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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. Babyearl
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 610


    Clean clean clean,, Assemble engine alone,, leave the beer in the house.
    czuch likes this.
  2. hendo0601
    Joined: Aug 24, 2013
    Posts: 288

    from Tacoma, WA

    When finishing the top end of a SBC I ran a bead of Right Stuff for the front and rear of the intake gasket like you are supposed to. It was a colder day outside and I was in a hurry to get this thing going so I could move on to the next job. I throw it all back together without giving a second thought about the silicone not having time to set up. All bolts tight, coolant topped off, got good fuel it up and let it run for a minute and right away notice quite a bit of smoke coming from the back of the engine....uh oh....I shine my light back there and notice a really nice stream of oil pouring down the back of the block onto the exhaust creating the smoke. The pressure inside the crankcase blew the silicone now because I was in a hurry to get the job done I had to take a few steps backwards and pull the intake back off and re-seal the ends of the intake. This time once I got it back together I just moved on to the next job while I let the silicone set up for about an hour. No more leaks after that. The moral of the story? Take your time, dont be in a rush...that is when silly mistakes happen that may be costly.

    Also, if you happen to be building a mopar engine and when you go to crank it up for the first time and it wants to backfire and shoot fire out of the carb....pull the distributor up and rotate it 180 degrees....These arent like chebby motors with the gear on the bottom of the distributor shaft, instead it looks like a flathead can only be right or wrong. Fire out the carb? Wrong...rotate 180 degrees and you should be in business. It never seems to matter if I mark the distributor location I always seem to install it backwards LOL
  3. h2ofixer
    Joined: May 7, 2008
    Posts: 4

    from Reading PA

    Don't do that on a flathead..... they will leak for sure . Just clean out the threads with a brush.

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  4. upspirate
    Joined: Apr 15, 2012
    Posts: 2,261


    Rebuilt a 4 cyl iron duke motor for a 27 roadster.
    Got it together and the crank wouldn't turn freely.

    Found out you have to set the thrust bearing,then it turned fine:)
  5. brandon
    Joined: Jul 19, 2002
    Posts: 6,331


    big solid lift cam in a stock motor....big rpms and weak valve springs do not mix:eek:
  6. Skeezix
    Joined: Jan 10, 2007
    Posts: 845

    from SoCal

    A friend catalog shopped a "SCCA road race cam grind" for a SBC
    Bought lifters and high tension springs roller rockers and cheeped out on pushrods despite my assertion that all components should be matched.
    When it rans like crap he panicked. After much tear down the ball end of the pushrods had pushed down the tube
    Several were bent too
    Bottom line don't buy most of the upgraded parts, buy them all

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  7. I think the beer is a bigger problem than many will admit. (at least for me) Maybe leave the cell phone in the house also.
    czuch likes this.
  8. CharlieLed
    Joined: Feb 21, 2003
    Posts: 2,460


    Not having someone who is smarter than you to look over your shoulder and slap you when you need it!
  9. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 7,271

    from Nicasio Ca

    I came over to watch a friend fire up his newly rebuilt 350 Olds. Sounded great, we cracked beers as it idled. Then he reached over and gave it a rev. CRUNCH! Ground to a halt. Crawled underneath, rod sticking out the pan. One rod nut still sitting on the bench.
  10. fsae0607
    Joined: Apr 3, 2012
    Posts: 871


    Don't forget to put coolant in your radiator. Was so excited on my first engine build I forgot the coolant. Never seen a temp gage skyrocket like that! :eek:
  11. 327Eric
    Joined: May 9, 2008
    Posts: 1,520

    from Diablo Ca.

    Be sure to match your cam, heads and carburetor to your engine and transmission choice. A big cam in a low compression 283 with smogger 350 heads will ruin your day.
    Cleanliness. Clean everything, and everywhere. A rifle cleaning kit works great for oil gallerys. I always tought my friends to clean it until you think it is clean, and then clean it 3 more times.
    Be patient
    Make sure you have a good torque wrench.
    use plenty of assembly lube.-your dropping the oil in 30 minutes anyways.
    Don't break in your engine with the high pressure, or double valve springs. Get break in springs , or use stock springs. Too much spring pressure can wipe your cam
    Don't be too proud to ask questions. There is always one jackass who will claim you are an idiot because you asked a stupid question. There are no stupid questions, only unasked ones.
  12. Not checking the clearances before assembly or final assembly. #1 rookie mistake is to assume that the machinist got it right.
  13. saltflats
    Joined: Aug 14, 2007
    Posts: 10,560

    from Missouri

    If you use an intake with the metal shield on the bottom of it take it off and clean the crap that builds up in there.
    Done assume anything.
  14. Heavy Flat Head
    Joined: Jan 16, 2007
    Posts: 30

