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Thread: 1950 Commander. Rear end locked up

  1. #1
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    1950 Commander. Rear end locked up

    New person to the site. Was willed a 1950 Commander Starlite Coupe from my grandfather 17 years ago (he purchased in 1962) and have been doing my best to keep her going. Last week driving down the road the rear end locked up on me. Now I'm stumped. Not sure what I'm looking at or for to get this fixed. Any input on this issue would be extremely helpful. Or anyone with a new rear end for this car would be appreciated. Thanks ahead of time.

  2. #2
    President Member (S)'s Avatar
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    It sounds like it ran out of oil. To verify, pull the read differential cover and take a look. It should have near 2 quarts of thick oil inside. If it does not, that is whats wrong you will see and smell burnt up gears and bearings.

    Also those have hill holders. Does yours? Check those 2 things and let us know what you find. Welcome to the forum.

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    Thanks. Will check soon. Yes it does or did have hill holders. I'm assuming that if no oil that things inside are pretty messed up?

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    Golden Hawk Member jclary's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum! Don't know how much you know about mechanics, etc., and any information I provide is suspect. Perhaps by the time I get through typing my response, others with better information may have already provided an answer. However, don't think the worst (just yet). All may not be lost. I have experienced a similar problem and have heard of others (not just limited to a Studebaker). In my case, it was one of the bolts that hold the ring gear to the carrier. I was going down the road and let off the gas so that the overdrive would engage. Just as the overdrive engaged, I felt a terrible bump and noise from under the car and a crunching noise. I immediately pulled over. Checked underneath the car and could see nothing. I reversed the car a bit, eased forward, and no more noise. So, I turned around and eased the car back home without further noise or incident.

    I removed the rear cover plate and discovered that the heads of one of the ring gear bolts had sheared off. In addition, some of the other bolts were loose. This was after a six year restoration on my '48 business coupe. I drained and flushed the rear housing. I was able to remove and replace the broken bolt, and torque all of them. A close inspection showed no broken teeth. So, I put in a new gasket, refilled the case with new lubricant and was good to go.

    If you have no broken gear teeth, you might be as lucky as I was. If not, the rear could still be repairable. Also, we have an extensive number of parts vendors and even someone reading this here on our forum could very well have a spare rear end. Hope it works out for you. Let's see what others can contribute.
    John Clary
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    Golden Hawk Member jclary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (S) View Post
    Also those have hill holders. Does yours? Check those 2 things and let us know what you find. Welcome to the forum.
    Yeah...that too! I have heard of the lever of an incorrect adjusted, or even unhooked hill holder malfunctioning and locking up the rear wheels. I forgot 'bout that one.

    By the way...how did you get the car home when it locked up?
    John Clary
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    SDC member since 1975

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    Thank you. I'm not super mechanical nor do I really feel confident in opening things up but I have a great support cast by me to help. I understand what people say but I just like to be informed before I tackle a project. The car is at a local garage at the moment but he didnt have time to really dig in to the issue. He just basically said it's not the rear brakes. Its definately in the rear end. That's all I know on my end.

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    Tow truck grabbed it by the rear end and tied off the steering wheel. It felt sketchy to me but worked great. I remember by grandfather telling me about the hill lockers and that the car has them. Never really noticed them working however.

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    Here's a quick pic of the car when it ran in May.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Golden Hawk Member jclary's Avatar
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    One other tidbit of information you might (or might not) know about our Studebaker rear ends. The outer axle bearings are not lubricated by the lubricant in the differential. Instead, they have a fitting at the outboard end of the axles (near the brake backing plate) that is screwed out, a grease fitting temporarily put in, and greased at that point at a recommended interval. I could see where a wheel bearing could seize up, but unlikely both at the same time, or without making a big racket beforehand that could go unnoticed.

    This brings up another point. Do you have the manuals for your car? In these years, Studebaker published three very extensive and informative manuals for these cars. Shop manual, detailing maintenance and repair, and two additional manuals, body & chassis manuals that provide descriptions, diagrams and part numbers for every part. Some of our vendors provide them in reprint, or on CD. They also show up on eBay in both forms including occasional original versions. Good to have whether you are doing your own work or to share with a shop that could benefit from Studebaker specific procedures and specifications. These manuals are completely separate from the traditional owner's manual.
    John Clary
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    SDC member since 1975

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    Thanks for that info on the bearing. I have a shop manual for sure and I think the chassis manual as well. My dad has been paging thru those the last few days. Sounds like no matter what I find there should be some extensive maintenance on that rear end.

  11. #11
    President Member RadioRoy's Avatar
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    Nice looking car. I used to own a yellow one.

    Are you sure that it's the rear end?

    The overdrive can lock up when it is low on fluid and being driven on the freeway. That can mimic a rear end lock up.

    If you put both rear wheels in the air and the transmission in neutral, you can turn the wheels by hand and look at the driveshaft.

    Sometimes people make a snap diagnosis before investigating thoroughly.
    RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

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    Not sure what the mechanic looked at but as soon as I get it home that's the first thing I'll try. Thank you.

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    President Member tsenecal's Avatar
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    It's a great looking car. Your Grandpa must have taken good care of it. Good luck with the mechanical issues, and I hope that it is something simple. If the differential got hot enough to seize up, you would likely have smelled it when you walked around the car. They get hot enough to burn the built up grease and paint off.

  14. #14
    President Member TWChamp's Avatar
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    If you wind up needing a rear end, then give Keith Cooley a call. He has some 1950 Studebakers in his yard.
    Used auto parts store in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

    Address: 1230 S 82nd Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54703

    Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 8AM Wed
    Tuesday 8AM–4PM
    Wednesday 8AM–4PM
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    Friday 8AM–4PM
    Saturday 8–11AM
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    Phone: (715) 832-7163

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    Thanks for the great resource. I should have the car back home Friday to start digging in to the issue.

    Yes. My grandfather restored the car I believe in 1982 and it had just been the minor mechanical stuff since then. Always stored inside and has never seen snow. Barely seen rain to be honest (the wipers dont work). Used to do a bunch of poker runs with him. One of my best memories of him with that car. Was also the first car I learned to drive when I was 12.

    Again I appreciate all the help from this site. Will update with the issues once found. Hopefully by monday.

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    Just another quick question. If I do need a new rear end or at least gears, does anyone know what's in there? I was trying to research that some and I came up with a Dana 41 with 4.56 gears. Is that correct? Again the car wont be here till Friday to start digging deeper into my problem just trying to get a head start on possible parts to find.

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    beautiful. just beautiful!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ssenft View Post
    Here's a quick pic of the car when it ran in May.
    about 10 minutes on the lift and he should know what's wrong with it. There should be another rear diff in a junkyard around somewhere.
    Seems like there was a junkyard advertised on the forum a while back not too far from you.

  18. #18
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    Yea. EC is about 4 hours so not bad. Still hoping to dig into it this weekend. Everyone here has been exceptional! I'll keep it updated when I have some news. Maybe some extra pictures as well.

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