I highly recommend a pre-start-up checklist to avoid potentially costly oversights. Your list should include fluids(oil, fuel, and coolant), electrical and hose connections, belts, etc. Ensuring that you have ample oil supply and pressure prior to startup is a must, and I demonstrate two easy methods to achieve this in this chapter. And although it seems out of place here, engine tuning should also be a consideration at this point.
The distributor needs to be properly timed with the engine’s firing order prior to attempting startup. Follow this fairly simple, two-step procedure:
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1. Bring the engine up to TDC on the compression stroke of the number- 1 cylinder. Once again, this is accomplished by installing a compression gauge, or a handy thumb, into the spark plug hole of the number-1 cylinder. Crank the engine over until compression is felt or read by the gauge. Ensure that the piston is at TDC by checking the alignment between the timing pointer and the TDC mark on the damper. If there is a slight misalignment between the mark and pointer, turn the engine over manually using a socket and breaker bar on the crankshaft bolt.
2. Take a look at your photos and note the approximate location of the distributor-advance mechanism in relation to other engine components. Then install the distributor in the engine with the rotor aligned with the location of the number-1 cylinder’s spark plug wire on the distributor cap. This should bring the ignition timing close enough to start the engine, but you will need to set the timing to proper specification as soon after startup as possible. If your distributor is equipped with breaker points, these must also be set to the proper gap in order for the engine to start.
Priming the Oil Pressure
To avoid potential damage, it is imperative that your engine has sufficient oil pressure before you make any attempt to start it up. Although some recommend getting oil pressure by spinning the engine with the starter, I disagree. It’s possible to damage the starter, and you also may wipe some of the vital assembly lube off the faces of the camshaft lobes during cranking. Since zinc and its lubricating properties were removed from motor oil for emissions reasons in 2004, I have heard of more and more cases of camshaft failure during startup and break-in due to insufficient lubrication.
Remember when using a priming tool that Ford distributors rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, and therefore so should the primer. If your vehicle is not equipped with a mechanical oil-pressure gauge that will read pressure when the engine is not running, I suggest at the very least obtaining an inexpensive aftermarket oil-pressure gauge from your local auto parts store. This gauge can be installed temporarily in place of the existing oilpressure switch so that you are assured the engine has sufficient oil pressure during priming and start-up. This isn’t necessary in our case, as one of the factory modifications to our Torino pace car was the addition of a mechanical oil pressure gauge.
If your vehicle did not roll out of the factory equipped with an oilpressure gauge, as is the case with most Ford products equipped with Lima engines during the 1970s, you should consider installing a quality aftermarket gauge. And while you’re at it, consider adding a coolanttemperature gauge as well. Oilpressure and coolant-temperature gauges will greatly enhance your ability to accurately monitor these two areas, which are so critical to engine function and life. Good gauges are a minor investment when you consider the cost of rebuilding an engine.
Priming the Fuel System Your fuel supply should also be addressed prior to initial start-up. In the case of modern fuel-injected engines, this is not of too much concern since the electric fuel pump will bring up pressure within a very short time of being energized. In the case of an older engine equipped with a mechanical fuel pump, there’s often quite a bit of cranking involved in getting the fuel from the tank to the carburetor. The time-honored method of dealing with this problem is to pour a small amount of fuel through the carb to encourage the engine to start.
A word of caution here: Do not pour too much fuel into the carburetor at this point. If the engine does not start immediately, the excess fuel could wash the lubrication from the cylinder walls. If the engine does not start almost immediately when cranked, do not continue to pour gasoline into the carburetor. Spilling fuel on the engine can also be a fire hazard.
You’ll be quite busy once you have the engine started, and having a second or third set of eyes to check for critical things such as oil pressure, water temperature, fluid leaks, etc., can be a big help. If you’ve replaced the camshaft during your rebuild, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s break-in instructions carefully. Most aftermarket cam manufacturers recommend running the engine at approximately 2,000 rpm for a period of time at first startup. You should also check what your piston ring manufacturer recommends for break-in. Some recommend keeping the engine below a certain RPM for a given mileage, and some may recommend other procedures and parameters.
