Converting 6V to 12V

A lot of new Studebaker owners seem to have the same question when they start driving their “new” Studebaker: it starts kind of slow, can I change it over to 12 volts? The answer, of course, is yes. In fact, the Fifth Avenue Internet Garage has an excellent book on how to do it, “The Official 12-volt Conversion Guide”. It’s a must have if you want to convert from 6V to 12V.

But, in most cases, it’s not necessary to convert to 12V just to solve a starting problem. There are several things you can (and should) do to a 6V vehicle that will enable it to start as quick as your new Honda Civic.

  1. Make sure you have a good battery. I keep a Battery Tender battery maintainer on my truck and it can sit for weeks between outings and never have a problem starting, even in the winter.
  2. Make sure the battery cable terminals are clean and tight. Clean all battery wire terminal connections on the battery, block, starter switch, etc.
  3. DON’T USE 12-VOLT CABLES! 6-volt cables are a much heavier wire, 1/0 or 2/0 wire. (Welding cable is great if you have a good, solid method of attaching the terminal ends.) The flat, woven ground cable seems to work well.
  4. Pull the starter and make sure it and the bellhousing are clean and dry. Oil and grease will not conduct electricity.
  5. Inspect your wiring harness closely. The cloth insulation on sixty-year-old wiring can get very brittle and the wires are subject to corrosion. Anything but a clean, bright wire and terminal will increase resistance and cause you a lot of grief. In most cases, you will probably need to replace the harness to make everything operate properly and eliminate the chance of a fire. New harnesses are available from vendors or you can make your own. It's fun and you can save a bunch of money.
  6. Replace plugs, points, condenser, rotor, distributor cap and plug wires. Make sure the timing is set properly.
  7. Remember, a generator will not charge the battery at idle speed. You can purchase a 6-volt alternator that will charge at idle if you so desire.
  8. Chasing a wiring problem can be a royal PITA but making your truck start quickly really can be done without a lot of work.
  9. You can also purchase an 8-volt battery for a little faster spinning. You can still use all the 6-volt lights, etc. BUT, you still need to do all the above stuff.                  

If you want to install and use a giant sound system and equip your truck with electrical accessories that weren’t even thought about when your truck was new, the old 6 volt system could be overwhelmed and a 12 volt upgrade will be required. I prefer to keep my truck original so the 6-volt system works great for me. The only time I think I would like to have 12 volts is when driving at night; those 6 volt headlights are really dim!

I owned several old 6 volt cars back in the 60’s and never had any problem with them starting, except during a really cold northern Illinois winter. Of course, those cars were 10-15 years old at that time, not 60+ years old like our Studebakers. And they were driven every day. But you can make your Studebaker start and run well on the original 6-volt system without too much trouble.


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