FE’s That Bend Push-rods, A Dirty little Secret

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By William Ballinger

I have heard it said many times that one of the Ford FE’s main weaknesses
is a propensity for tossing, bending or breaking valve-train push rods. 
The non-adjustable rocker-shaft assemblies would appear to be the primary
culprit.  It has also been pointed out that the barrel length of the
lifter is longer than it needs to be.  While both are true to a point,
the factory had procedures to keep these differences from other designs
from causing reliability problems.

Involved are specific procedures to unload and pre-load the valve-train,
check the actual lifter pre-load specific to it’s valve location, and adjust
any deficiencies by the use of longer push rods in the specific valve locations
that have slack.  Of course it’s more work than simply turning down
a nut, but it’s a strong, durable design as long as it is kept within it’s
design limits, and put together properly.  Properly done it can withstand
6000 rpm forays as well or better than any bread and butter factory design. 
The 428 CJ Mustangs that still run well in Stock-Class drag racing use
this design,  ’nuff said!

When disassembling an FE valve-train it is important to keep in mind
that this adjustment procedure may have been performed in the past. 
This will cause you to encounter longer push rods at some valve positions. 
It is important to keep the push rods in order, specific to their positions,
until you can determine if they are all the same lengths and in good condition.

 Another thing to keep in mind is that the engine due to it’s age
will likely have been apart before.  Many times the proper unload/pre-load procedures have not been followed, and any corrections to lifter
pre-load made prior may have been lost due to mixing up the push rods. 
Check the rocker-shafts for straightness, as a previous assembler may have
bent them.

Blueprinting your valve-train this way lets you know what you really
have, and whether it’s worthy of hard running or not.  If you don’t
do it you will have a pretty good chance of breaking something.  Why
give more fodder to the Brand X boys?  Even if you don’t run your
engine hard, isn’t it nice to know that you can?

It would be a good idea to unload and pre-load your valve-train before
checking the valve clearance to eliminate improper pre-load as a factor.



Rocker Shaft Unload and Pre-load.


It is very important that the rocker-shaft be properly unloaded and reloaded
to insure proper lifter pre-load and prevent damage to valve-train components.

Bring up number one cylinder on the compression stroke to TDC (top dead
center), and turn the engine another forty-five degrees beyond to the "XX"
mark as shown on the damper.  Loosen the passenger side bank rocker-shaft
bolts from rear to front two turns at a time until loose.   On
the drivers side loosen the bolts from front to rear two turns at a time.  
In my opinion, a couple of 1/2 turn passes in sequence after breaking torque
would make the operation a little less traumatic to the components, but
it isn’t absolutely necessary.

To reload the rocker-shaft, and in the process pre-load the lifters,
bring the damper back to number one cylinder TDC, and reverse the procedure
specific to each bank.  Turn the rocker-shaft support bolts down two
turns at time until you reach the specified torque value.  As when
unloading the shaft, when you get close to full torque, 1/2 turn passes
in sequence until full torque is reached would be recommended but not absolutely
necessary.  Refer to your shop manual for all engine torque specifications,
and diagrams if you are unsure of any of these procedures.


Valve Clearance Testing and Adjustment

To check the valve clearance, run the engine to operating temperature,
shut off, and bring the crank to number one cylinder TDC compression. Check
cylinder 1,3,7,8 intakes and 1,4,5,8 exhausts by pressing down the rocker
arm until the lifter bleeds completely down.  Clearance between the
rocker tip and valve should be between .100 to .200 for all FE’s but the
’65 to ’67 352. The 352 specification is .050 to .150.  If there is
more slack than is recommended, then a longer push rod is necessary to
bring it into specification.

Make sure that the lifter is capable of holding good pressure, and if
you are turning the engine hard enough to cause high-rpm pump-up that you’re
using anti-pump-up  lifters.  If a certain lifter collapses a
lot easier when you compress it, then it will need to be replaced. 
If you have to replace one, use an engine hoist to handle that lovely triple-A
hernia inducing intake manifold.  It’s about 80 lbs. without the carburetor. 
I intend to write an article soon on the installation of an FE intake manifold,
so keep in touch.

To check the remaining valves, turn the engine 360 degrees (one full
revolution) and bring up number six to TDC and check cylinder 2,4,5,6 intakes
and 2,3,6,7 exhausts in the same way and to the same specifications.

Love them or cuss them, the FE has been in the exclusive company of
the best engines of all time.  They still command a very loyal following
in the enthusiast sector of automotive and truck interest.  Their
versatility of application is unmatched by any other design in the history
of the automobile.  From a NASCAR Torino, to AL’s ROOFING’s F-600,
to Aunt  Hildegard’s four- door  Fairlane.  The FE has "been
there and done that."  Many design cues we see in Ford’s latest offering,
the Modular, hails back to the FE.  From a time when "IRON MEN DON’T


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