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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. I'm building a 327 now. I have three books that I'm studying. How to re-build a SBC, How to hot rod a SBC, and Bill Jenkins book on building a SBC.

    What I have learned:

    Check the clearances for the crank and rod bearings, piston ring gaps, and thrust bearing. If these aren't right the motor won't last long.

    It might be over kill, but I like to polish the oil return areas inside the block.

    Safety wireing internal bolts and screws can't hurt. I've had bolts back out of a ring gear and my exhaust manifold.
  2. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,529


    Use the correct length bolts on the intake manifold on SBC. The middle bolts will screw in far enough to jam against the push rods.

    The front bolt holes for old style mounts by the fuel pump will leak oil, you need to put in a short bolt to fill the hole. A long bolt will jam the fuel pump drive rod.
  3. kbgreen
    Joined: Jan 12, 2014
    Posts: 334


    I assembled a 390 after getting it back from the machine shop and he got me a stock cam with the spacer built in. On assy, I put back the original Ford spacer and on first run, promptly ruined my cam and several lifters. I just didn't get it!

    I don't do this for a living so an assembly can take two or more weekends possibly interrupted by travel. I have no qualms about removing parts to recheck clearance, torque, whatever. Sometimes I think I need to buy two complete gasket sets before reassembly.
  4. Lexi
    Joined: Aug 20, 2013
    Posts: 22


    my first mistake on a 403 olds sbc:
    i disassemble the oil pump for cleaning and forget the seal so the 2 gears squeeze on the bottom plate... result my starter brake the timing chain.. takes me hours to find out.
    nr on olds sbc it is possible to put in the gas pump upside down (so it looks like chevy)makes also nice noise when u try to start it.

    on chevy sbc get the right crankshaft damper with the proper timing tab :)
    dont try to use airtools to screw off plugs from the aluminum intake it ;-)
  5. LWEL9226
    Joined: Jul 7, 2012
    Posts: 266

    from So. Oregon

    CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN and then CLEAN some more.
    Take your time and don't be afraid to ask questions... :) :)
    Enjoy your build and good luck
  6. primerhotrod
    Joined: Feb 2, 2013
    Posts: 98

    from ILLINOIS

    Run stands are not Dyno's.
  7. Getting ready - good thread! image.jpg
    czuch and falcongeorge like this.
  8. D-Ozzie
    Joined: Oct 28, 2015
    Posts: 46


    STP oil treatment is great assembly lube.
    slack likes this.
  9. Don't forget to put the oil pump shaft in a buddy (for real, not me) did it in a guy's car he was building and the owner wanted to be there for the initial fireup. Ran the engine for fifteen minutes or so on and off while trying to find out why no oil to the solid lifter valve train. The owner was inside the car and started it and told my buddy the oil light was off. Only problem was that it was the generator light and not the oil light on. This was found out when I was asked to fire it over, turned the ignition on and saw the GEN light glow (57 Chevy).
    On the last run before I found this out the engine was squeaking! Glad I had no hand in that job.........
  10. gatz
    Joined: Jun 2, 2011
    Posts: 1,445


    If you're going to make your own "bottoming" tap, don't leave a negative cutting edge on any of the flutes.

    On a Chevy 348, make sure you get the intake and exhaust pushrods in their right locations (ask me how I know)

    On a 331 Hemi (and probably the bigger 354 & 392) make sure that there's a plug installed at the rear of the oil galley. If it hadn't been for reading about this on-line, I would've missed it. It's not apparent until you look closely inside the distributor well.
    Pic shows the rear of engine where a 3/8NPT plug is installed ahead of a where a second plug will be going in the rear engine casting.

    331 Oil Galley Hole-Plugged 3-8ths NPT_2.JPG

    A view using a mirror down inside the distributor well. Right below the mirror is the distributor gear thrust bushing.
    This is why it would be hard to detect unless you knew about it, especially if someone had already installed the bigger plug at the rear casting; which was the case in the Hemi I bought.
    No oil pressure

    331 Oil Galley Hole-Plugged 3-8ths NPT Mirror View_1.JPG
  11. I actually use STP in the cylinders. :eek:

    I built a couple of lower ends for Mr Granatelli back in the '70s. He brought a couple of cases of STP into the shop while I was setting things up. I said, "You are not going to run this shit in my engine are you?" he said, "Its my engine Ben, and no I would not t run this crap in anything that I own, but it is good assembly lube." I have been using it with success ever since. I only use it in the cylinders, and unlike white lithium if the engine sets it does not set up and stick the rings.

    A big mistake that rookies and experienced engine builders alike do is to assume that the engine is going to get fired right away and then the project that the engine is going into lingers on and the rings that were so carefully slathered with grease get mired in the muck when you are trying to get things working.

    It is extremely hard to find any more and maybe it isn't even in production anymore but I used to like this stuff called Lubriplate for assembly lube. The formula had big sounding words like molybdenum and the like but it was good stuff.

    I don't know that it ha been mentioned yet is break in additive, I like the GM stuff you add it to your oil and should not be confused with cam break in lube that you slather on the lobes when you install the new cam shaft. This is an additive with added ZDDP and other fine things to keep everything copasetic while everything is hunting itself.

    While on the subject it should be mentioned that the cam break in lube that you have slathered on your cam lobes and the ends of your lifters has grit in it. Grit like valve lapping compound grit and it is designed to burnish the cam lobes and make the faces of the lobes and the lifters mate. it is not designed to lubricate your engine and I personally don't like to leave it in there very long. I have a tendency to change the oil very soon after breakin, some guys don't.

    One thing that has come up and I should mention again, is clean, clean, clean. Let me say that a little louder, CLEAN, CLEAN CLEAN. Chips and dust from the machine shop, crap from your shop and even lint from the rag that you wiped everything down with are not good for a new engine.

    Well off my soap box, next?
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
    Hotrodmyk and slack like this.
  12. I had my 355 Chevy short block built by a shop, but assembled everything else on it. Clean and clean is good advice. If not working on it, cover it up so things don't get into it. One guy I raced with draped off his garage like an operating tent when engine assembly was being done. Old white sheets everywhere.

    Keep track of small sockets, don't leave tools on the cam valley if the intake is off. Tape off any external holes so things can't fall in.

    I used the cam lube for the lifters, this thick assembly lube for everything else. Might have been a Comp Cams product. But really stayed put on anything. Lunati said to soak the roller rockers in clean engine oil, and I did using an old chinese food plastic container.

    Used the Right Stuff for the Dart intake end seals. It has a 5-minute window once it goes on, so everything has to be clean and ready to go. I used a couple of home grown studs (bolts, no head and slots cut in them) on one side so it went on straight.

    All my bolts were ARP, I used their Ultra Torque lube on all of them, also their white sealer for anything that is exposed to the water jacket. Real thick, reminded me of the Desitin we smeared on the kid's back sides to ward off diaper rash. ARP has great information on their site for general torque.

    Adjusting valves, have only one person doing that, but someone else can help with keeping the sequence straight, turning the engine. Have a clean damper (mine is new), use the quarter markings or timing tape so you know when TDC is coming up. Everyone should know how you're adjusting the valves (EO/IC or whatever method you follow). If you can see the rocker stud (no polylocks) make sure the same amount of thread is showing to rule out a gross error.

    Use only a trusted torque wrench and follow tightening patterns. All of my Dart stuff came with that. I had a couple of torque wrenches (borrowed) and bounced the SK and Craftsman off each other, no difference was detected between them. Once something is torqued, I mark the head with a silver Sharpie so we all know it was done.

    Have 2 sets of eyes around for installing head and intake gaskets is a good idea. A 3rd person is a great help to get tools and things for you. Don't work when tired, best to call it a night when you start feeling stoopid.
    DSCN0069.JPG DSCN0076.JPG 1-09-014.JPG
  13. rgdavid
    Joined: Feb 3, 2014
    Posts: 363


    I'm a sbc v8 virgin,
    Never worked on one in my life, i do a lot of bike engines though,
    I'm rebuilding a 1979 305 from a c*m*ro that is going in my freinds 29 ford sedan.
    Ive bought the Vizard book,
    I am making in the lathe the cam bearing knocking out and replacement tool to the dimensions in the book.
    Can this be made out of steel or would alluminium be better and kinder to reinstall the bearings? (they seem to need quite a wack to get them moving)

    Do you put the cam bearings in the freezer to shrink to help installing ?

    Breaking in,
    My dilema is.....this engine wont be started for a few months,

    Can i break the cam in on a stand with radiater and everything connected except transmission?

    If the engine is not started straight away will the cam and crank bearing grease (given with the parts) dry up and block oilways? Or do any other harm ?
    Or do i assemble the moter with heavy engine oil ?

    In france you cant buy ZDDP oils or addatives, not legal to sell here,
    So what oil can i use?

    Thanks in advance,david
  14. stimpy
    Joined: Apr 16, 2006
    Posts: 3,547


    this also applies to the Pontiac family but on the passenger side of the motor , many times have had a machine shop button the back of the motor up and forget the lifter passage plug and no or very low oil pressure , and to make the distributor/cam gear last longer , drill a .030 hole in it to spray the gear with oil ,
  15. stimpy
    Joined: Apr 16, 2006
    Posts: 3,547


    for the bearing tool use aluminum or even derlin ( hard plastic ) ,

    as for the bearings I put them in at room temp , but chilling them might make them go in easier but make sure you line up the oil holes !!!

    you can pre lube the motor for sitting if you use a very light grease on the rotating parts ( not pistons or rings leave them dry ) and then before fire up fill the crankcase and use a priming tool to spin the oil pump over for a good 5-10 minutes to make sure every thing is covered and filled with oil .

    as for break in , yes you can fire it up with out a transmission as the starter bolts to the block , just be careful around the fly wheel ( its a huge saw ) and make sure the engine is on a strong stand as it can torque over , do not run it on a engine stand thats used for assembly unless it has supports for the front of the engine and a u shaped design ( no three wheel stands ) ,

    as for lubes and assembly stuff , try contacting a FUCHS dealer or a shell oil dealer ( aero shell) to see what they have , I used to do work for them and know they sell quality stuff . as your going to need a zinc based oil for a cam unless its a roller style . and lots of farm equipment still use the old style cams .
  16. Remember to connect an oil pressure gauge to the hole next to the distributor on a SBC (1/8" BSP thread fro memory. A SBC at 2000 RPM will coat the ceiling of your workshop with oil real nice if you leave out the gauge, or forget to plug it.
    When static timing or setting up a Y block, don't forget the distributor DOR is ANTI clockwise. After working on GM engines for 35 years, this one got me good!
  17. Phil1934
    Joined: Jun 24, 2001
    Posts: 2,678


    I swapped a 400 into a a 305 Firebird. The 305 had a large hole in the block to drop the oil pump shaft through. The 400 had a much smaller hole and I had to grind the sleeve off the shaft to get it in. (Engine was in the car and I wasn't going to pull it and pan.) Working so far, but next time I'll install pump AND shaft first.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2016
  18. I like to do as much as possible with the engine on the stand. Much easier access to everything and get it right the first time. The only things I removed for swinging it in was the distributor cap and carb.
  19. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,822


    I bought an unfinished project car that came with a freshly rebuilt but never run engine, along with receipts from the shop that did the rebuild. I almost didn't, but then figured I'd remove the intake manifold, valve covers, and oil pan and have a look inside before my final assembly and installation. The valve covers and oil pan were installed with so much Permatex #1 (the hardening stuff) that they were virtually super glued in place so I pretty much bent the heck out of them on removal and then had to scrape all that crap off. Under one of the valve springs it had a metal valve spring cup instead of the umbrella valve stem seal in place. It had the wrong oil pump installed so the distributor wouldn't properly seat and lastly it had 0.030 over 1.585" compression height pistons instead of the correct 1.605" ones.

    Oh, and it came with a new distributor in the box that was also for a different (same make)motor.

    Moral of the story--- always INSPECT what you EXPECT and don't trust that a shop knows what the hell they're doing.
  20. ZAPPER68
    Joined: Jun 13, 2010
    Posts: 200

    from BC

    I was a 16 year old know-it-all when I o/hauled the 272 in my 56 F100. In order to time the cam to the crank you have to count the number of timing chain links (something like 10) between the cam gear and the crank, which I did.

    The problem was that the engine was on a workbench upside down, so I counted the links on the wrong side of the engine. Amazingly, I did manage to get it started without bending any of the valves.

    This was yet another time when my Dad said to me 'too bad stupidity isn't painful'....
    warbird1 likes this.
  21. 1946caddy
    Joined: Dec 18, 2013
    Posts: 1,605

    from washington

    Sent sbc block to machine shop and they boiled it out, honed the cylinders and had them install the cam bearing and freeze plugs. After installing rebuilt engine and starting it up for a few minutes, everything ran and sounded perfect. After several gallons of coolant, I noticed a large puddle under the truck and it turned out that the machine shop didn't install the freeze plugs at the back of the engine and I never noticed.
  22. Kiwi 4d
    Joined: Sep 16, 2006
    Posts: 2,662

    Kiwi 4d

    Just because the gauge shows oil pressure doesn't mean you have oil. Check all the lines are correctly fitted and you actually have oil at the crank as well as at the gauge. That is after the gauge, if not you are going to be dead in the water very quickly.
  23. steinauge
    Joined: Feb 28, 2014
    Posts: 1,507

    from 1960

    PNB You can still get lubriplate "engine assembly lube" but I quit using it years ago.I have been using the red engine assembly lube that is sold under many names like "Clevite bearing guard" "torco" etc.reason is that it doesnt run off or gum up no matter how long the engine sits and it mixes perfectly with oil.I had a student assemble an XL 4 speed trans once using Clevite bearing guard as assembly lube.He got the bike running,forgot to put oil in the trans and rode it for several days.When it failed the only parts in it still good were the bearings and surfaces that he had loaded with Clevite,they all looked just fine.I was pretty impressed.
  24. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,822


    A bit OT, but here goes: A buddy and I got our hands on an old Honda 175 twin street bike (shed find) in really nice shape. I started working on it alone, pulled and cleaned carbs, filed and set points, put in fresh gas, air in the tires, and she started right up.
    I got so excited and took it for a ride around to test it out and after a while it started squealing from the engine and quit. Come to find there was little to no oil in it and I cooked (and egged) the cam's plain bearing surface of the head. Basically rendered it junk as it was virtually impossible to find a replacement head for such an old and rare bike.

    Another OT (sorry). Did a replacement cylinder jug and piston on a friend's seized Ski Doo. Took it for a test ride and the same cylinder seized again. On disassembly we found a pinched 2-stroke oil feed line. Ugh!
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  25. Permatex makes a great assembly lube, Ultra Slick. Smells good too and stayed where I smeared it.
  26. JonF
    Joined: Mar 6, 2010
    Posts: 169


    but don't do that on a Ford flathead!
  27. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,822


    Better to use a thread chaser instead of a tap in all cases.
  28. rgdavid
    Joined: Feb 3, 2014
    Posts: 363


    Thanks Stimpy ,
    I promise i will cover up the flex plate with an alloy sheet,
    I will make a chassis to run the moter,
    I talked to the local small aerodrome today, no lead in oils available,
    Same with tracter mechanics, no lead in oils available,
    What can i do ??

    How long does the bearing lubricant (supplied with parts) last before it goes goey and not usable when in the moter?

    Just finished turning the cam bearing tools, one in steel to knock
    them out and one in alloy to put new ones in,
  29. RichFox
    Joined: Dec 3, 2006
    Posts: 9,890


    I am a new engine builder, and my brother says I don't have this block properly mounted on my stand. Is this a rookie mistake?

    Attached Files:

    Jet96 and mad mikey like this.
  30. falcongeorge
    Joined: Aug 26, 2010
    Posts: 18,341

    from BC

    Is this for disassembly or re-assembly? Great for dis-assembly, saves your back, you dont have to lift that heavy crankshaft out!:eek::D
    mad mikey and Fedman like this.

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