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Dunc126

Another '30 Commander question

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Ok, another question for you guys. I’m still trying to get my ’30 Commander FD started (or at least cough over or sputter or something!). I’ve replaced the plugs and plug wires and put a new coil in, and I have spark at the plugs when I crank it over with the starter, but I get nothing, even with starter fluid. Not even a kick or any other signs of life. I did remove the distributor to clean it, and at first I thought I had reinstalled it backwards, i.e. the plug was firing at the bottom of the stroke rather than the top. But it looks like the distributor shaft can only engage the crank in one position so I’m assuming that’s not the problem. I haven’t done anything with the carb yet, but I figure that even if the carb needs to be rebuilt, the engine should at least kick with the starter fluid in the cylinders and the plugs firing. Any suggestions??</SPAN>

Thanks in advance.</SPAN>

Dunc126

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Are spark plug wires plugged into the distributor cap in correct firing order and in direction of the rotor rotation?

Have you rotated engine until crankshaft timing line on flywheel is aligned with the indicator pointer then pull distributor cap and confirm the rotor is pointing at plug #1 post? If not worse case is the timing gears of crankshaft and cam shaft are not properly engaged [engine assembled wrong?] you would have to open timing gear cover to confirm gear alignment. Was this engine disassembled for any reason before you got it? OR does it appear undisturbed?

Stude8

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The plugs don't appear to be wet, so I’m figuring I’ll have to work on the carb/fuel pump next. I just figured it would kick or something with the starter fluid. To the best of my knowledge, the engine was never disassembled. The car has been sitting since 1952 and I can’t find any evidence that it was torn down before that date. I’ll check the timing alignment tonight and let you know. This is probably a dumb question, but do you know which direction the rotor should be spinning when viewed from above (clockwise or counter)? </SPAN>

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I have a President FA-FB parts catalog that shows an illustration of a Remy 658 distributor [section: Division D pg 35] and the top view of shaft is marked as clockwise rotation, I don't have any literature on Commander 8's but would guess clockwise is the rotation direction since all the inline eights were based on similar construction.

Stude8

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Just a thought, if that is an up-draft carburetor and choke is open you may not be getting enough or any starting fluid up into the intake manifold. Try having a helper spray starting fluid when you crank the engine and that would suck vapor up into the cylinders and give a better chance of a start fire up.

Stude8

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My 29 Commander sat for a year until I finally got itstarted. It had been converted to 12V with a new ignition switch. It was amatter of luck that I got the both the original switch on the column and thenew switch to be on at the same time. Yet, the timing was still off. Weattempted to set the timing with a light, but ended up setting it 180 degreesout of phase. We finally got it to start by simply twisting the distributorwhile cranking it. When the timing was approximately right it started right up.Yet, I learned later that this can have disastrous consequences for somereason. Nevertheless, it worked for us. For the fine setting of the timing Iused the hand crank to turn the engine to TDC on the fly wheel. I then set thespark advance to the mid position and then turned the distributor until #1sparked. I think this was much better than trying to spot the timing mark witha timing light and a worn and jittering distributor.

It ran fine until the previously and extensively repaired head finally gaveout.

Now my new problem is sourcing a replacement head.<o:p></o:p>

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Here is some info regarding the electrics which shows the distributor rotation. These are photos from a service manual that won't easily fit my scanner and if there is any critical part that is not clear let me know and I'll check it. These can be pretty fussy with the dual point system but I agree if its even close you should get some response with starter fluid. Incidentally we have a starter fluid here in Australia thats called "start ya bastard" !!!

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Thanks everyone, this is a big help. I didn't have a chance to check the timing alignment last night, but maybe I can get to it this weekend. </SPAN>I was going to ask if anyone knew which points on the distributor corresponded with which cylinder, but the photo that John posted clearly shows this. I’m thinking that maybe when I replaced the ignition wires, I connected the points to the wrong cylinders. I’ll check this tonight based on John’s diagram. Looking at the first picture, can I assume that cylinder one is at the top of the picture, and cylinder eight is at the bottom? (I know this may seem like a stupid question, but electrical diagrams have always baffled me.)</SPAN>

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BY the way John, do you happen to remember where you picked up your service manual for your car? I have the chassis parts catalog for mine which is great for figuring out which part is which, but it doesn’t really give any technical information or guidance, which would be great for an antique virgin like me.</SPAN>

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You can see on the diagram that the cylinders numbers are marked on the distributor. The top of the picture corresponds to the front of the car and usually on most cars the number one cylinder is at the front. The book from which I took the information is a massive manual that covers all sorts of cars from Ajax to Winton and I got it from a closing car workshop about 40 years ago. It is electrical and wiring and the two pages you have are all the information on Stude FD it has.

I don't have any more Stude specific info but found Dykes book (photos) to be gold as an instruction manual to lose my old car virginity. It is very instructional in that it explains most things from the beginning and works logically through. These are often available on ebay or at old book stores and there are a number of editions ranging through the years of our cars. I would try get one from about 1929 or 1930.

No stupid questions in this game mate...every question you have raised here I had myself at some time.

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Good luck.

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John, Thank for the tip on the Dyke book. I went looking for it on the internet and found it to be available for free in digitized form on Google Play. It allows you to read the entire book on the computer or on a handheld device. Amazing. There are three editions available. But, the latest that I could find is the 12th edition rather than the 14th that you have. Nevertheless, it is very informative and an entertaining read.

Also, I searched for Studebaker and found the History of Studebaker written by Erskine. Also facinating.

