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Top list of rookie engine building mistakes

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Butch Clay, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. Butch Clay
    Joined: Sep 27, 2011
    Posts: 221

    Butch Clay

    Hi guys

    As I embark on building my 283 for my first real build I'm concerned about making some rookie mistakes. So I did some searching on the H.A.M.B. and ran in to all sorts of potential pitfalls. So I was wondering if we could have a thread where the experienced builders supply a list of potential problem areas us rookie builders seem to do.

    We all spend a great deal of time and money on these engines and we all want and expect them to run well. What are your thoughts on this and what are your reasons?


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  2. 63comet
    Joined: Jan 31, 2006
    Posts: 508


    I ruined an engine assembly once by bad installation of thrust bearings. OT engine where the thrust bearings were seperate from the main bearings.

    I'm very interested in others'd input here as I'm thinking I starting a build in the near future.
  3. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 6,188

    from Nicasio Ca

    Pistons in the right direction, rings too, rod caps, main caps, don't nick the crank with the rods bolts, bearing shells in right...
  4. Butch Clay
    Joined: Sep 27, 2011
    Posts: 221

    Butch Clay

    Yeah, I'm looking forward to it also. So far I was caught in the trap of thinking about a cam that was too big, after reading here that would be a poor mistake for a well as other engines. Lots of people seem to over cam engines it seems but I'm still trying to understand that.

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  5. 1955IHC
    Joined: Aug 20, 2013
    Posts: 636


    While not on building an engine but related. Don't try to save time and bolt the torque converter to the flex plate before bolting the transmission to the engine. I found that one out the hard way.:mad:

    Sent via Illinois Bell Telephone Company's Car Radiotelephone
    gmhillbilly likes this.
  6. Not putting the retaining clip on the oil pump drive shaft is a mistake that will catch up with you sooner or later, might take ten years but sooner or later you'll hear that sickening clunk when you pull the distributor out.
  7. parts37
    Joined: Jul 15, 2013
    Posts: 10


    Two things same area, I forgot oil galley plugs on one 350, no big damage just a lot of work to fix.
    And on another I didn't brush out oil galleys after hot tanking and run debris through bearings, lots of work and money to fix that one.

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  8. 63comet
    Joined: Jan 31, 2006
    Posts: 508


    Oh yeah, and I didn't do it my boss did, and he had more than enough experience to know better.... Forgot to put the plugs in the back of the block before putting the rear plate on. That was a mess of an oil leak!
    dearjose likes this.
  9. Butch Clay
    Joined: Sep 27, 2011
    Posts: 221

    Butch Clay

    These are just frickn great so far. Boy, the things I have yet to learn.

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  10. X3 on making sure all unused oil / water ports are plugged upon start up. I built a 300 Ford once and forgot to put one oil plug in that was tucked up under the lifter cover. Of course that motor caught within about the first 15 deg's of engine cranking and promptly sprayed 6 quarts of new oil onto the drivers side inner fender in 1.4 seconds flat. No damage, but a huge mess and waste of good and expensive break in oil.
  11. borderboy1971
    Joined: Oct 20, 2008
    Posts: 620

    from Canada

    Not engine assy related, but was fun.... When I worked in a GM garage, my fellow mechanic just installed his first ever engine, and understandably nervous (first time jitters). As he was ready to start it up, I sneakily slid under the passenger side of the truck and when he started it up, I began making a rhythmic tapping on the oil pan with a hammer. He let out a "what the &^%" and shut it of and came out with a big worried looked on his face. After he caught his breath, he thought it was funny too.
    Nailhead Brooklyn and gas & guns like this.
  12. Pat
    Joined: Jan 6, 2002
    Posts: 122


    Run a tap through everything that has threads. Especially head bolt holes.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  13. Barn Hunter
    Joined: Feb 15, 2012
    Posts: 1,150

    Barn Hunter

    After assembly I couldn't get my 327 to turn at all. One of the plugs on the rear of the engine was sticking out too far and by sheer luck? the end of the plug went perfectly into a balance hole in the flywheel. Took a while to figure it out.:eek:
  14. Don't Forget to put the plug in the oil galley under the rear main cap-sbc
    don't forget to put an oil pump gasket on a Buick V6.
    pre oil and mash rope rear main oil seals, hammer handle works great.
    wrong bearings on a none-fillet cut crank.
    Not magnfluxing stock 400 rods......
    pre-oil the engine using a blank distributor and shaft (take off the advance plate) run it with a drill.
    pre-soak hydraulic lifters
    Use VR-1 oil (has Zddp) for flat tappets.
    Don't forget the fuel pump eccentric on the cam.
    Don't use an excessive amount of RTV on the intake manifold, what squishes out, also squishes into the engine and can plug your oil pump screen.
    Use a threaded rod or long bolt to install your cam so you don't nick the bearings.
    Use cam break-in lube on all metal to metal contact points in the valve train.
    torque to specs, every bolt...
  15. 1955IHC
    Joined: Aug 20, 2013
    Posts: 636


    Don't waste your time with the front and rear intake gaskets on a Chevy small block. Just build them up with a quality RTV sealant drop on the intake and give them plenty of time to dry.

    Sent via Illinois Bell Telephone Company's Car Radiotelephone
  16. Flattop Rook
    Joined: Jul 17, 2011
    Posts: 60

    Flattop Rook
    from Australia

    Take your time
    Read the instructions with the parts purchased, first
    If unsure ask
    If possible get an engine stand, easier and safer
    Don't start the engine thinking"I'll fit the ??? Later or tighten etc later
    Prime the carbie
    do not prime the oil filter (air pushing oil out of a filter is slow)
    Charge the battery
    Get ignition/timing right so it starts 1st time

    H.A.M.B. App from an °[••]°
  17. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,796


    I asked a friend one time and he said he always uses a check list to remember stuff. I've never built a complete engine, but I try to make a lists for things that require extensive steps and cost a lot of money.

    Funny, the guy reading the instructions is always kidded for NOT knowing what he's doing. Yet, every time I don't read the instructions first, I get bit on the ass.
  18. dragsled
    Joined: May 12, 2011
    Posts: 1,977

    from Panama IA

    Make sure rod and main caps are on the right direction, Check and recheck everything, If you think something doesn't feel right going together,It's probally not, You don't have to be a rookie to make a mistake, Believe me I KNOW!!:D,,Take your time,, Tim Jones
  19. Dan Timberlake
    Joined: Apr 28, 2010
    Posts: 1,251

    Dan Timberlake

    These ain't Legos that just snap together right out of the box.

    For every car or bike engine I've worked on the factory shop manual for the engine I'm working on has had info that I might never have figured out on my own. Yeah, once in a while the factory will have to issue a service bulletin to correct a problem, but the vast majority of it is sound. The older ones often had several pages of theory at the beginning of each section. The info in those sections has helped me out of a LOT of binds over the years. Way more than any episode of "American Idol" or even most episodes of "Justified."

    Cleanliness. Especially cylinder wall cleanliness. To prevent a sad smoky post about "my rings haven't seated" 6 month from now.
    Note there are at least 3 bulletins here warning about the difficulty cleaning abrasive blasted parts.

    Round holes and straight shafts with proper clearance, determined by measuring, will result in rotation or sliding without binding when trial assembled. For engines whose rods and wrist pins are press fitted it is a lot better to have a slip fit pin made for checking.
    Check everything twice. I measure size, roundness, straightness, clearance, etc of parts that come from machine shops I trust.

    If a bunch of new parts come in the mail In anything but a re-ring type rebuild A trial assembly to check how it all fits together will often save time and a bunch of money overall.

    I think understanding (measuring) how the cam is installed relative to the crank is important. That includes confirming the TDC mark on the damper matches where the #1 piston is.

    J.O. Almen is the guy who kind of discovered shot peening, and a bunch of other stuff too back in the 30s and 40s. He said - "The strength of most highly loaded bolts and studs is determined by the man with the wrench and not by the designer, the metallurgist, or by the manufacturing processes."
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  20. cheepsk8
    Joined: Sep 5, 2011
    Posts: 453

    from west ky

    I may have missed seeing this one, but it doesn't hurt to tack weld the oil pick-up tube to the oil pump. Especially on a GM engine, found more than one floating in the oil pan.
  21. Okatoma cruiser
    Joined: Feb 9, 2013
    Posts: 177

    Okatoma cruiser
    from Ms

    Before removing main caps and rod caps make sure they are numbered.they MUST go back on the same way they came off.
  22. Rex_A_Lott
    Joined: Feb 5, 2007
    Posts: 993


    Unrealistic expectations of how you're actually going to use the engine.
    Not having enough money to use quality parts and cheaping out where you shouldnt.
    Being in too big of a hurry.
    Good Luck!:)
  23. Boryca
    Joined: Jul 18, 2011
    Posts: 612

    from Detroit

    Size your carb to the engine and the internals. Since you're building the engine, you know what's in it and can best determine a carb size from that. Granted, it can be changed later, but it's always best to start off with the right stuff from the gate.

  24. jazz1
    Joined: Apr 30, 2011
    Posts: 1,475


    Forgetting to install Woodruff key on camshaft.. and wondering WTF engine wont start. Been there done it.
  25. JC Sparks
    Joined: Dec 8, 2008
    Posts: 685

    JC Sparks
    from Ohio

    When you torque a bolt/nut make sure you make the torque wrench click twice, don't pull it fast just a nice steady pull. After you do something look at it and make sure it is done for sure and then move on to the next thing.
    After you torque each main cap make sure the crank turns free. After you torque each rod cap make sure you can slide it side to side (end clearance direction).
    Make sure you get the rear main seal in the correct direction.
    When I was crewing on a top fuel car I remember the firs time I had to do the bottom end under pressure, my crew chief told me after you torque each rod / main double check it and then put a check mark in your mind. It gives you great piece of mind after the pan is bolted on and you go to light the engine. JC
  26. tommyd
    Joined: Dec 10, 2010
    Posts: 11,325

    from South Indy

    Lets see......I have forgot to torque the rod a phone call in the middle of the process and put the oil pan on. Remembered while laying under the car installing the headers:D. Forgot a fuel pump eccentric, forgot the valley splash pan on an F.E. once. Can I build an engine for you?:p
  27. sunbeam
    Joined: Oct 22, 2010
    Posts: 4,477


    Too much cam and carb and cam without springs up grade.
  28. drptop70ss
    Joined: May 31, 2010
    Posts: 1,141

    from NY

    rods backwards on the pistons so the chamfer is facing the inside instead of the outside of the rod pairs..small block chevy dont put too long of a bolt in the front right of the block so it jams into the fuel pump pushrod.
    I havent done either but seem like easy mistakes to make.

    I once bought a rebuilt, never started, v6 engine for an OT car that would not build oil pressure. Pulled the intake and found the missing pipe plug when it shot a stream of oil a few feet in the air during crank over!
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  29. greybeard360
    Joined: Feb 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,394


    Don't over use sealers! Like mentioned before, excess RTV will find its way into the oil pan. I use Permatex high tac spray. It doesn't glue the gasket, it is tacky... easy to remove later on. Most factory built motors don't use anything to assist sealing other than the gaskets alone, should tell you something. A small dab of RTV where intake and oil pan side and end gaskets join is all it needs. Put a thin film of bearing grease on seals so they aren't dry where they contact whatever they are sealing against (crank, balancer etc.)

    Look at EVERY bearing before installing it !!! I have had mis-boxed bearings before. Look at the back side and make sure they are the correct side.

    If you have the block cleaned and prepped at a machine shop and cam bearings installed, take them the cam you will be using to make sure the cam slides in properly... I have had to take the rotating assembly back apart a couple of times and take the block back because the cam would not go in the block.

    This can't be stressed enough. Get out a bucket with dishwashing liquid in it, get a set of block cleaning brushes and clean the crap out of it !!! Blow it dry, use a white paper towel to wipe down the cylinders. If there is anything coming off onto the paper towel, wash it again. Once it is clean, spray the block down with WD-40 to prevent flash rust. You can clean the outside of the block for painting after you assemble it. (I know, a lot of people paint them before assembly but if you find something wrong and it has to go back to the machine shop, there goes the paint !!)

    If you are building the motor and you know it is going to be some time before startup while you finish the car... DO NOT USE LUBRAPLATE to assembly the motor. In fact, don't use it at all. It tends to get sticky after sitting. I use nothing but engine assembly lube that Melling, Federal Mogul, Crane and several other companies sell. I use ATF on the piston rings.... burns off fast and allows the rings to start sealing pretty quickly. The skirts will get plenty of lube once the engine fires.

    Also mentioned before.... when torquing fasteners, use a steady pull on the torque wrench and let it click once! You don't want to go real slow, but you don't want to go fast either. If you have to stop and reset the wrench angle, if it clicks as soon as you try to turn it, loosen it and do it again.... it ain't right !

    Try to assemble the motor in this order...

    Lay all of your parts and tools out on a table or workbench, saves a lot of steps.
    Timing chain and gears
    Timing cover
    Oil pan
    (this is where I paint unless the intake and v/c get painted too)
    Lifters and valvetrain

    Depends on the engine, the lifters will go in at different times (Y block, they go in first) and other items may have to be assembled in a different order but you are building a SBC.
    ZBoyz3 likes this.
  30. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 5,949

    from Michigan

    Clean and orderly. Organizing is done during disassembly. Take pictures, notes, everything bagged and tagged, especially fasteners and small parts. You will not remember where everything goes. Keep everything together, otherwise you will not remember where everything is.

    Of course, all leftover parts go in the scrap bin.
    clem likes this.

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