    Heavy Flat Head

    I have made my share of mistakes, but the one that sticks in my head was on a y block. I mixed up the oil line to the water line. At least I found it just after I started it. Fired right up and puree like a kitten. Then check oil level before I ran her to break in speed. Strange oil was at top of stick and look milky. :( felt like a jerk as the customer was there to watch his baby fire for the first time. All turned out well after I disassemble and cleaned. That was not the last time I had that customer, years later he even laughed about it, said my face turned bright red. :eek:

    Heavy flat head.
  15. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,928

    from DFW USA

    This one got me a couple of years ago. Car was running great and I was almost to my destination, when I heard a BANG and the car instantly died. On the side of the road I figured out I had no spark and called a tow truck because it was getting dark.

    Next morning I pulled the distributor cap and realized the rotor wasn't turning with the crankshaft! I thought I had broken a timing set, or sheared teeth off the distributor drive gear or cam. I pulled everything apart and it was all fine! While scratching my head and playing with the distributor, I noticed the drive gear was spinning on the distributor shaft. Come to find out, the damned ROLL PIN that holds the drive gear to the distributor had sheared.

    So my advice is to put a good one in your engine. :D
  16. wicarnut
    Joined: Oct 29, 2009
    Posts: 5,627


    A lot of good advice on this thread, If this is your very first engine build with out any experience or proper tools, it might be wise and money saved to check with local engine shop on the cost of assembly, parts, and possible run in time at their shop. There is SO MANY DETAILS in building engines, and getting correct combition of parts, Very Tough to learn in one and first attempt, It can be done, engine assembly is not forgiving , It has to be correct or you will have junk. If you do this on your own, Try to find a local Hot Rodder with experience and ask for his help after you have purchased some SBC chev build books, read them and as stated before. "there are no stupid questions" . Good luck with your adventure, We all started somewhere, Not trying to discourage you, just another "Old Mans" experience talking, I know how to build engines and I buy "crate engines" these days. John
  17. pnevells
    Joined: Sep 5, 2008
    Posts: 455


    left the oil pressure plug out of the front of a 327, sat on the back of the engine on the dragster chassis pre oiling the engine with a drill , couldn't get he oil pressure gage to come up before the puddle got larger that the chassis, pumped 6 quarts all over all the tools under the dragster, an incredible mess
  18. drtrcrV-8
    Joined: Jan 6, 2013
    Posts: 1,400


    A thousand "AMENS" to you, WICARNUT!!! I may be a little slow when I build a motor, but I've learned the hard/expensive way: Check EVERYTHING against your procedure list 3 TIMES, take a break(lunch is good!) & check again before starting(maybe clean everything one more time?) If something is not on your procedure list: FIND OUT WHY & CORRECT IT BEFORE CONTINUING!!! Remember; how much does it cost to spend two hours on the front end & get it right, as opposed to starting over after: "VAROOM, VAROOM, CLANKITY,CLANKITY, BANG?
    wicarnut likes this.
  19. Like said a few times already in here....take your time! Do not rush!! Have a second set of eyes to look it over and ask you a ton of "did you do this" questions. Do lots of research before hand and if you have a good shop near by ask questions. Good guys are willing to answer them! good luck!
  20. Butch Clay
    Joined: Sep 27, 2011
    Posts: 221

    Butch Clay

    Just like to say thanks guys. I really do appreciate the great advice.

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  21. herbet99
    Joined: Jan 16, 2009
    Posts: 194

    from Central NJ

    This is, by far, the best advice. Learn by example on your first build(s).
  22. rustang
    Joined: Sep 10, 2009
    Posts: 710


    All the above notes are great.... here are a couple of real "rookie" mistakes on SBC that are easy to make...

    When pulling the heads make sure to take out those pesky headbolts that seem to hide under the rockers...they can be missed....

    When pulling the cam out make sure you first pull out the fuel pump push shaft from it's bore...

