Anytime major mechanical work is done, expect there to be some “gremlins” to work out before the job can actually be called “done.” These small engine rebuild problems have been keeping me busy the past few weeks with Operation Stude. Here are the major gremlins that I’m encountering and how they’re being tackled.

Gremlin #1: New Parts

Introducing new parts can sometimes cause a disruption. Whether it’s just getting that part to work correctly or possibly that new part causes something else to fail. In my case, since I’ve done a full engine rebuild, as well as changing up a couple other things, it’s just getting the new part to fit & work properly in my particular set-up. With hot rods, especially less-common cars such as a Studebaker, you’re generally not doing something that’s been done thousands of times before…so expect that many parts you get will require a little extra work to get installed correctly.

During my first test drive, I melted my new shifter cable – I should have known it was too close to my exhaust for it’s own good, but amongst all the other things going on I’d rushed past this issue. A week waiting to get the part shipped to me, than another two weeks getting it to the exhaust shop (Saturday is the only day Ethan and I could get this done together). Luckily friends pointed us towards a terrific exhuast shop, Advance Tire & Muffler, where they cut out a portion of the exhaust that was running within inches of the transmission. The exhaust section was rerouted towards the outer perimeter of the car, allowing room for the new shifter cable. As an extra precaution, we also wrapped that exhaust section in thermal wrap as well as using thermal tape on part of the cable that is still fairly close to the exhaust curve. The exhaust shop was even nice enough to let Studie stay on their lift while we installed the new cable, making that job much easier.

Gremlin #2: The Timing Dance


Setting timing and fine-tuning a carburetor is a little like ballroom dancing – if one partner isn’t doing the right steps the whole thing is messed up! First you set the timing (I’ll explain how to do this more in a later post) and next you tweek the carburetor’s idle mixture and idle speed screws.

I’m still learning in this process, so Ethan has been the lead for tuning this go around while I’ve been the one in charge of shifting, throttle, and turning the car on/off from the driver’s seat. Although I’m not under the hood with Ethan, being part of the process is still teaching me things – it seems like tuning is one of those things that you need to observe a number of times and then have to do it yourself before truly understanding.

This past weekend we re-adjusted the valves, which requires you to start from scratch with the timing. A challenge we’ve been encountering is the idle is really high when in park (~1,000 rpm) and then is almost dying when idling in gear. We’re beginning to think the distributor’s vacuum advance may be sticking. When shifting from drive into park, the idle takes a few seconds to ramp up to it’s high speed and then it stays there. We’ll replace the vacuum advance and see if that helps.

Gremlin #3: Leaks


We kept an eye out for leaks during the engine break-in, fixing a couple of small water leaks from the new freeze plugs – but were happy that no oil leaks were evident.

However, during this whole tuning process, an oil leak sprung up. It seemed to be where the oil gauge connects into the engine so I replaced that part and it is no longer leaking, but there appears to still be oil coming from somewhere in the rear of my engine block. It may just be the valve cover gasket, but I’m also afraid it could be a block plug that would require me to take off the head and intake manifold. Ugh. We’ll start with the valve cover and go from there.

Ya’ll know how anxious I am to get Studie out on the road, but these little gremlins are just part of the process. The moral of the story is: expect gremlins & don’t feel bad when they show up!


Note: If you recognized the little “gremlins” pictured on my engine, they’re actually “Naugas”! I recently ran into a picture of one and fell in love, they were created and used by Naugahyde for advertising purposes in the 60s. I created these little guys in my sewing room, a needed respite from the garage sometimes!

Any ideas on my idle issue? What gremlins have you run into when rebuilding an engine??? Leave a comment, I’d love to know!

4 Responses

  1. Arielle

    That idle problem sounds like a vacuum problem. It’s almost always what it is with older cars.

  2. Jeff Abbott(Painless Guy)

    What is the vacuum at idle?

    What are the cam specs?

    Is the vacuum advance connected to ported vacuum or constant?

    Send me a video of it idling and then put it in gear and let me see how she acts. Please…

    Is the mechanical advance weights in the distributor sticky?

    All easily solved, I suspect you may need lighter springs on the primary metering rods in the carb IF you have a lower than stock level vacuum at idle.

    • Kristin Cline

      Thanks for the questions Jeff! We’ll chat. Vacuum is ported, cam is mild but I don’t have the particular specs….will do video, but probably not until after Speedweek!

  3. JP Kalishek

    Well, they didn’t look like Wendell Willkie or like they had come from the Kremlin.

    Well, I rebuilt a partially assembled 361 Ford once and the machinist who did the cam, crank and rods also never washed out the blasting media from the oil galleys, so the engine ate itself during it’s first road run.
    The oil got so hot it melted a plastic oil catch pan. The motor was written off and we went with a 460. The was one fast motorhome after that.

    I had a leak from the oil plugs a few times myself, and it was almost always either no sealer, or not enough/ missed spot. I use Permatex Form-A-Gasket #1 on them.
    The racing engine builder would use JB Weld as he expected the blocks to be either broken by the time one needed removing, or needing so much work, that heating them up to get them out wasn’t going to be an issue, as they were going to have plenty of machining done to straighten out any warping. On street engines though he used #1 as well.


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