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'48 Commander rewiring

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  • Electrical: '48 Commander rewiring

    I recently acquired a '48 Commander Starlight and it's been over almost 10 years since I've had a Studebaker. The car is in excellent condition but the original cloth wiring is in really bad shape to the point where I wouldn't even try to drive it for fear of an electrical fire. I have the new harnesses from SI and would like to know if someone has done a rewire on this model so I can avoid the usual learn as I go routine. I did take the schematic and blew it up into a laminated 23 x 34 inch size so I can easily read it. This is my 41st Studebaker so I'm no stranger to the cars and have had 3 other Commander Starlights, two '50's and a '51, since 1962. I also have an electrical controls/construction and electronics background so the wiring work itself is not a problem for me. What would be really helpful if I could get some feedback from others who have done this job in the past as far as the easiest and best way to do the job. The interior and headliner are out of the car so I don't have to deal with those obstacles. Any practical experience and advice/pictures would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    For a really nice job, I would take the whole dash out of the car. Then you can clean and lube all the switches, clean both sides of the glass on the instruments, lube the speedometer and cable etc etc. You could touch up and clear coat the wood graining too. Oh, and that defroster motor needs lubing and all of the bowden cables. I know this is a lot of mission creep but you can get a lot of future annoyances out of the way at once. Then, just like at the factory, you slap the whole dash back in and pull the harness through the hole into the engine compartment. You will be done shortly after that.

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    • #3
      Thanks, Ross, that's good advice and sort of the direction I was looking to take. It sounds more difficult to remove the dash but in the end the best way is the smartest one, especially at my age. The prospect of lying on my back grappling with small nuts and screws is not my idea of fun. Have you done one of these jobs yourself?

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      • #4
        I rewired my '52 Commander a couple years ago, and pulling the dash is definitely the way to go. Much easier access, and like Ross said, gives you the opportunity to clean and lubricate everything while you're in there. Doing it laying on your back is way too difficult (for me anyway).
        3H-C5 "The Blue Goose"

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        • #5
          Click image for larger version

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ID:	1853934 For me, a pretty dash is very important even if the rest of the car is a dump, plus all the controls must work without agony and fiddling. That is why I take the dash out.
          Last edited by Ross; 09-01-2020, 08:56 AM.

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          • #6
            Before removing the dash, just cut the whole main harness where it passes through the firewall, but leave all connections intact on the dash as well as under the hood. Careful of any additional wires and circuits that may be in addition to the main harness.
            After you've made all your dash connections you can feed the new harness through the firewall and use the existing underhood connections as your guide.
            "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

            Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
            Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
            '33 Rockne 10,
            '51 Commander Starlight,
            '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée",
            '56 Sky Hawk

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            • #7
              What Ross said. I did pretty much everything he mentioned when I did the wiring on my ‘51 Land Cruiser. Hooking up the wires with the dash setting on a table is much easier than doing it in the car.

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              • #8
                Thanks, guys. I'll let you know how it goes

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                • #9
                  One trick I've used is to draw a map on a piece of cardboard of the back of the dash. Number or otherwise label each wire with a piece of masking tape and note these numbers on the map. Then lay the new harness out next to the old one and put the same number labels on the connectors on the new one. Makes it more foolproof, and I have always needed foolproof.

                  I have not needed to cut the harness on cars that old, as there are only 8 or 10 wires that go through the firewall -- and some of them, like the lights, will be obvious.
                  Skip Lackie

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Skip Lackie View Post
                    One trick I've used is to draw a map on a piece of cardboard of the back of the dash. Number or otherwise label each wire with a piece of masking tape and note these numbers on the map. Then lay the new harness out next to the old one and put the same number labels on the connectors on the new one. Makes it more foolproof, and I have always needed foolproof.

                    I have not needed to cut the harness on cars that old, as there are only 8 or 10 wires that go through the firewall -- and some of them, like the lights, will be obvious.
                    Thanks, Skip. Good idea

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