Unless you are MacGyver, it takes more than a hammer and some duct tape to build an engine. You need some basic hand tools, some specialty tools, and an engine stand. But the most important tools you have are not in your toolbox. They are your life, your hands, and your eyes. Treasure them and protect them.
There are some important safety aspects that you need to take into consideration for any engine rebuild. When working on or around your engine, there may be an accident or an unforeseeable occasion when your engine starts to fall toward the ground. Be alert when working around your engine. Every machinist has a horrific story to tell about someone maimed by an enginebuilding accident.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book “HOW TO REBUILD THE BIG-BLOCK CHEVROLET“. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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If you were rebuilding a VW flatfour engine, you might not need an engine stand. A big-block Chevy is way too big and heavy to build on a workbench.
The engine stand you are looking for is a unit that is rated at least for 1,000 lbs. A complete big-block with iron heads weighs 600 to 700 lbs, depending on the accessories bolted to it. The big-block is a hefty chunk of iron and it puts a smack-down on the 750-lb-rated engine stands. Don’t be cheap on this part of your project. It’s not worth it. The best low-priced engine stand I’ve seen is the 1,500-lb Torin engine stand.
If you removed the engine from your car in the past, then you know it’s a big task. You need an engine hoist or “cherry picker” to remove or install an engine in a vehicle. In the past, an engine hoist was a piece of equipment that was very large and expensive. Nowadays, you can purchase a much more compact bolttogether unit for a couple of hundred dollars. If buying one isn’t an option, rent it for a day to pull the engine and move it to an engine stand then rent it again when you are ready to install the engine back in your vehicle.
Along with a cherry picker, I suggest using an engine-leveling device. Companies such as Trans-Dapt, offer “engine tilters” that allow you to change the angle of the engine with the turn of a knob. With this tilter, it’s possible to install an engine and its mated transmission with ease.
Basic Hand Tools
It’s safe to assume that since you’re reading this book you have a full set of basic hand tools, or at least know you are going to need some. You’re going to need at least a 3/8- inch and 1/2-inch-drive ratchet and socket set with sockets ranging from 1/4 inch to 1 inch for the 3/8-inch drive, and 9/16 inch to 1 inch for the 1/2-inch-drive ratchet. You’ll need a few different lengths of socket extensions, a spark plug socket, a decent 1/2-inch-drive torque wrench, combination wrenches ranging from 1/2 inch to 1 inch, assorted standard and Phillips screwdrivers, a couple of different types of pliers, a shot-filled rubber mallet and a ball-peen hammer. You’ll also need small, medium, and large pry-bars, feeler gauges, an Allen wrench set, and a gasket scraper. This is the extent of the basics.
Best Tools for the Job
Basically, the best tools on the market wear the name Craftsman. They combine the best innovations, quality, finish, price, and warranty, and millions of mechanics and hobbyists know it. Craftsman tools last forever. I still use Craftsman tools handed down to me by my father 30 years ago. ASE Technician Lee Abel believes the same and wrote, “When I saw that my Grandfather made a living farming and maintained all of his equipment with Craftsman tools, I knew if I ever worked on cars I would be using a lot of Craftsman tools and I have for the last 20 plus years.” Hobbyists and professional mechanics trust the integrity of Craftsman to get the job done.
Tools Engine-building tools that you will need include the following:
- Spark plug feeler gauge or gapper
- A few drift punches
- Engine oil galley brush kit
- Harmonic damper removal and installation tool
- Dial caliper gauge
- Straight edge
- Manual valvespring compressor and tester
- Dial indicator
- Piston ring compressor
- Ring squaring tool
- Oil pump pickup installer (if you are installing a stock pickup)
- Three-finger sprocket or gear puller
- Engine oil pump primer
- Handheld oil pump
- Flywheel turning handle
- Ring filer (if you are going to file-fit your piston rings)
The depth and breadth of the rebuild will determine the list of specialty tools needed. I’ll list the tools, assuming you will be having the machine shop perform all your machining and assembling your rods and pistons. Helpful but not necessary tools include:
- Camshaft installation handle
- Cylinder head and rotating assembly organizer trays
- Cylinder head stands
- Rod bolt stretch gauge
- Hooked probe or sharp tipped cotter pin puller
- Number stamp kit
- Crank turning socket
If you are building a high-performance engine, you should also pick up a camshaft degree wheel for degreeing up your camshaft.
An air compressor is not a necessary item for working on your engine. It’s a nice luxury item, but many engines, and cars for that matter, have been built without the assistance of compressed air.
