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Cleaning cylinders without removing pistons

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by scrmkr, May 10, 2012.

  1. scrmkr
    Joined: Nov 19, 2011
    Posts: 16

    from memphis tn

    I just got a sbc engine from my neighbor that has been sitting in his garage uncovered for a couple of years with the intake off and the oil pan off. I want to clean the dust, dirt, and whatever else from the cylinders before I put the engine together. It has almost new pistons and rings so I don't want to remove them if I don't have too. It's been sitting on an engine stand upright so most of the visible dust and dirt are on the top block and cylinders.

    I have it on a rotating engine stand and here's what I'm thinking I can do.

    First, with the engine upright, I plan on spraying wd-40 or a lube base cleaner up into the bottom of the engine the best I can and letting it drip out. After it sits a bit, roll it over and do the same with the cylinders and upper portion of the block. And then spraying everything with some type of lube and manually turning it over with a wrench on the crank bolt.

    My questions are, what lube or cleaner would you recommend and is this whole process a bad idea?:confused:

  2. If it is just dust dust and not grit and dirt just lube the cylinders and rotate it. I like chain lube for this but I have been known to use whatever is slippery and at hand. Aotu transmission fuild work well also.

    before I did that i would take an air hose to it.

    If it is gritty and dirty you should dismantle it, it isn't that big a deal.
  3. Model A John
    Joined: Apr 24, 2008
    Posts: 1,766

    Model A John
    from wichita ks

    I don't blame you for not wanting to disassemble the engine, but you'll have to in order to get it as clean as it needs to be. Maybe you've never taken an engine apart before and reassembled it. Find an experienced person to help you. It's a valuable skill to learn if you want to work on old cars.
  4. Joe H
    Joined: Feb 10, 2008
    Posts: 948

    Joe H

    I have power washed them after a good soaking in degreaser. The washer needs to be hot, almost steam, with a good follow up with air, then a spray lube. If you roll it around enough the majority of water comes out and whats left dries fast due to the heat. I haven't had one fail yet do to water, rust, or degrease. WD40 works great as a follow up spray, and cheap to!


  5. Diavolo
    Joined: Apr 1, 2009
    Posts: 811


    If I was in your shoes, the cost of a set of head gaskets added to what you are already going to spend is too cheap to not consider. At bare minimum, I would pull it apart, clean it with brushes and solvent, maybe do a quick hone and buy new rings.

    You're already that close to a total rebuild anyway, head gaskets and an afternoon cleaning and using plastigage would be a great investment in my book.
  6. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,298

    Rusty O'Toole

    I would blow clean with an air hose and wash off the dirt and dust with Varsol or kerosene.

    You should also remove the heads and inspect the cylinders and ports. There is a better than 50 50 chance a small bolt, nut or other debris has fallen into the port and gotten into the cylinder. If this happens it will smash valves pistons and possibly the head or cylinder as soon as you start it up.

    You are going to have to buy a gasket set anyway for the intake pan etc so why not use the head gaskets.

    This will also give you the chance to inspect the cylinders for rust.
  7. scrmkr
    Joined: Nov 19, 2011
    Posts: 16

    from memphis tn

    Well I guess I forgot to mention that the heads are already off the engine. :eek:

    thanks for all of the replies. I guess it would be smart to pull the pistons so I'm considering doing that. Just a little anxious to get it together.

  8. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 4,993

    from Ks

    If your absolutely not going to take it apart, Then take it to the carwash and use hot soapy water and wash the crap out of it. Then IMMEDIATELY, blow it dry with compressed air real good. Clean the snot out of the cyls with trans fluid on white paper towels. When the towels come up clean your done. Pre-oil it before you start it and cross your fingers. :D
  9. hoggyrubber
    Joined: Aug 30, 2008
    Posts: 572


    like most stuff, i don't know what the best thing to do is. i personally wouldn't wash it with water, not saying it's wrong or anything. i don't think i would use compressed air either, i would use a shop vac. i think i would use a little solvent on a rag and get what i could. then a little trick i read was put some crisco or something around the top of cyl near end of travel and most anything on top of upper ring will stick to it and you can wipe it off. i would oil 'er up and make sure noe of the rings are stuck. hopefully you will have better luck than i did on my last one and have to break it back down. good luck whatever you try.
  10. treb11
    Joined: Jan 21, 2006
    Posts: 3,574


    cylinder walls are one thing, but what kind of dirt / muck is lurking in the oil passages, HHhhmmmm...? strip it down, check the clearances, keep the parts in order and scrub the bejebers out of everything.
  11. kkustomz
    Joined: Jul 4, 2007
    Posts: 342

    from Texas

    gasoline then some water
  12. 6-bangertim
    Joined: Oct 3, 2011
    Posts: 385

    from California

    An AMFLO solvent sprayer and mineral spirits is as cheap and easy as it gets without a full tear-down. Before you flip the block, pull the lifters and mark their location on the bottom with a sharpie pen. Use MMM or ATF to lube the cylinders top and bottom, turn the crank to make sure its free. Use an oil pump primer with a gauge to make sure you have what you think you have.

    We did this with with an old 350 turd motor for my short-track car my driver nick-named "dogbreath", ran for 1-1/2 seasons after sitting under the workbench uncovered for 3 years. It never won any races, but it ALWAYS made us $$$! It went out in a blaze of glory when a piston let go, blew a ton of oil and water out the breathers on to the headers. Crowd went wild!!!

    Plastigauge is cheap enough - why not at least check the bearings before you go any farther with your time and cash?

    Good Luck, Tim
  13. FlynBrian
    Joined: Oct 5, 2007
    Posts: 759


    Plastigauge is cheap enough - why not at least check the bearings before you go any farther with your time and cash?

    Good Luck, Tim[/QUOTE]

    X2! Definitely check your bearings and clearances.
  14. FEDER
    Joined: Jan 5, 2003
    Posts: 1,269


    If its fresh as You say gas then water. If You question its history at all take it apart and check it out.
  15. jimi'shemi291
    Joined: Jan 21, 2009
    Posts: 9,499


    I agree with everybody who says to be thorough. After all, the engine is half torn down now. I wouldn't feel right about leaving any of the kind of stuff in there that the air cleaner would normally keep out. I'd be thinking constantly about that riding up and down on those compression rigns, maybe abrading the cyl walls. And, I have seen an engine RUINED by one undetected screw, just as Rusty mentioned above.

    Worth it to take the time, spend a little money on gaskets and doing it right. You'll feel better about it too.
  16. jimbousman
    Joined: Jul 24, 2008
    Posts: 541


    I spend too much time making sure my engines are sano-clean when I assemble them to think that you can get away with a power washing. Cleaning the cylinders is one thing but washing all that grit down into the oil galleys, cam and main bearings, wrist pins, behind the rings? I cringe at the thought.
    Will it run after all that? Probably, but for how long?
  17. 1971BB427
    Joined: Mar 6, 2010
    Posts: 5,887

    from Oregon

    If the heads aren't of, then I'd at least pull the heads first. If it's on an engine stand then just roll it over so it's upside down. Then use brake cleaner or any good spray solvent and spray up into the cylinders and let it all wash out. If you start with the engine right side up and wash the cylinders you'll wash all the dirt and crud into the rings and it will stay there.
    Once you finish cleaning the cylinders you'll need to take an oily rag and wipe down the cylinders again before putting the heads on.
  18. cruzr
    Joined: Jan 19, 2006
    Posts: 3,125


    Bingo !
  19. Bad Banana
    Joined: Jun 20, 2008
    Posts: 814

    Bad Banana
    from Texas

    x2... I would go buy a half dozen cans of brake clean. Stuff is amazing and leaves no residue. It will be dry whan you are done. Just reoil and assemble.

    That is assuming you believe the engine was built right before it was left sitting.
  20. scrmkr
    Joined: Nov 19, 2011
    Posts: 16

    from memphis tn

    Yep, it's pretty fresh. My neighbor built it for his chevy II race car and probably only made 20 passes with it and found a faster motor and pulled this one out.

    I'm in the middle of rebuilding my son's 235 inline 6 so once I've finished it, I'll probably go ahead and at least pull the pistons and do a thorough cleaning job on the sbc. I'm not familiar with plastigauge so I'll have to research that.

    Thanks for all of your input. Lots of good info.
  21. budd
    Joined: Oct 31, 2006
    Posts: 3,478


    heres your big chance, pull the pistons, hone the cylinders, install new rings, some new bearings, keep the lifters in the same order they come out, hell you just built a new engine, blowing air down in the cylinders is a good way to force crap into the ring area.
  22. 31CHEVY
    Joined: Dec 24, 2008
    Posts: 19


    What I have done is squert motor oil around the piston turn the motor over this pushes all the grime to the top of the cylinder when the piston is at the bottom of the stroke whipe it out and repeat until clean. None of these motors were anthing special one was in a derby car the other was out of a car that had burned and I put in a pickup of my dads. Didnt have trouble with ether one. Not trying to talk you into anthing just giving you info.
  23. Leonard Ratliff
    Joined: Sep 28, 2017
    Posts: 1

    Leonard Ratliff

    So, couple of things here.

    First, I appologize both for this being a fairly old thread and for my first post here being somewhat snarky in nature, but after reading this post I simply HAD to ask, how in the world is somebody supposed to wash an engine at the car wash and then IMMEDIATELY blow it dry with compressed air. Unless they are a roofer or possibly another tradesman who carries around a gas powered compressor, I'm hard pressed to figure out how that's possible.

    Seriously, I'd like to know because sometimes I prefer to blast stuff at the car wash rather than on the slab next to my shop, simply because of the amount of crud that needs to come off of the occasionally super dirty component or engine, but it's always flashed with light rust by the time I get back even after taking the time to immediately wipe it down with a towel or two.

    I just can't imagine anybody shelling out for a gas compressor simply to be able to do that but I'm always open to ideas that make life easier. :)
    Jim Lato likes this.
  24. 34Phil
    Joined: Sep 12, 2016
    Posts: 226


    Around here mud daubers get in every hole in days
  25. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 4,993

    from Ks

    Leonard you aren't Snarky at all. I actually never thought of that. We will replace carwash with power washer.:) That's the second time I made a mistake. Damn. :D
  26. WTF really
    Joined: Jul 9, 2017
    Posts: 1,248

    WTF really

    Y'all are over thinking this. It's a small block chevy blow that bitch out with a air hose and run it. Lol
    Jim Lato likes this.
  27. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 6,876

    from Nicasio Ca

    You can use the carwash. Just use the vacuums to dry it. :)
  28. upspirate
    Joined: Apr 15, 2012
    Posts: 2,213


    One of those portable air tanks with a hose that you fill at the compressor and take where you need it would work also
  29. s55mercury66
    Joined: Jul 6, 2009
    Posts: 3,980

    from SW Wyoming

    Go to the car wash, with a few cans of wd-40. Wash it, turn it so water will run out of it and chase the water out with wd-40. It stands for Water Displacement formula #40, and does a purty good job at it.

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