Advice For Engine Rebuilding
By 1999 Ken Haley
This article was originally posted in the Big Ford pickup/Bronco list
in response to an energetic first time engine builder. Organization is
the key to a successful rebuild. This article gives some ideas for organizing
A bit of advice for those without years of experience pulling and overhauling
You will need masking tape, a pen with permanent ink, spiral notebook,
zip-top sandwich bags.
First, clean the engine thoroughly.
Assume you can’t remember anything. Label both ends of every hose, wire,
cable, and linkage. Letters in indelible ink on masking tape works well.
When you get to “Z”, start over with “AA, BB, CC….” Also label the fitting,
stud, bracket, etc. from which the hose, wire, cable, or linkage was removed.
This way you know where everything goes back.
List everything you disassemble in the notebook, in order of disassembly.
Note the identification codes you assigned in the previous step just in
case a tag becomes unreadable.
Draw pictures of everything before you take it apart. Polaroid cameras
work wonderfully here. If you have 2 different length bolts holding something
on, note on the picture what bolt goes where.
LABEL EVERYTHING. How you solved the inevitable problems with reaching
hidden hardware and lining up 7 things at once should be recorded in the
As each component is removed, clean everything and place that component’s
hardware and associated small parts in a zip-top bag and label the bag.
Be sure to note the label in the spiral notebook.
Some parts need to go back in the same place they came from, like rockers
and push rods. I use a 2X8 board with nails driven through and set rocker
arms over the nails. Holes drilled part way through the board in front
of each nail store the corresponding putrid and lifter.
Rod and main bearings go in individual zip-top bags with their corresponding
caps and bolts.
Shelve the parts and hardware in the order they were removed. I have
2 old house doors on concrete blocks that will hold everything except the
engine block, in order. The doors are wide enough that parts lined up against
the wall are not in the way of parts being worked on at the moment.
If a gasket is destroyed during disassembly, note the need for a new
one in the notebook. Leaving out gaskets is a common occurrence.
Thus organized, you can work your way down the tables, reworking some
components, selecting others for a trip to the machine shop. While waiting
for your machined parts to be done, why not install brushes in the alternator
and starter and rebuild the carb just to prevent any future problems? A
can or 2 of engine paint really is worth the cost.
Replace all the vacuum lines as a matter of course, especially if the
truck is over 5 years old.
As you collect replacement parts, carefully match them with the old
parts to make sure you have the right ones. Then label the new parts just
as the old parts are labeled. Do not try to transfer labels from the old
parts to the new. I have a shelf above my tables to store the old parts
on when new parts take their places on the table.
New parts are kept in their original packages until time to reassemble.
Oil, coolant, assembly lube, gasket sealers, Loc-Tite, etc., all need
to be on the tables. I’ve seen people start rebuilt engines without oil
and/or coolant. It is easy to overlook something when the project is nearing
completion and the adrenaline kicks in.
Assembly is just working backwards through your notebook and down the
tables. The time you use keeping everything recorded, labeled, and organized
will more than be made up by the time you save digging through piles of
parts looking for that certain bolt, if you even remember you need a certain
bolt. All your wires, cables, hoses, brackets, etc., will be hooked up
correctly, possibly saving hours or even days of trying to troubleshoot
a misplaced vacuum line.
Once the truck is running properly, throw away all the old parts and
clean up your work area.