Asking advice on breaking in a fresh rebuild will get you a variety of answers. Some do it one way because that is the way their grandfather did it, others will share the advice that their friends/mechanic have shared with them in the past. There is no one absolute way to break in an engine, but it is best to err on the side of caution and follow as many of the manufacturer’s recommendations that you can.
Almost universally, camshaft manufacturers will recommend that you idle the car for 20 minutes at 2,000 rpm to get the camshaft and the lifters broken in. Most people follow that recommendation with good success, and you will maintain your camshaft warranty that way.
Of course, while you are running the engine to break in the camshaft and lifters, many little fluid leaks, loose bolts, vacuum leaks, and other minor things will probably crop up during this procedure, which makes the extra eyes and hands so helpful. If you have to shut off the car to fix more major leaks or events, you can do that, but I would avoid it unless you absolutely have to. Obviously, if you have a large coolant leak, you are better shutting off the engine to fix it rather than overheating the engine during camshaft break-in. If the leak is minor enough or accessible enough, you can fix it while the car is running. Be careful, be mindful of heat and rotating assemblies, don’t stick your fingers in the fan, and wear your safety glasses!
After the initial 20 minutes, when you’ve reached the point where the engine can be brought down to idle speed, I strongly recommend that you concentrate on setting the ignition timing and carburetor air/fuel mixture to manufacturer’s specifications as soon as possible. Once the engine has reached operating temperature and has been shut down, it’s a good time to go over the intake and cylinder head bolts once more with your torque wrench and check all other fasteners and clamps for tightness.
As of January 2004 the United States government has mandated that the additive zinc-phosphorous, critical to engine, and thus camshaft, break-in, be removed from all motor oils legal for use in street-legal motor vehicles in order to prevent possible catalytic converter damage. Aftermarket camshaft manufacturers now include a warning and recommendations regarding the type of motor oil to be used exclusively in engines equipped with their products to avoid excessive wear on metal-tometal contact surfaces. These recommendations include the use of the special assembly lubricant included with the camshaft and motor oils designated “for off-road use only,” long known to hot rod engine builders as racing oil.
Contemporary engines with roller bearings no longer require the additional protection of zinc and phosphorus in their motor oil. This is not true for classic cars and muscle cars. While removing the zinc and phosphorus from motor oil increases the life of the catalytic converter and arguably decreases emissions, classic cars don’t have catalytic converters, or much in terms of emission systems. Also, as part of its ongoing effort to reduce vehicle emissions, the EPA has mandated that emission systems must have a service life exceeding 120,000 miles. To achieve this, automotive manufacturers have required oil suppliers to remove additive packages from motor oils that could reduce emissions compliance. Of course, none of these regulations apply to classic cars.
Enter ZDDP, a motor oil additive that replaces the removed zinc and additives that vintage cars with vintage flat-tappet cams need to be properly lubricated. ZDDP reestablishes the zinc levels that classic car engines were designed for, while allowing car owners to use the base oil of their choice.
While some prefer ZDDP in their oil for the life of their vintage engines, it’s especially important to at least have the proper additives in your oil for engine and cam break-in.
Cam Shield is an alternative to racing/off road motor oil. Modern overhead-cam engines utilize lower valvespring pressures, though they use roller valve lifters in place of the flat tappets found in earlier engines. Cam Shield’s informational material ontains the following explanation:
“The high pressure contact zone between the cam lobe and the flat tappet in classic car engines significantly reduces the ability of the oil film to prevent metal to metal contact. This requires the engine oil to be formulated with the proper level of anti-wear chemistry to prevent metal to metal contact. Zinc diakyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP) has been the predominant camshaft/lifter/valvetrain anti-wear chemistry for over fifty years.”
Competition Cams recommends using its break-in oil additive (part number 159) in addition to the assembly lubricant provided with the camshaft to prevent premature failure of flat-tappet camshafts during the break-in process.
Written by Charles R. Morris and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc