Oil pan fun

Getting back to the engine. Head work next. The heads are out having a valve job and a cleanup.

Basic stuff to install the pan.

One thing I hate is having to undo stuff because I didn’t follow the correct sequence. I mounted the pan filler block too early. Fortunately I was able to get the gasket sealer to release the gasket with a little heat from a paint stripper gun. The manual says you can cut off the bottom of a timing cover gasket and use that if you tear the gasket when removing the pan block. That is just asking for leaks!

Next I installed some cut off bolts to guide the pan and to test fit the side gaskets.

Here is one of a couple of gasket holes that could cause grief later.

More woodworking tools that are handy in the garage. My wife bought these for me years ago when I thought I’d try carving. Maybe some day. For now they have proved very handy cutting out gaskets and fabric.

A little trimming and the hole looks a whole lot better. The gasket is fitting nicely in the rear main slot, but only after I trimmed the edge a tiny bit with an Exacto knife.

With the gaskets in place I tried to fit the pan block. Impossible to get the bolts in now that it has been raised 1/16″ by the gasket. The instructions in the service manual may have worked OK back in the day with pure cork gaskets, but with these composite units it is really hard to compress them at all.

I could have just cut the ends off the gaskets, but I figured if I did that then the pan block would be too low for the pan and the gasket over the pan block might not seal as well. So I marked the ends and put them in the vice overnight – using the softer padded jaw covers.

That did the trick. I was able to get the pan block bolts in place with reasonable pressure. At this point the side gaskets have been covered in sealant on the underside and fitted in place. You can see a tiny bit of red gasket maker where the pan block meets the side gasket. I use high temp sealant wherever there is a 90 degree joint that oil can find its way out.

Now for the end gaskets. Both were too long. The rear one I cut off small bits until I got a fit with a slight bulge at the top.

For the front seal I used the pan block to get the length right and to get the proper angle for where the gasket will meet the side gasket. Of course I did this before re-installing the pan block. I will put red sealant on the side gaskets where the front and rear gaskets will finally make contact with them.

The front and rear gaskets didn’t want to stay in the pan or on the block. I was able to leave the rear one balanced in the rear main groove, but the front one wouldn’t stay in place. So I slipped the pan on and let it rest on the rear seal then I slipped the front seal between the pan and the pan block and pressed down. I applied gasket sealant to the topside of the side gaskets ahead of time.

This did not look good. the front seal was making contact on this side but was up about a 1/4″ on the other side. Nothing left but to try (Yoda would not agree- hahaha!). So I put in a couple of longer bolts in the front holes and started to pull the pan down. As I did the seal moved down on the other side until it made contact just as the pan was bottoming out on the side gasket – whew!

I pulled down the front and back just snug then I put in the remaining pan bolts and tightened them from the center outwards. I tightened everything hand tight with a small screwdriver type handle and a 1/2″ socket. I will leave it all this way for a couple of days to let the gasket sealant set up so that when I do a final torque the side gaskets will stay in place and not try to squeeze out between the pan and the block. Now hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything that will need me to remove the pan.

Rockers now!

I disassembled each rocker assembly keeping everything in order. Maybe not necessary, but I just like things to go back where they came off and fit best.

This is the end of a rocker shaft with the original 1/2″ plug in place. To get to this point I removed the cotter pins from each end and laid out all the springs, mounts and rockers in order.

I found that the rockers were worn noticeably. Not good. Might have been OK if it was using the same valves and the old valve guides, but… Fortunately I have a NOS set of rockers on hand so I’ll replace all 16.

After sitting a number of years I was sure there was going to be some crud lying in the bottom of the rocker shafts. Problem was how to remove small cup shaped plugs. Here I have bored a fair sized hole in the plug.

Next I used a large sheet metal screw and washer to start the plug out.

Once the plug started to move I use a couple of large hole washers over the end of the shaft so the plug could be pulled out without butting up against the washer under the screw head. A 1/4″ drive ratchet is on the end.

Got a bit too close so the photo is a bit blurred. You can just make out the plug on the screw end.

Next, using a long threaded rod, I punched out the plug on the other end. Notice I’m using padded aluminum vice jaw covers to protect the rocker shaft. These are available from woodworking supply shops. I get mine from our local Lee Valley store. I think you might be able to get them from Busy Bee Tools as well.

Again not too clear, but maybe you can make out the crud filling the rod threads.

I made up a gun cleaning type rod out of a coat hanger and pulled a rag soaked in parts cleaner through the rocker rod a few times.

I was able to find 1/2″ frost plugs to replace the ones I had to drill out. They are a tad thicker in wall size but, they went in quite well. I reused the two old plugs I was able to remove without damage. The plugs can’t work out of the shafts as there are cotter pins and washers at each end.

One new set of 8 rockers. They will get a thorough cleaning before assembly. I will need to remove the remains of 40+ year old factory protective coating. Good stuff. Still doing it’s job where it hasn’t been scraped off. I’ll clear it out of the shaft opening, the push rod screw cup and the valve tappet end.

All assembled with lots of assembly lube. The new rockers were a tight fit on the old rocker shafts. The shafts themselves didn’t have any noticeable wear for the most part. The tags are to mark left and right banks so they go back on the same side and the oil delivery holes from the head will line up.

Next I’ll do the final mount of the pan.

Valve springs-good & bad

Studebaker JT engines used heavy duty valve springs. They are #188645 in the parts book. They were actually used in earlier engines which explains the older part number. Fortunately I had some but unfortunately only 8 instead of 16. This being a budget project I am going to try and make do. Above is a method of finding weak valve springs as used by our local Studebaker guru Gary Payne. You don’t need to run them in too much to find the which is squeezing more that the other. The new one is on the right and the old one on the left.

I tested all the old springs and picked eight of the best. They are all about the same height but noticeably lower than the new springs. When I squeezed an old with a new the difference was less than a 1/16″ which is a lot less than that between the uncompressed spring height. Since this is not going to be a race engine and not likely to often go over 3500 rpm I will try to use the used springs. That said I may go for all new springs if I can buy 8 new ones.

Next I’ll get into the rocker arms.

Checking the heads

My carpenter level is still pretty flat I think. Some of the paint is worn off but enough remains to give a even surface. I flat-filed the level just to be sure nothing was sticking up. Before hand I cleaned off the gasket surface of the head with a razor paint scraper and then flat filed the head surface There was a raised spot at one end of the head so I made sure it was leveled before taking measurements. I then put the level across one side, then the other and in the middle. I put a .002 feeler gauge under the level at various places and found that the heads are less than .002 out of level.

Next I cleaned the valves on a wire wheel and checked to see what I had. This is an intake valve. One of the bad ones. you can see the groove where the seat in the head actually wore down the valve. It is a groove in about the center of the valve face. Not good.

This is an exhaust valve and it looks good. All the exhaust valves seem OK for a regrind.

Some of the intake valves were OK, but not all. So I dug out four old heads and pulled the best looking intake valves.

I ended up with eight original exhaust valves and ten possible intake valves. I took them to the engine rebuilding shop for them to check out to see if I have enough intake valves to do a regrind.

I ran a wire wheel around each valve seat in the heads and they all look good or good enough for a regrind. Although one is a bit tough. Hopefully it will pass or I’ll be looking at another head which may have its own problems.

I had earlier checked the heads for warpage and now it was time to check the block. All was going well until I put the level over a paint drip. There were some anxious moments until I discovered the problem. With the over-paint removed the block is also less than .002 out.

Next I ran a brass cleaning brush through all the valve guides. I then checked them all for play with an old intake valve and a new exhaust valve. I compared also to a new valve guide that you can see above. The difference between the new and old guides was not all that much. Just enough to notice. The engine shop called and said three of my exhaust valves were bent??? But on the bright side all the intake valves were usable and have been reground. I don’t have any glass bead for my blast cabinet so I’ll turn the heads them over to the builder to clean up and seat the valves. I happen to have a set of new exhaust valves so I’ll use them and save the old ones that are straight for emergency or for someone who needs less than a complete set.

Next I’ll have a look at the springs and the rocker arms.



Head start

Heads on the bench. Time to start.

I will put these aside for a bit. The wiring clip in the center will be removed then they’ll be sandblasted, primed and painted with Rust-oleum Sun Yellow which seems to be pretty close match to the original shade.

Removing the valve springs went pretty well.

Removing some of the valves was another story. A block of hardwood to tap the valve down then back and forth until they were loose enough to pull out by hand or tap gently out of the head did the job. About half of the valves needed help.

Now for a boring job. Washing everything in the parts washer then running the bolt threads and some of the heads over a wire wheel mounted on a bench grinder.

After what seemed like hours the bolts are all cleaned up and ready for when it comes time to mound the heads.

A bucket of used valve springs. These are the heavy duty Studebaker springs used on JT engines. Some will be weak from prolonged compression. Later I will check them all against a new spring to see which ones can be reused.

Next, checking the heads for flatness.

Closing up the front

Parts ready to install the timing cover and close up the front of the engine.

Here I have put a very thin coat of gasket sealant (Permatex) on both sides of the gasket. I was having trouble getting a thin coat on my gaskets. If the coating is too thick the gasket tries to squeeze out when torque is applied to the bolts. I realized that the sealant had thickened up over time. It calls for rubbing alcohol for thinning. Worked much better after.

First I installed the timing cover with the bolt just lightly snugged. The pink inside the timing cover crank opening is a new felt seal used by Studebaker. Some folks go to the trouble converting to a modern rubber seal. I found that a replacement felt in my old Avanti worked just fine – I made sure to drill a couple of 1/8″ holes in the bottom of the felt retaining ring on the inside to let excess oil drain away.

Before I installed the pan block I put a little red silicone high temp sealant down to help manage future leaks. Studebaker and indeed all older engines liked to leak. It just wasn’t a big deal back in the day if some oil leaked; plus the technology wasn’t there to manage oil leakage.

With the pan block in place I torqued all the bolts to spec.

Next was the JT harmonic dampener. A bigger unit than that used on the standard V8 models. I put some anti-seize on the inside of the pulley bore and installed it on the engine. To install it, since I don’t have the proper tool – again, I started it on the snout with a dead blow hammer. Before that I used a couple of chisels to hold the back of the crank from moving. Once started I used a small maul and a block of hardwood to get the dampener on far enough so that the crank end screw could be turned in at least 1″ I then used the screw and washer to pull the balancer onto the snout. Not the best way. Next time, if there is a next time, I will get a length of threaded rod made up to screw into the snout all the way and extend out beyond the pulley. I’ll then use a big nut on the end of the rod to push the balancer on.

I’ve added the power steering pulley to the end of the balancer. I just need to install the snout screw and lock to have the front end finished. Beginning to look like and engine:-)

Time to begin the work on the heads.

Degreeing a cam

The photo above is of my ’66 Commander which I plan to make all-Studebaker. I have put on two new front fenders. To come are new rockers and new rear fenders. I will get at the body work next winter I hope and then do the engine/trans replacement the following summer.

I have been getting a lot of advice from Jim Pepper in the Co-Operator on this engine build. One of the things he recommended was to degree the cam to make sure it wasn’t advanced or retarded from TDC. Now degreeing a cam is something I have read about for years, but I have never really tackled the job believing it to a difficult and tricky process. Well I’m not getting any younger and I’m not sure if I’ll build any more engines (I am thinking of a 185 OHV) so now is the time and a good engine to use to degree a cam. This is a paper degree wheel. One I got from a fellow Studebaker buddy. Certainly not a professional tool! I downloaded degreeing instructions on the internet from a company specializing in degreeing tools – Lunati Power.

First things first. I needed to make up a TDC piston stop. Here I have drilled two holes in a piece of sturdy bar stock to match up with two head bolt holes across the top of the piston.

I then drilled and tapped a hole in about the center spot for the piston stop bolt.

I just used three spacers to give me some flexibility for the piston stop. It won’t actually be used to stop the piston at TDC . I will be used to calculate the exact location of TDC. First step is to get the piston close to TDC just by eyeballing it.

Next I installed the camshaft gear being sure to line up the timing marks. I didn’t have a fully threaded bolt to pull in the gear so I had to use spacers and add a couple every so often as the gear moved inward. I made sure there were a lot of treads engaged before starting the pulling process. I’m sure there is a tool, but not in my tool box.

Next I punched a hole in the degree wheel to fit the crank bolt and then put it on with spacers in front and a large one in back to provide support.

Here you can see the pointer I made out of a piece of coat hanger. I sharpened the end and bent it so that it just touched the card. Once in place I rotated the degree card so that the pointer was at TDC.

To rotate the engine which is on an engine stand I used a ratchet to turn to the right and a pipe wrench on the crank – needs some care here – to turn to the lefty.

I installed the crank key and then wrapped the snout with duct tape. I replaced the tape whenever the pipe wrench broke through, but even so I did do some slight damage to the snout which I sanded off with fine sandpaper. There must be a better way with an engine on an engine stand, but I didn’t get any better ideas. (At this point the pointer is still slightly off the disk.)

