BACK to High Performance 101 index page Next >>

Engine Rebuild - Turnkey Engine - Step 7

By Ryan Ballou

Well we are pretty close to being finished by this point.  The longblock is complete so all that's left is to add on a few peripheral items, install the engine and fire it up for the break-in process.

First thing to go on is the oil cooler.  Even though this engine is full flowed and will use an external cooler I still like to keep the stock cooler.  The external cooler is controlled by a thermostat and only functions when things start to get warm, leaving the stock oil cooler to do most of the work by itself. Next to go on is the Alt/Gen stand.  I like to leave out the paper gaskets here and use a small layer of the same sealer I used on the case halves.  The metal gasket should go with the louvers facing downwards and really only installs on one way.  Install the tin that goes behind the pulley and then follow up with the pulley itself making sure to torque the pulley bolt to 40-47 ft*lbs.

The next thing to go on is the fuel pump base and the pump itself.  Here I've always had my best luck with Gasgacinch sealer on the paper gaskets.  Use it like contact cement and let it dry on all contact surfaces before assembly.  Install the base first and then drop in the fuel pump push rod after smearing it with either some assembly lube or engine oil.  Now the top gasket followed by the fuel pump itself.  Make sure to pack the base of the pump with a little grease first.  I like using assembly lube here to so that it won't contaminate your oil over time.  If you will be using an electric fuel pump, then use your case sealer to install a block off plate.  Now is also a good time to drop in the distributor.  It only goes one way so spin the rotor as you apply light downward pressure and it should pop into place with it lines up.

Now here's where I take an uncommon step and crank the engine for oil pressure, while it's still out of the car.  For those with dual carbs it means you won't have to mess with spark plugs while the engine in the car and you can also install the rocker assemblies and set lash while everything is still easy to reach.  Cranking for oil pressure with the spark plugs removed and rocker assemblies off will eliminate loads from valve springs and compression and prevent damage from occurring before you get oil flow.

Add your favorite brand of cheap oil now.  Save the expensive stuff for later, this will get dumped in a few hours anyways.  The easy way to do this is with a starter adapter for test firing engine out of the car.  The cheap way to do this is with a broached pulley nut and breaker bar.  I chose the latter because it's easier to setup even though it involves a little more 'effort'.  Connect an ohmmeter (a continuity tester will work too) to the stock oil pressure warning sender and a ground source.  When pressure is built up enough to trigger the sender, your tester will read an open circuit.  You want to keep the pressure built up like this for about 30 seconds to assure oil flow throughout the engine.  After a quick check of full flow fittings and a once over to look for any obvious problems I started cranking the engine over by hand with the breaker bar.  If everything works out like it should, you'll have oil pressure in less than 20 seconds, even spinning the engine by hand.  Recheck the oil now and top off as needed.

With that out of the way you can install your spark plugs and rocker assemblies.  Apply a dab of assembly lube to the tips of your push rods and slide them into place.  Install the rocker arms/shafts and torque the nuts to 18 ft*lbs for stock studs, or about 23 ft*lbs for chromoly rocker studs.  Now set your valve lash, just loose enough to spin the push rod with your fingertips if you're running steel or chromoly push rods.  If you're running aluminum push rods. like me then stick with the stock setting of .006"  I should mention I'm using a special set of heavy duty Al push rods. from These are not the cheap (<$100) aluminum push rods. everyone else sells; these really work with heavy springs and will not bend or break.  The cheap ones barely work for single HD springs and would die quickly with the heavy dual springs I'm running.  Now install the valve covers and we're almost done. The next thing to go on is the clutch pack.  I'm using a Diaken disk with a Kennedy Stage 1 clutch.  Your pressure plate should have indexing marks on it that line up with marks on your flywheel.  This ensures that the clutch is installed oriented the same way it was during the balancing process.

Putting the last touches on the engine involves installing the rest of the tin, which is pretty self-explanatory.  Make sure that the oil cooler tin has an air tight fit.  You don't want that hot air being released in the engine compartment.  For this I use weather stripping foam tape and it seems to hold up well over time.  Drop the fan shroud on with the Alt already installed in it and bolt everything into place, making sure to not forget the Alt strap.

Finally we install the exhaust system.  If you're going to use an aftermarket merged system, just install the header and leave the muffler for later, it can get in the way while installing the engine.  If you're doing stock exhaust, then it can all go on now.  The same thing goes for the intake setup.  If you're running a stock carb, or even a center mount design then it can be installed now.  If you're running dual carbs then you will have to wait until the engine is in the car.

Finally the engine is ready to be installed in the car.  Once in place you should reconnect any electrical lines and oil lines (full flow) that were removed when the engine was pulled, this includes spark plug wires.   Re-install the fan belt making sure you have the correct amount of deflection, about a half to three quarters of an inch.  If you are running dual carbs you can install them now and reconnect all the fuel lines.  You'll want to static time the distributor now so that it's close when you fire the engine up.  You'll be able to fine-tune it later.  If you're running a full flow setup with a filter, then pre-fill the filter with oil before installing.  Finally, install the muffler if it hasn't been already.

With everything dealt with, it's time to fire the engine up for the break-in process.  Make sure you have helper or two on hand to watch for leaks, smoke, or anything else out of the ordinary.  A little smoke is normal as oils burn off the parts you touched during assembly but use common sense; a plume of smoke is bad.  You will also want to have a fire extinguisher on hand in case something really bad happens.
If you're using a mechanical fuel pump then this can take a little time for the float bowl/s to fill with enough fuel to start the engine.  If you are running an electric fuel pump like me, then turn it on now and let it run for about 10-20 seconds.  Now turn the key and crank the engine.  If you did a good job on your pre-tune (carbs and ignition) the engine should start up with little effort once the fuel reaches it.

As soon as the engine catches and starts running, keep your foot on the throttle and try to keep the engine speed fluctuating between 1500 and 2500 rpm for about 20 minutes, but don't hold it at a steady speed.  During this time the cam is going through it's break-in process and keeping the rpm's up will ensure it receives plenty of oil.

Trade positions with your helper and head back to the engine after you're sure everything is going ok.  Grab your timing light and get the engine timed correctly.  If everything looks good and the carb(s) are running smoothly, then it's a good idea to get out on the street as soon as possible.  I do about 10 minutes in the driveway for the cam, and the remaining 10 minutes I do in my neighborhood.  You still want to keep the rpm's up though.  This means heel/toe for the throttle and brake at intersections.  You want to keep the engine under a varying load while your out on this first drive.  Don't lug the engine, but don't rev the snot out of it either.  Hard acceleration and short shifting do the trick nicely.  This serves to get the rings seated quickly and with lower leak down numbers than if you did the whole break-in process in the driveway and then babied the engine while it was still new.  The first few minutes on a new engine are the sweet spot for a good ring seal while the cylinder honing job is still fresh.  If you miss this opportunity then it may take a few hundred miles to get the rings seated properly and they may never seat as well as if you drove it right away.

After the 20-minute break-in run is completed, jack the car up and drain the oil.  Make sure to also remove the plate and strainer and look for unusual debris.  The first oil change removes most of the foreign substances that get into an engine during a build up along with any debris left from the break-in process itself.  Refill with oil and let the engine sit overnight.  Once the engine has fully cooled you'll want to check the valves and adjust as needed.  It's normal for your valve clearances to change in either direction for the first hundred miles or so.  It shouldn't be much, but a thou or two can be expected.

A new engine gets a frequent maintenance schedule for the first 1k miles.  Do oil and valves at 100 miles, 500 miles and 1k miles.  After the first 1k miles you can revert to a normal schedule and consider the engine 'broken-in'.  Pay close attention to the valve clearances and the oil you remove during this period.  Metal debris in the oil or a metallic sheen is bad, as is valve clearances that are changing excessively.  These can be a sign of an internal failure and should be followed up on before serious damage occurs.

Now that you've got your fresh engine in your ride and it's been properly broken in, don't forget to drive it like you stole it - Ryan.

Sound Bytes - Click the links to play

Outside - This was recorded as I pulled my car back into the garage after changing the oil out in the driveway

Inside - This is me pulling into traffic from a side street.  Real easy acceleration to feel out the transition through the progression circuit and shifting at a little over 3k rpm

1-Everything you see covered in tape here should go on before the engine is re-installed in the car.  The exception would be the intake system if you are running dual carbs

2-This is a broached pulley nut.  It allows you to insert a 3/8" drive ratchet directly into the nut so you can turn the engine over by hand.  This makes valve adjustments a breeze.

3-f you look at the lower left corner of this cylinder tin you'll see where I had to notch it.  The Al case I'm using is larger than a stock Mag case in many areas.  This means all the tin had to be custom fit by hand.  If you're planning on cleaning your tin up and giving it a fresh coat of paint, wait until you're sure it fits first.

4-Here you can see the weather stripping tape I used to seal up the oil cooler housing.  There should also be a piece from the cooler to the fan shroud sealing that gap.

5-The completed engine in the car and ready to fire up.


BACK to High Performance 101 index page Next >>

About us | Contact | Events | History | Home | Images | Interactive | Links | Tech