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How to free up an old flathead?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by SMier, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. SMier
    Joined:
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    Easton, Pa

    SMier Member

    Just towed my latest project home today, a 1951 Ford F2 pickup with a flathead V8, its an old farm truck that had been in their family since it was new. They parked it 20+ years ago and hadn't touched it since. We put a breaker bar on the crank pulley and tried to spin it with no luck, I didn't try to force it, because I figured it would be stuck. I bought a can of marvel mystery oil to pull the plugs and soak it down with and let it sit for a week. I'm just wondering what other people have tried, what works and what doesn't... I'd like to do as little damage to the motor as possible ( I know it'll need rebuilt more than likely). Couple of my buddies are really confident that we'll get this motor freed up and running again if it ran when they parked it... I wish I shared their confidence... on the positive side I've always wanted a truck like this with the flathead V8, she's rough but very straight, only dent is in the roof, and almost everything is complete except for the wooden bed floor that's rotten. It was kinda neat the grandfather( original owner) was there when we brought the roll back in and took our pictures next to his old truck before we towed her off.:)
  2. Goztrider
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    Goztrider Member

    My uncle did this trick with an old tractor he bought - and it had a stuck flathead engine in it as well.

    He drug it up onto the trailer and left enough slack in the chains so that the thing could move front and back a few inches. Now, he had safety chains on it as well to prevent it from coming off the trailer, but it had still enough slack to move around a bit.

    He pulled the plugs and added the marvel's, just like you did. He also left the tractor in 2nd gear (I think). Then he just spend a good day running around doing his errands with the tractor on the trailer. Seems that he constant movement forward and backward freed the stuck rings and he added a fresh battery, fuel, and kicked it off and drove it that way until he sold it.

    Might be worth a try.
  3. GEEZZER
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    GEEZZER Member

    Back around 70-72 bought a 50 Ford woody off the back of a tow truck, on its way to the junk yard for $50.00. Body and wood was allright[ cherry by todays standards] Had a rt outer door panel missing and the motor was stuck. Pulled the plugs poured in some automatic trans fluid, worked the crank with a socket and breaker bar ,loosened it up, a set of jumper cables and she was running. I think I sold that thing for a hundred bucks. A mighty fine profit. Years later I used that same process on an old jet boat my son bought with a 455 Olds.
  4. wideglide74
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    wideglide74 Member

    Great thread. I just bought a 47 ford PU that sounds to be in the same shape as yours, I'd also like to have a go at freeing up the old flathead. I'm sure it was a runner when it was parked...


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  5. Straightpipes
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    Straightpipes Member

    A stuck flathead is usually due to valves. Once them suckers are stuck they are STUCK. I'd pull the manifold and heads and see whats going on in there. Wouldn't hurt to clean the mice nests out anyway. Man, I spent all day today doing a flathead valve job:eek:
  6. lostn51
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    lostn51 Member

    we did the same thing to my best friends 1955 Ford in high school.. it had the original Y motor in it and it was locked up (sitting for 25+ years) but was very cherry. we poured marvel mystery oil in her and every afternoon after school we would try to spin the motor with a breaker bar. about a week later it loosened up and we fired it up ran like a top after we gave it a tuneup. then he got a few bad grades and his dad took the car away till the next report card. guess what ...........it was locked up again!! so we did the same thing over again and after that he made sure he had good grades!!
  7. Old wolf
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    Old wolf Member

    Ive had very good success using brake fluid in the cyls. As was mentioned before the valves on flathead engines tend to stick. I would at least pull the intake to check. sometimes you can use a large screwdriver to pry on the flywheel teeth do it a little at a time back and forth. OldWolf:cool:
  8. Shoprag
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    Shoprag Member

    My buddy kelley filled his flathead all the way full with paint thinner, filled it til it was overflowing (oilpan and lifter gally and cylinders) with the plugs out. while he was messin with other stuff, he would rock it back and forth here and there for about 2 hours and it freed up. he also did this to his 52 buick straight 8. the old oil tarred up on the lifters rods and mains and the paint thinner washes it.
  9. phat rat
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    phat rat Member

    Not saying it can't be done, I've done it, but not on all and I wouldn't hold my breath. I bought a 52 truck awhile back that the guy claimed had run 3-4 years before. LOL After soaking it with everything I could think of, with the heads off, I finally resorted to a piece of 3" channel iron and a BFH. Took the rod caps off and beat the hell out of two of the pistons and never did get them to budge, the other 6 came out ok. I had another one the same way a year ago.
  10. R Pope
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    R Pope Member

    If it's a rolling chassis, put it in high gear and chain it bumper-to-bumper with another vehicle, preferably with an automatic. Then rock the old truck back and forth, not getting too rammy, and you'll be surprised how soon it turns over. I have got a few buddies together and pushed 'em back and forth by hand, but that was when I and my buddies were newer. The rocking will free 'em up much sooner than tons of force in one direction.
  11. Straightpipes
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    Straightpipes Member

    Trouble is that you get it to turn over by forcing that stuck valve up. So now it turns over nicely but the valve is stuck open.
  12. phat rat
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    phat rat Member


    What you say is true as long as the rust isn't so back that the piston and wall have become virtually one. When you see the piston kinda crumbly the thing isn't goning to move by rocking it.
  13. ago
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    ago Member

    I heard gasoline and brake fluid works well.

    Ago
  14. rotorwrench
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    rotorwrench Member

    I've seen a camshaft broken in a truck motor 8rt due to turning the engine without freeing the valves. One of the valve stems was also pushed through the hollow lifter. If you thing stuck valve assemblies are hard to get out just try to get one out with a hole in the lifter. You cant tap on the lifter from the bottom cause it's just hitting springs. Take your time and pull that manifold to make sure.
  15. Flatman
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    Flatman Member

    Pull the intake and heads, the gaskets aren't that expensive. You need to see inside that engine to know what you're dealing with. Valves and lifters are notorious for sticking. If it's been sitting for a long time, you'll want to change the valve seals as well. Pull all the valve assemblies and clean everything. You'll also be able to check the cylinders for ridge depth, cracks, sleeving, and scoring.

    Flatman
  16. flatford39
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    flatford39 Member

    I've got one on the engine stand and have been soaking it for a month now in Kroil and using a breaker bar with a piece of pipe on it for more leverage and it won't budge. Intake and heads are off and I've soaked it thouroughly. The cylinder walls look ok although one of them did get water in it at one time and that one I am soaking in brake fluid. The valley was real clean without a lot of gunk build up.

    I guess I just gotta be patient with it.
  17. pistinbroke
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    pistinbroke Member

    Last one I did, I used deisel fuel. I filled it up through the intake and the fuel pump stand untill the fuel stated coming out. Left it for a few days, used a breaker bar and rocked it back and forth. Took a while but it loosened up, going to try and fire it next week. I've been spinning it every day since I got it lose, and haven't drained it yet. I'll let you know how it works out.
  18. Mudslinger
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    Mudslinger Member

    I havent tried this but I read on a forum some where after filling the cylinders with whatever your choice is, trans fuild, brake fluid etc. This guy put a braker bar on the front pulley bolt and put tension on it with a floor jack and left it that way. He rocked it and messed with it for a while, weeks I think and he busted it free.
    No idea what condition it was after that but I read it. It may have been here?
  19. hoarder1212
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    hoarder1212 Member

    I have had great success with equal parts trans fluid,brake fluid, and kerosene. And keep trying it with the breaker bar,sometimes it can take up to a week but it always works. Good luck.
  20. BobbyD
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    BobbyD Member

    I've been working on the one in the '50 coupe I bought a couple weeks ago, had it soaking in tranny fluid and keresone, stuck as hell. Finally pulled the heads and intake and low and behold, one cylinder has gotten some water in it enough to form some heavy rust. A block of wood the size of the piston and a 5lb hammer I knocked the bad piston to the bottom of the bore, then took some Gibbs and 80 grit, then more gibbs and 180 grit and cleaned it out good again and soaked it with gibbs overnite, as well as the rest of the bores, next morning it spun over like a new one. Put her back together and she fired up on the first try, sounding good. Moral of the story, had I tried to "force" it to turn over it would have busted the rings and probably the piston in that bore. Take it apart, get a good block of wood and start banging on the pistons. Also if you have a old flathead valve tool use it to get under the spring to help free the valves up also. Hope this helps.
  21. Straightpipes
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    Straightpipes Member

    I can't understand why some guys are so hesitant to tear it down and do it right. 99 percent of the time you will have to in the end anyway. Soaking it for years won't fix the problem with the flathead.

    Easter morning in the garage makes me this way:rolleyes: I think I should have taken up the Christian religion.
  22. wideglide74
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    wideglide74 Member

    This thread is AWESOME. I have new head and intake gaskets for my engine. What is the best approach to pulling the heads off? Should I soak it for a week then try pulling the heads? I can only imagine how difficult the heads will be to get off the studs.
  23. Mr 42
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    Mr 42
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

  24. wideglide74
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    wideglide74 Member

    Brandon, what was that piece of plate with the studs built for?
  25. pistinbroke
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    Ontario Canada

    pistinbroke Member

    Well, I must agree with the others here and say that tearing it down to make sure the valves are not stuck is a good idea. On the other hand, the one I just freed up fired right up today, just like is was still being used daily!!! Now, it will need a little help before it does any duty, the water pumps leak a little and the oil pressure is down when it warms up, but it runs and doesn't burn any oil. Atleast not yet. So, there is truth to these stories, you can coax an old engine to run again with a little tlc!!!!!
  26. Oilcan Harry
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    Oilcan Harry Member

    My 8BA was stuck hard. Pulled the heads and removed the valve assemblies. Still stuck. Poured the cylinders full as possible with a 50-50 mixture of Marvel Mystery Oil and WD-40. Every few days I would mop up the rusty mess that floated to the top and refill. Took a few weeks but it finaly broke loose prying on the flywheel and was easy to tear the rest of the way down. No beating on it was neccesary.
  27. Mr 42
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    Mr 42
    ALLIANCE MEMBER


    To pull of the heads.
    I took two spark plugs and took away the porcelin and welded a couple of longbolts to the metalpart.
    drilled hole in the plates for the sparkplugbolts, and put on nuts and a washer turned them down, pulling the head of the engine studs.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I had to use some other one inch M8 boltsbolts to get length to pull the last bit.

    [​IMG]
  28. studematt
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    West Allis, WI USA

    studematt Member

    I know a guy that filled a stuck flathead up with coca-cola and let sit for a few weeks and it spun over. Try it $.99 a 2-liter is cheap.
  29. humfleet
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    louisville, ky

    humfleet Member

    An old guy back home keeps telling me to pour vinegar down in on the pistons of my 331 caddy motor that is stuck. He says "I don't tell everybody this, but it works, I have used it many a time"

    I'm still sceptical. But I may try it.
  30. amodel25
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    Crowley, TX

    amodel25 Member

    At least pull the heads. I had a stuck 8BA that I soaked with diesel and then Marvel for a month. I got on it with a breaker bar and it finally freed up. I tried turning it all the way through and it would go about 9/10 of the way around and stop solid. I pulled the heads and had one cylinder that the top half of the piston and the rings were stuck solid. The bottom half of the piston was down at the crank. The piston broke right at the wrist pin holes.

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