Next I moved the piston slightly off TDC and then screwed in the stop bolt to make contact with the top of the piston. I turned the crank to the stop and checked it’s location – here it is at 8 degrees. I then turned the crank in the opposite direction and checked where it stopped on the other side of zero. You need to move the degree card back and forth until the pointer hits the same number of degrees on either side of Zero. This is where I ended up with 8 degrees on either side. I then turned back the piston stop so that the piston was free to move past TDC. Now when I turn the engine to set the pointer to zero on the card the engine will be exactly at TDC

Now that I can set the engine at exactly TDC I need to measure .050 of movement in the lifter for the intake valve of #1 cylinder. I couldn’t squeeze my measuring tool inside the lifter gallery so I had to rig something up. I cut a small length of copper tubing that was just big enough to fit over the dial arm. I pinched the tube about 1/2″ down as a dial arm stop. Now I could mount the dial gauge on the outside of the block and using the copper tube extender I set it all up so the dial and the lifter were in a straight line. With the engine set at TDC on the card I turned the engine until I got .050 on the dial.

I then read were the pointer sat on the card. The first time the reading was 19 degrees which is 2 degrees too high. I went back and rechecked TDC and then tried the lift at .050 thousandths. This time I got 17 degrees which the service manual says is correct for JT engines. To be sure I repeated the process again and the result was again 17 degrees. So I am fairly confident that the cam is in it’s correct position relative to the crank and TDC.

Next I’ll close up the engine front, but leave the pan loose.

Regulator woes

First thing I did was to make up some new backing pads. Later cars used springs, but in these years it was still foam. 50+ year old foam does not look good.

Next I installed the new panel, but, when I tried to put the window crank handle on I found I couldn’t do it! No matter how hard I pressed I couldn’t get the handle on. I even cut back on the foam I made up (see above), but no luck. If I took off the stainless escutcheon it would fit. There must have been a lot of pressure on the door panel to leave such a deep dark imprint. So I went to the door I had completed earlier to see what was up.

On the other door the regulator snout sticks well out from the panel. There’s a problem somewhere.

Here is the regulator removed. The snout is about 1/2″ verses the other side which is a full 1-1/4″. I have checked the parts book and a vendor catalogue, but I cannot see where a K style window regulator with a short snout is used.



Fortunately I found a K series regulator with a long snout. It was left on top of a car and exposed to the elements for an unknown amount of time. Pretty rusty all over, but not so bad that it couldn’t be usable if it could be loosened up.

The long snout lower regulator all loosened up, cleaned and painted with POR 15 – that stuff loves to stick to rust. Next I got it installed in the door.

When I rolled down the window it didn’t want to go all the way. It stayed up about three inches. Come to find out that the window down stop (see the short L shaped piece spotted to the main arm above) was hitting the back of one of the screws holding the regulator in place – it’s the lower one on the right side of the photo.

Things they don’t tell you in the service manual. Three of the screws are the same as the long one above and one is shorter. As it turns out even the shorter one hit the window stop. So I cut off a couple of threads and all worked fine after that.

Something else they don’t talk about in the service manual is this adjusting bolt at the bottom of the regulator plate. In order to fit the window to the regulator you need to fit two pins into slots in the frame at the bottom of the window. This bolt allows for a slight adjustment to the angle of the regulator arm so that the pins line up properly. I left it loose and got the pins in the window frame then I snugged it up. After getting the pins clipped in place I again loosened the nut and let the regulator and window frame adjust to fit each other. I then tightened up the adjuster bolt.

Panel finally in place. I didn’t like removing and replacing the panel for fear that the clips would pull out taking some of the panel with them. In fact, two clips did break, but fortunately the board did not suffer damage. The trimmed backing board fit well. I would do that again for sure.

The glue is holding well and the panel is nice and flat. Job done 🙂

In a couple of days I’ll be getting back to my JT engine project. Hope you check in then for that.

Finishing up the door panel

This is the contact cement that I used. Excuse the french. Should have checked before I shot the photo.

Lining up the tangs with the holes in the vinyl. One of the holes in the vinyl was a bit off so I marked it and bored the hole in the matching spot.

Holes bored to match the tangs.

I used a set of blunt nosed pliers to bend each tang over. I bent the tang in the direction of the closest edge of the bored hole. I pressed down firmly on the backing board while making the bend.

This isn’t an actual shot of me straightening out a tang. Just a shot to show how I straightened out the tang without bending the bottom of the tang were it meets the stainless trim strip. I believe the weak point is at that point when re-bending. So I held the end of a file at the back of the bend and then pushed up on the pointed end of the tang. Seems to work OK. None of the tangs failed.

That is except for one! It was very rusty and broke off right away. So I cut a thin piece of galvanized metal, mixed up some 5 minute epoxy and glued it to the trim strip. I slipped the bottom of the ell into the hole with lots of epoxy and held it up against the inside of the trim strip until it set.

this is the epoxied tang. Not as big as the others, but seems to be holding fine.

OK, panel ready to be installed. I per-aligned the hold-on clips so it should be a breeze. It was until I tried to fit the window handle then all went south! More in the next blog.