    Yes, I admit, I've made both of these mistakes over the years... :)
  23. cody1958
    Joined: Sep 19, 2006
    Posts: 829

    from wichita ks

    Cam put in wrong my valves were hitting pistons which pulled all my studs out of heads. Luckily no bent valves. First motor build thought i could do it without help. 327 sbc for my 58 biscayne.
  24. Boryca
    Joined: Jul 18, 2011
    Posts: 693

    from Detroit

    One other thing, gap the rings right. Prevents many problems later in life.

  25. hoodprop
    Joined: Oct 26, 2010
    Posts: 329


    Don't break in a motor with ceramic coated headers. Double check everthing.
  26. Trichop
    Joined: Jan 8, 2008
    Posts: 219

    from Eaton,Ohio

    I remember buying a 55 Chevy 2 door from a friend, who had installed a 283 aftermarket cam inside the 265 Engine
    I remember working on it for a week.. trying to keep the lifters from rattling and getting correct oil pressure..
    If I remember correctly.... I had to get a grove ground in the cam (where the bearings ride)
    After removing the cam and comparing it with the Stock cam that was in the trunk...
    Seems the cam bearings are different on the 265 and the 283 (one is grooved and the other is not)
    This was back in 64...Hope I remembered it right...LOL
  27. Bobert
    Joined: Feb 21, 2005
    Posts: 820

    Member Emeritus

    Remember the correct oil galley plugs. Had my short block assembled by the machinist and I kept the plug with the small oil hole cause I heard that they had a way of disappearing. He thought I didn't have it and out in a plug without the oiling hole.
  28. D.N.D.
    Joined: Aug 15, 2012
    Posts: 1,385

    Member Emeritus

    After your intake manifold is on put the distributor in Without the base gasket and make sure the gasket flange is setting down on the manifold, then you know the oil pump shaft is not to long and can wear out the oil pump gears and fill your engine with the shavings

    Then with the gasket in place you know you have enough clearance

    DO NOT LET YOUR NEW ENGINE SET AND IDLE this is very bad for the ring seal, start it up - check for leaks and oil pressure and timing as quick as you can - then drive your car on a Freeway if you can for 30 minutes at least at a medium speed to break in the rings and don't go full throttle

    Most pro engine shops run the engines on a dyno for proper break in at 2500 rpm and a slight load on it for 30 minutes, so by driving your car you are trying to do the same thing

    A lot of new engines are smokers because they did not get the right break in time, they need to be under a load during this time VERY IMPORTANT

    Setting in the drive way running is not under a load

    Also make a check list first and check off each thing you do, and after installing the main caps and rod caps using a torque wrench make a mark on each with a black felt tip magic marker to let you they are tight!!

    G Don
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
  29. There's so many opinions on how to seal the end rails on a SBC,& here's mine. I don't like silicone squirting inside or on the outside of my engines.
    If you use this gasket set, and use contact cement (IE: Gaskacinch) on the cork end rails,they will not leak.

    Most guys know how to use a center-punch to pucker up the end rails of the block & manifold so the end seal doesn't slide.

    Clean the block with laquer thinner or acetone.Use contact cement or Gaskacinch per the instructions,& stick the cork to the block.

    I also use contact cement/Gaskacinch on the manifold gaskets.
    Before the manifold goes on,a light film of white grease goes on the tops of all gaskets,along with a small dab of red silicone in the corners.

    I've done it this way several times,& have never had a problem with the front & rear cork seals.
    Assuming your PCV system is working properly,you should never have any leaks or blown out front or real seals.

    I had the intake manifold off of my T at least 3 times experimenting,& never had to buy another gasket set.

    Don't forget to use some sort of sealer on the intake thru-bolts that go into the lifter valley.

    BTW--I would NEVER attempt to use the stupid rubber end seals that come with most intake sets.

    (Edit--I even made a pattern from the above cork seals with some cork from Homeless Depot.
    This is in case I need to reseal a manifold without having to buy the whole set)

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
    czuch likes this.
  30. D.N.D.
    Joined: Aug 15, 2012
    Posts: 1,385

    Member Emeritus

    Hi Fuel

    You do it the exact way I put on manifolds for 25 yrs, I set the manifold on the two side gaskets then with a feeler gauge see what the gap is at the ends and use cork that is 1/32" to 1/16" or so thicker [ buy different thickness cork at the auto parts store ] then when the manifold goes down you have just the right seal on the ends

    Watched Gary run his neat roadster at the Beach when they used to smoke the rears and put on one hell of a show!!!!!!!

    G Don
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
    czuch likes this.

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