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I have heard that some identical distributor caps had different numbers embossed for the cylinders , depending

on the car it was used on.Some cars had different firing order but used the same cap.

Robert Kapteyn.

Edited by rbk
spelling (see edit history)

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You are using the wrong starting fluid.

Studebakers are not bastards.

Try "Start you sonnafa itch" is works a lot better.

It is more expensive but it is the only stuff that works on Studebaker.

Robert Kapteyn

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Hi Robert,

This model Stude (at least) has the firing order cast into the exhaust manifold...1-6-2-5-8-3-7-4.

It really doesn't matter what is embossed on the cap if you get number 1 cylinder to top dead centre on the compression stroke then start with the terminal that is opposite the rotor at that time to number 1 then by connecting the cylinders in accord with the firing order being careful that you are going in the right direction of rotation of the rotor.

I hear what you say about your starting technique but does yours come in a can ?

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I hear what you say about your starting technique but does yours come in a can ?

[ATTACH=CONFIG]167735[/ATTACH]

Ours comes in a bottle marked "GIN"

Glad to see that you have the firing order correct.

Did you get it running?

Robert Kapteyn

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Well... I now have spark at the plugs but no coughs yet. I also replaced both battery cables with new 0/2 gauge cables and I’m now getting about twice the cranking RPMs which has to be a good thing. I’m thinking the timing must be way off not to be getting any reaction with the “start ya bastard” fluid. I checked the distributor orientation verses the timing mark on the fly wheel, and cylinder one was off by about 25 degrees at the rotor. I guess it’s time to get the old timing light out… Does anyone know if a modern timing light (12v) will have any problems with a 6v positive ground car?</SPAN>

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My light works ok and my understanding is that the timing light gets its power from the high voltage of the coil. Try it out you can't do any harm. Good move replacing the battery cables. Sometimes if they are not all good a lot of power can be drained off turning the engine and leave a much reduced voltage to fire the coil. To get maximum voltage at the coil it might be worth taking a live wire directly from the negative battery terminal to the coil terminal that is usually supplied through the ignition switch. Sometimes the switch can be making a poor connection or other high resistance joints in the whole circuit may reduce the voltage to the coil.

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See my previous post on how I finally timed my engine. The timing light didn't work because my distributor has jitter and the timing mark jumped around too much to be useful. So, I lined up the timing mark by hand cranking. Then I put one of those spark indicator lights on the #1 spark wire. Then I rotated the distributor (in the proper direction) until the spark fired. Bingo! TDC. The only challenge is to make sure you are on the compression cycle and not on the exhaust cycle.

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Ok, I probably owe everyone who’s offered advice an update on what’s been going on with my 30’ Commander. I haven’t been able to do a lot on her over the holidays, but I still wasn’t getting much action when I cranked it over so I figured I’d look a little deeper. I decided to pull off the heater valve cover on the exhaust manifold to see what was going on under there, and it appears that sometime during the 60+ years the car has been sitting, some industrious rodents had found their way into the exhaust manifold and had created a mini “doomsday seed bank” right up against the cylinder head. I vacuumed out as much of the seed material as I could with the shop vac, but I couldn’t get far enough into the manifold to get it all. Not to mention I destroyed the heater valve cover gasket in the process of removing it. So now I’ve ordered a new gasket along with new exhaust and intake manifold gaskets, and while I wait for them, I’m going to remove the manifolds and clean/paint them. Then (hopefully) everything will go back together and I’ll try starting it again. I’ll post another update as soon as I have any news.</SPAN>

Duncan </SPAN>

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I would like to add a comment. My '31 Dictator would only run on 4 cylinders. I assumed one set of points had failed, so I put a small piece of cardboard between one set, re-installed the rotor and cap, and started the engine. Shorting out the plugs with a screwdriver told me which were firing. I then put the cardboard between the other set of points, re-started the engine and SURPRISE.. the same cylinders were firing. After much head scratching I discovered that if the points are not set exactly right, they both will fire on the same cam lobe. (four lobes on the dist. shaft) There has to be a position where they are both closed and then alternately open to fire the right set of plugs. Also, an engine that has sat for long periods can have dry cylinder walls. The compression will leak by so fast that there is nothing to fire the engine over. I remove the plugs and give each cylinder a dozen shots of motor oil from an oil can. This has made the difference on many occasions for me.

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David's comments are valid in that there is little room for error with the twin points but the pages from the electrical book I sent you explain this set up process well.

Since you have the manifolds apart check the pipe (about 1.5 inches diameter from memory) that is pressed into the exhaust manifold and allows the fuel mixture to pass through the exhaust manifold for preheating. It is directly above the carburetor I have a 30 Commander and 30 Dictator and on both cars this pipe developed a rust pinhole and over time the hole increased to the point that the leaking exhaust gas into the fuel mixture messed up the whole process on a (slowly) developing scale. It took a long while to find this issue and whilst it is probably not your current problem it is worth having a look at it whilst apart. The steel tube just presses into the cast manifold and is easily replaced. I replaced them with a standard piece of copper pipe.

Good luck!

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If you put oil in the cylinders through the sparkplug holes make sure you leave the sparkplugs out and crank it over for awhile.

If you have too much oil in a cylinder and the sparkplug is in, you get a hydraulic lock up!

Robert Kapteyn

Joliet Ill.

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A good point about hydraulic lock. On old low compression engines this may not be so much of a concern but still worth consideration.

Also a caution about ether or "starting fluid". Many years ago I repaired an almost new Buick that had the intake manifold blown off of the engine after it backfired when the owner tried to get it going with starting fluid. Be aware this stuff can do a lot of damage to the engine and people.

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