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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Engine Assembly, Part 1: The Cleanup
By Wayne Scraba/
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyModerate
Estimated Time180 minutes
180 minutes
First things first: Hot water and soap is mixed into a bucket and the pressure washer is hooked to a hot water tap. We use a conventional car wash scrub brush for the initial cleaning. Once that’s done, remove the cylinder block main caps and go through all of the oil galleries with the B&B Performance brush kit. Once you figure everything is clean, start all over again and rescrub the entire works.
We’re fortunate to own a big 220-volt, 5.5 horsepower compound air compressor. It produces copious quantities of air. No matter what type of compressor you own (or rent), be sure the regulator is set to provide something in the range of 100+ psi. Snap a blowgun attachment into the air hose and let the compressor rip. What you really need to do is blow as much water off the engine as possible, and the quicker the better. Use the air force to blow all of the water out of the oil galleries, and don’t be timid. There will be plenty of water moving around, particularly from the exit points of smaller oil passages.
Once the block is blown dry, you must oil all of the machined surfaces. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this: A clean rag soaked in clean light oil (for example, 10-30) or automatic transmission fluid works. So does a light mist of spray lubricant, followed by a wipe down with a clean shop towel. Spray lubricants will naturally displace water so it works in your favor. We always clean the machined surfaces until the shop towels show absolutely no trace of dirt. The preferred towel here is actually a roll or two of paper towels. We prefer the mechanic-style blue jobs since they don’t tear or shed as easily as kitchen towels.
We treat all of the internal engine components to the same cleaning process. Once clean, we place the various bits into fresh plastic bags and zip them shut until we need the respective parts. When cleaning items such as a crankshaft, you’ll note that the small brushes from B&B Performance go a long way toward getting into the various oil passages. Be careful not to nick any machined surfaces.
Once the block is spic and span, it should be wrapped up. While jumbo garbage bags work, they’re usually flimsy. We prefer to use an engine storage bag. B&B Performance offers 4-mil plastic bags designed to protect racing engines against dirt and moisture. They’re large enough to accommodate an assembled big-block, even one with headers in place. These sturdy covers are ideal for storing and transporting race motors too. And that means they’re perfect for protecting your block while you’re not working on it. We always wrap the block or engine immediately after work on it has ended. Remember, the main idea is to keep contamination to a minimum.
Plugging the Holes
All engine blocks are equipped with a series of pipe plugs. They’ve most likely been removed during the machining and hot tanking process, and obviously should not be present during your clean up. You’ll need to replace them. Your local auto parts store or car dealer or machine shop can help you with the respective plugs you’ll need. For a cleaner look, we prefer AN (aluminum) plugs with internal hexes, but brass plugs will work, too. For some applications, a rear cam plug will have to be installed as well. Most of these are of the drive-in (with a hammer) variety. It’s best to leave the cam plug out until later (after the camshaft has been installed). In addition, some engine stand configurations don’t allow access to the back of the block, so you won’t be able to install the plug until the engine is off the stand.
Typically, the rest of the plugs are equipped with pipe threads. That means the plug is tapered. To seal a pipe thread you can either use Teflon tape (a pain) or Pipe Thread Sealant. We prefer the latter. Cover the threads with sealant and install the plugs. It’s that simple.
The last thing you need to install is the oil filter bypass valve along with the oil filter adapter. There are plenty of different formats out there, but in our sample engine, the bypass valve simply drops into the block. It’s driven home and set with a hammer and a small socket. The oil filter adapter is a double threaded affair. The block side should have the threads lightly covered in blue medium strength Threadlocker (don’t use Red, as it will require considerable heat if the adapter requires removal). Torque to specs and you are done.
In the next segment, we’ll show how to install the crankshaft and measure the main journal, rod journal and crankshaft thrust dimensions. While these steps are absolutely critical in the engine assembly process, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. In the meantime, check out the photos on the next page.
Tools Used in Part 1
  • Engine cleaning brush kit
  • Engine storage bag
  • Thread sealant
  • Medium strength Threadlocker
  • 3/16-inch, 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch and 3/8-inch hex drives
  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet
  • Air compressor
  • Blow gun (air)
  • Pressure washer
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