level unused
piece of road. Take off the headlight rims. There are two screws on each
unit, one to the side, and one at the bottom or top. With these you can
move the light to raise or lower the beam or move it from side to side.
Turn on the brights and aim the light straight ahead and far enough out
so that you can see the beam hit the roadway 100 yards or so ahead of
the car. The dims will fall about 30 to 50 feet ahead of the car and a
little to the right.
Another thing that is often overlooked is the lubrication of the door
hinges and latches, and the hood and trunk hinges and latches. An oil
can filled with light oil and STP will work wonders. Be sure to wipe up
the excess oil from the door latches so your wife or girl friend doesn't
get oil on her dress or coat when she gets in the car. A few squirts of
WD-40 or the equivalent will make the door, trunk, and ignition lock cylinders
work freely. Just squirt some in the key hole and insert the key and work
it a few times. Also squirt some around the push-button on the outside
door handle. Do not use oil here, it will congeal in cold weather and
you will have to pull the button back out.
To make door and window adjustments you have to take the upholstery panel
off the door. If the door sags or rattles against the body it can be raised
or moved by loosening the three screws that hold the hinge to the door
and then moving the door to the desired position. The windows have upper
and lower stops that can be adjusted. The hood latch should be adjusted
so it does not raise up or vibrate while driving but still can be closed
without slamming it too hard. The round catch can be moved up or down
by loosening the locknut and turning the catch. Adjust it to where it
takes a firm pressure on the hood to close it.
The trunk latch should be adjusted in the same manner. The catch on the
body can be moved up or down by loosening the two screws. If you set the
trunk latch too tight on the Larks that have spring loaded hinges, the
trunk lid may spring open while driving. Set it so the latch will catch
(you will hear it click) with a firm push of your hand, rather than a
slam. Here in the rain country the windshield wipers should get much attention.
Replace the blades once a year, preferably in the fall. Studebaker put
some felt rings on each link on the wiper mechanisms. They should be oiled
once a year. On some models these felt rings are hard to get at, but there
are few things in life that are more annoying than squeaky wipers.
A front end alignment requires special equipment. Make sure everything
is tight in the front end before taking it to a shop. Replace the loose
or worn tie rod ends, inner control arm bushings, and shock absorbers.
Then take it to a good front end alignment shop. Don't take it to one
of those places where they advertise a $9.98 alignment just to get your
car in so they can sell you a lot of parts that you do not need. If the
front end is set correctly it should last 50,000 to 80,000 miles. My ‘55
has been set twice in 197,000 miles. Be sure to lubricate the fittings
every 1000 miles. Grease is cheap.
(Note: Studebakers have more grease fittings than modern cars. Make
a photocopy from the shop manual, and give it to the person doing the
lubrication. There are very few people that will know where to look for
the critical fittings. If a fitting will not take grease, note it on the
chart, and correct the problem as soon as you can.-HP)
Loose or worn shock absorbers can be dangerous. To check the shocks, grab
the bumper and bounce the car up and down a few times, then let go. Good
shocks will stop the car at the bottom of the first bounce.
Stiff wind-wings are a small item but can be a nuisance. If they are difficult
to move, open them and squirt some WD-40 into the hole in the rubber weatherseal
about one inch ahead of the pivot. It should work loose immediately.
Make sure that all the wiring has rubber grommets on where it goes through
sheet metal. Short circuits can be dangerous.
If you replace the universal joints, get the kind with a grease fitting.
They will cost more, but they will last forever if you lubricate them
with wheel bearing grease every 5000 miles.
Many engines have sticking manifold heater valves. If yours is stuck,
make sure it is stuck with the weight down. Here in the Puget Sound region
you can get along without a manifold valve. I took the one out of my '63
Daytona and put a spacer in its place. If the valve is stuck shut (up)
it can cause the exhaust valves to get hot and burn out.
If you have done all these things, you should have a good-running and
Ingvar Vik, Technical Advisor, Turning Wheels magazine
I hope you enjoyed this and found it as useful as I have. Thanks again
to Ingvar for graciously allowing its use, and for giving me permission
to add my own annoying comments.
Herb Phillips Technical Advisor Groupie -- Herb Phillips President/Curator
AKA: The Kentucky Open Air Museum of Hoosier Automotive History
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