Use caution when using air tools during assembly or disassembly. Air tools can apply more pressure than you need and strip or break a bolt that seizes in place. During assembly, your air tools should only be used for running bolts into the threads and the final fastening should be done by hand with a wrench, ratchet, or torque wrench.
In addition to tools, you also need some additional supplies during the process of rebuilding your bigblock Chevy. Paper shop towels are a must. An engine builder pointed out that if you are wiping down your engine parts with polyester or cotton towels, and a stray thread gets into the engine, a thread could cause catastrophic failure. If you had used paper towels and a small stray piece of paper got left in the engine it would dissolve in the oil. This is the reason paper shop towels make sense.
It’s a good idea to get some gloves to protect your skin from harsh and dangerous chemicals. Some chemicals that you will come into contact with while working on your engine are even known to cause cancer. Nitrile gloves work better than silicone work gloves because they do not break down as fast when subjected to harsh cleaners and solvents. If you’re concerned that the gloves don’t allow the same dexterity as bare hands, you probably haven’t used form-fitting gloves. Avoid the cheap, one-size-fitsall multi-purpose gloves sold at your local hardware store.
Get yourself some camshaft installation lubricant. It helps prevent premature cam wear during cam break-in, before their surfaces have had a chance to “mate-in.” Use a generous amount on the camshaft lobes before installation.
Engine assembly lube is different from camshaft lube. A lot of companies sell their own blend to help protect against wear during initial start-up, when oil might not be propagated through the oil galleries, even after using an oil pump primer to pre-lube the system.
The first 30 minutes is the most critical break-in period for flat tappet camshafts. Without the proper lubricant, you’ll destroy your cam and lifters within minutes. Most V-8 push rod engines require more attention than ever during break-in because standard oil does not include critical elements, such as zinc and phosphorus, because of environmental laws. In addition, current production vehicles come equipped with roller cams or overhead cam engines, which do not require these critical elements for lubrication. Standard 30WT was the best lubricant to use for most of the 20th century, but not anymore. Now you need a bottle of special break-in additives from Comp Cams or break-in oil blended with the additives critical for ensuring that your camshaft and lifters have the lubricant they need. Joe Gibbs Racing Oil blends specific oil for this specific need, called Break-In Oil (JGR BR). They also have Hot Rod Oil with the necessary additives not offered in standard off-the-shelf oil available today. These oils are blended with everything our hot rod engines need.
Engine Lubrication Options
If you’re using JGR BR for breakin, use it for the first 500 miles and then switch to JGR Hot Rod Oil. If you’re using the old conventional 30W oil for break-in method, add a bottle of Comp Cams break-in additive. After 5,000 miles, the rings will be seated and you can take your chances and switch to whatever protection- lacking newly regulated oil you choose.
Bolt Thread Lubricants and Sealers
You’re going to need some thread sealant for sealing bolt threads, especially those that are associated with coolant passages and accessories. Many companies have their own blend of thread sealers. You’ll also need some assembly lube or 30W engine oil for the bolt threads so you can get a more correct torque on your critical bolts like rod bolts, main bolts or studs, head bolts or studs, etc. ARP (Automotive Racing Products) sells thread sealants and thread lubricants that are specially blended for these specific applications. Using these products changes the amount of torque applied during installation.
When it comes to keeping your engine sealed and preventing oil leaks, you have to rely on good gaskets and the correct sealants. There are many sealants on the market and they are all meant for specific applications. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use an adhesive where you need a sealant or vice versa. The correct sealants, according to Permatex and professional engine builders, are shown in each step of the book.
If you have an old opened tube of silicone sealer, please dispose of it properly.
For the most part, if you follow my suggestions for sealants you’ll need these Permatex products:
- Ultra Black RTV Silicone Gasket Maker
- Permatex Form-A-Gasket Number 1 Sealant
- Super 300 Form-A-Gasket Sealant
- Permatex High-Tack Spray-AGasket
- Anti-Seize Lubricant
- Red Threadlocker
- Blue Threadlocker
- Water Pump and Thermostat RTV Silicone
I recommended that you clean your engine yourself before final assembly. You can trust your machine shop to perform cleaning duties, but the only way to ensure it’s thoroughly done is to clean your engine parts one last time after the machine shop has hot-tanked everything. In order to clean your parts thoroughly you’ll need a pressure washer, or access to some heavy-duty cleaner and some hot water with a little pressure behind it. If you can get a pressure washer, try to find one that allows you to add solvent or soap to a reservoir that mixes the cleaner with the hot water stream.
Written by Tony Huntimer and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks