Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting Dirty, Flathead Engine Rebuild - Part 2

Alright this is my first solo engine rebuild!  You were already getting the feeling, right?  Yeah, the last was about 13 years ago with a friend who did most of the work, and that was a Ford 351 Windsor.  But I still remember the basics, and I'm reading up on it.

The start of the disassembly was going so smoothly I forgot to take pictures!  The pistons and rods were out the block in minutes and I didn't even need to use a ridge-reamer.  The reamer removes the lip that forms at the top of the cylinder on high mileage engines from piston rings.  My cylinders were OK.

Next were the valves, valve guides, and springs.  I wasn't planning to reuse any of the valve train, that's good, because I made a mess of it!

First the valve retainers needed to be removed from the bottom of the valves and from under the springs.  This is where the first of the flathead specialty tools, a spring compressor, would have come into play.  But I don't own them, so I improvised.

The spring compressor could have been used here.  But a large pry bar can be used... so I used a crowbar instead.

I took a lot of muscle to pry the springs up, the little retainers were sticky with oil --so I was getting little frustrated.  But they all came out, some with a struggle.  Little did I know even more anxiety was to come...

With the retainers off the valve can move up and down with ease.

59A and older valves have mushroomed ends, so mine just don't slip out like 8BA, Chevy V8, or any other valve newer then 1950.  These stayed in until the guides came out, which is the next step.

The guides have a retainer too, commonly called the horseshoe clip.  The retainer needs to come out first.  This is were the second of the flathead specialty tool would help --the valve guide remover.

Instead I used a screwdriver and hammer to move the guides down a bit  so the clips can be pulled.

Most moved willingly and were super friendly.  Seven valve were not so nice and stayed put.  The nicest valves & guides just about popped out the top of the block with the retainer off.

So it was off with their heads!

I grabbed the hack saw first, it was right there.  Nope, a blade went flat before I could go half way through one valve.

Next, I reached for the hot-wrench with some sort of nostalgic reasoning I thought it would work.  Nope, the valves are not steel, thus they do not oxidize and can't be cut.  That is probably why my hacksaw blade dulled, the valves are stainless or something.

Finally I picked up the grinder, which was actually my first thought, and in two minutes the stubborn-seven were headless, Eureka! And in less time then it took to set up the cutting torch.

Now I could hammer those stuck guides.  I used a socket & extension.  Done, and now with the retainers out --another problem.  The guides are only going down, not up.  And they can't go far enough down to come out either, stuck again.

Bring back the grinder.  I cut up the springs and valve stems inside the lifter valley, literally putting the grinder inside the engine.  I was super careful, I did want to save the cool Johnson adjustable hollow lifters, so I kept them down in the bores.

Finally the valve train was out, I had some mementos, I'm talking about the old valves.  And the camshaft came out easily once all the lifter were free.
I numbered the lifter as they came out.  I had to, they match the lobe, so if I wanted to reuse the cam & lifters together it's a must.

I took the water pumps off next, or at least one of them. The passenger side inside bold that rusted & rounded bolt head, I couldn't loosen.  So I left it on for the machine shop to get off.

But look what was inside the driver's side water jacket, sand & gravel?  Literally pebbles fell out.  Could this have been in a boat and sucked up sand from the river bed.  Rust was in there too, but nothing unusual about that.

The exhaust passages are filled with sand too, as are the exhaust bolt holes, and the oil pan is caked with it also (on the outside). I think the engine may have just sat in a really dusty field for a while with sand blowing over it while inside a car --missing the headers and water hoses.  Just a guess.

Now that it was apart, it's off to the machine shop.  I drove past H&H to my favorite shop, Jim Grubbs Motorsports in Valencia.  Where they build real racing car engines, and have the latest & greatest equipment.

Soon I'll be spending good money to find out how bad my block is --I can't wait!


  1. Wow, cool post. I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real hard work to make a great article... but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. OMC engine water pump


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