With the age of a Y-block engine, many are in need of a rebuild. Many have been rebuilt and some have been rebuilt several times. You need to be sure that your Y-block doesn’t hide critical flaws and it’s worth rebuilding.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book, 4.6L & 5.4L FORD ENGINES: HOW TO REBUILD. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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Proper documentation is an essential part of any rebuilding project. If you want professional results, and, therefore, a reliable, strongrunning engine, you need to take notes and photograph each important step of the process. Otherwise, you may end up guessing what’s been done or how to reassemble a component. Take the time to write down complete and thorough notes when it’s a complex procedure, and stop to take a photograph during an important step. You actually save time referring to notes and photos rather than trying to figure out how some parts or components go back together.
Scenarios such as rebuilding an engine using a tree limb for a hoist and using the dirt floor of an old chicken coop for an assembly room should be avoided. The cleanliness of a shop is paramount; dirt, grit, and debris are enemies of any engine. If contaminants enter the engine during the rebuilding, at the least, engine life is much shorter and, at the worst, catastrophic engine failure results.
You need to keep your tools, workbench, and work area as clean as possible, and your workshop must be well-lit. In fact, many fine running engines, including some used in competitions, have been assembled in home shops. The degree to which you choose to outfit your home shop directly affects the ease with which the task at hand is accomplished.
Be sure you have adequate space to work on the engine, with proper and adequate storage for the parts as they come off the engine. Also, your new parts must be properly organized and stored, so you can find them when you need them and they aren’t damaged. Heavy-duty shelving supports heavy parts, such as intakes, heads, and cast-iron exhaust manifolds. Have a shelving unit ready for the rebuild.
In addition, have plenty of blue painters’ tape, baggies, tags, and a Sharpie. These are great for properly identifying fasteners, bolts, and parts that come off the engine so you can conveniently reassemble the engine with the correct parts.
Safety is Crucial
You never want to risk your health or well being during the engine-rebuilding journey. If you’re uncomfortable performing any task, don’t do it. Unless you’re a trained ASE with all the training and tools available, some tasks may be beyond your skill, experience, or comfort level. There’s no shame in asking for help or having a qualified professional do it, but there may be some shame in explaining to friends and family how you were hurt.
In all seriousness, many people are injured and killed every year while unsafely and unwisely performing mechanical procedures on cars. Always use common sense and your best judgment.
Organization and Planning
You need to properly plan and budget your project so you invest the resources in the right parts and machine services and attain your ultimate performance goal for your engine. You need to be patient and not just blindly dive into the project. If you methodically and carefully plan, prepare, and budget for your rebuild, it yields dividends: You complete a professional-caliber engine rebuild in a timely and efficient manner.
You need to carefully and accurately assess your skill set and available time. How much of the disassembly, parts inspection, and assembly will you do yourself? If you have the expertise and access to the specialized tools necessary to complete every operation of these processes and the time to do it, you save yourself money.
On the other hand, if you do not possess these tools and do not have the expertise to do all the service work, you need to hire a shop to do it, and you need to account for the cost. On the other hand, you may be able to do some of the service work, such as assembling the short-block, but you do not feel comfortable assembling the top end and particularly the heads. You likely are not a machinist so all the machine work will be performed by a qualified shop, and you need to budget for it and all other aspects of the project.
You need to define the type of engine build you’re performing because that also dictates the time, cost, and complexity of the project. A Y-block rebuild can range from bone stock to full race, and in-between you have high-performance street. Each has its own set of requirements, cost of parts, and machining charges. If you’re performing a stock rebuild, the machine operations are simpler, straightforward, and less expensive. You are not investing in high performance heads, cam, intake, and other parts. On the other hand, if you build a high-performance street build, you buy high-performance heads, aggressive cam, aluminum intake, cam, and headers. The cost of all these parts adds up, and it also takes more machine work to properly modify them.
I recommend creating a project file in a spread-sheet program, such as Excel, to define budget, project costs, allot time for services, and schedule all the services that need to be performed. To form a budget, you can organize the project engine requirements in columns. These columns can include component name, such as heads, block, cam, and so forth. Then you should have a column to define existing or replacement part, replacement part cost, machine shop service required, and machine shop service cost. This basic plan allows you to calculate specific item costs and a total project cost.
To estimate the time required for your project, you can formulate a schedule for your particular engine build. This can include project name, start time, finish time, and duration of project. This allows you to prioritize and organize the particular services or tasks for completing the engine build, but it also allows you to project when it will be finished. Like all plans, it is subject to change. If you’re honest with yourself and accurate in your assessments, your schedule should be close to the reality of building your particular engine.
I want to finish by saying that this has real value: “plan your work, and work your plan.” It will make this rebuild or any other automotive job an easier, more pleasant, and rewarding undertaking.
When deciding your degree of involvement in your engine rebuild, you must consider three things. First, consider the time and expense of having someone else perform all the work. Second, consider the satisfaction of being directly responsible for a job well done. Third, consider your budget.
Before undertaking an engine rebuild you should do some research to determine the approximate cost of replacement parts and machine work. Although parts and machine work can be somewhat expensive based upon several factors, including whether you’re using stock replacement or aftermarket performance parts, and the amount of machine work required to restore your engine to factory specifications. You can save considerably on labor costs by performing some tasks yourself, such as removing, disassembling, assembling, and installing the engine.
Although I’m as entertained as the next red-blooded American male by Hollywood’s rendition of engine rebuilding and automotive restoration, there is little resemblance between what you see on the flat screen and what actually awaits you out in the garage. In the real world, the task of removing, rebuilding, and replacing the engine in your car or truck cannot be accomplished in an hour. You get a tad dirtier and are a bit more challenged than the guys and gals on your favorite automotive show.
Rationale for Rebuilding
Engines are rebuilt for various reasons. Worn rings, loose bearings, and many other ailments are common causes, as is the quest for more power. In a worst-case scenario, a failure of internal components makes a rebuild necessary. Regardless of the reason, you have decided to proceed with removing and rebuilding your engine. However, before the first wrench is turned or the first knuckle skinned, some questions must be answered and logistics arranged.
First, you need to determine the level of rebuild. Keep in mind that there are various types, or levels, of rebuild from just freshening up the engine with new pistons, rings, bearings, and gaskets to the modifications required for all-out competition. This may include a billet crankshaft, forged rods and pistons, high-performance aluminum cylinder heads, aluminum intake manifold, and the list goes on and on.
This book covers all aspects of a stock rebuild, which refers to restoring the engine to factory specifications using new, original, or correct replacement parts. In order to restore power and efficiency, the engine’s internal clearances need to be returned to factory specifications through machining and replacement of worn parts.
The next level on the rebuild continuum consists of internal modifications that allow the engine to retain a factory appearance while providing improvements in performance and reliability.
Last but not least is the dedicated performance buildup that includes aftermarket internal parts and modifications, as well as external changes from oil pan to air cleaner.
In order to accomplish these types of rebuild for this book, I take you step-by-step through two separate engines: a stock 292 and a 322-ci performance version.
Tools and Equipment
By reading this book before beginning your rebuild, you gain insight into the task at hand, know what steps to follow, and recognize the differences and idiosyncrasies within the engine family known as the Ford Y-block V-8. Most of the tools and equipment you need are standard to any enthusiast’s workshop.
Machine Shop Services
You’re probably not a professional machinist who has access to hundreds of thousands of dollars of commercial machining equipment. Therefore, you need to take your Y-block engine to the most qualified shop to do these critical machining procedures. They include (but are not limited to) overboring the block, milling the deck surfaces, line honing the main bearing caps, and turning down and truing the crankshaft. You are investing hundreds of dollars in a typical machining process for a rebuild, so you need to choose the machine shop that works on your parts wisely and methodically.
When it comes to choosing a machine shop for my Ford engine rebuilds, I have three hard-andfast rules. Although some may not agree with my rationale, these rules should help you achieve your goals so your engine is strong and reliable.
Rule number one: I look around the shop for engine rebuilds with front-mounted distributors. If I don’t see any other Ford engines, I usually pass on the shop. I also look around the shop to see what machines they have: mills, lathes, etc.
At the same time, I also inspect the shop for cleanliness. If the benches, floors, and other areas are greasy and dirty, it’s unlikely they perform clean builds. A top-caliber shop is clean because the owners and management recognize the value of having a clean shop and providing a top-quality rebuild. If it’s not clean, move on and seek another shop.
Ford engines are different than GM or Chrysler engines, and you should use a shop that has expertise rebuilding Ford engines. Better yet, they have rebuilt Y-block engines, because these engines carry some unusual design features. Certain Ford engines, and the Y-block among them, have some idiosyncrasies, and the machinist needs experience in these areas to get things just right.
For example, I once purchased an FE-series cylinder block. While examining the work the previous owner had performed by “his” machine shop, I noticed that the core plug at the back of the camshaft galley had been improperly installed. Had the engine been assembled this way it would have allowed the camshaft to “walk” in the block, possibly leading to catastrophic failure.
Now I arrive at rule number two: When working with older Ford engines, such as the Y-block and the FE, I prefer to see a little gray hair in the shop. In my mind this increases the possibility of the machinist having been born while these engine series were still in production, which means he may have actually seen one of these beasts in person in his lifetime.
And rule number three: When considering a performance buildup I insist on contracting with a shop that has an established reputation for building Ford engines. These shops have the necessary experience for performing the best rebuilds. They use established Ford engine rebuilding practices and many accepted procedures for wringing more power out of the engine. Some of the practices for rebuilding a Chevy engine are totally different than those applied to Fords and, in some cases, would actually be detrimental to a Ford engine.
A common practice among machinists attempting to gain additional compression, and thus performance, from a Chevy engine is to machine the deck surfaces of the cylinder block. In Ford circles, this is considered the kiss of death and to be avoided. Ford engines also benefit from the use of split lift and duration camshaft profiles (different lift and duration specifications between the intake and exhaust valves).
Specialized Ford engine building shops are found in most large cities, so take the time to search them out. In the end the quality of the machine shop work determines the quality of the engine build.
Years ago I chose, and continue to rely on, Jordan Automotive Machine in Hainesport, New Jersey. Proprietor and master machinist Gil Jordan is intimately familiar with Ford engines, including the Y-block, flathead, and FE series, which makes him an invaluable resource in my book. Ted Eaton from Texas is widely regarded as one of the top builders of Y-block Ford performance engines in the country.
Written by Charles Morris and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks