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Loosening piston rings after 39 years?


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#1 92GTA

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 02:25 PM

My '56 Corvette (265ci V8) was stored in the CA desert for about 39 years, inside a garage mind you, NOT outside. The original engine was rebuilt and had only about 2,000 miles on the rebuild when the car was parked. It did not take much to get the engine running and after a few months I have now gone through everything and it's running better than ever.

BUT, not all of the upper piston rings appear to be sealing yet. I am getting some blowby when running (smoke coming out of breather tube) and I can hear out the exhaust that it's the passenger side. I haven't done a compression check yet, I kind of don't want to know lol.

I first tried Redline with Auto-Rx for about 700-800 miles. After no change and having to replace the oil after a rear main seal leak, I have added some MMO to the crank case and gas tank. I'm still running Redline as it has the right amount of zync & phos for a flat tappet cam.

Anyway, I have just gone through a full tank of gas with the MMO in the crank case and gas tank. It seems to be helping a little bit but not enough. I'm going to be pulling my intake in a week and I was going to pull the spark plugs and fill the combustion chambers with MMO and let sit for a week. Then crank the engine with no plugs to blow out the left over MMO and fire it back up with the new intake and carb installed.

Do you guys have any other tips for me you can think of?

Thanks! Alex
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#2 Friartuck

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 03:11 PM

Alex,
Not every engine problem can be solved with a "snake oil" remedy, however, I have had good success with Seafoam. Seafoam is an gas and crankcase oil additive and been around for quite a few decades, just not widely known. Find it in you area or get it via the web. Accept no substitues.

#3 92GTA

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 03:35 PM

Alex,
Not every engine problem can be solved with a "snake oil" remedy, however, I have had good success with Seafoam. Seafoam is an gas and crankcase oil additive and been around for quite a few decades, just not widely known. Find it in you area or get it via the web. Accept no substitues.


Yeah I'm just trying everything before I rehone and rering.

I used 2 spray cans and half a liquid can of SeamFoam down through the carbs 2 different times and it cleaned it up but did not solve the issue. I haven't tried it in the crank case or gas tank yet. I have found SeaFoam to be great for cleaning but not for rust/lubrication issues.
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#4 scot

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 05:23 PM

Try putting Marvel Mystery oil in each cylinder and let it sit for a few days and then blow it out. I have had great luck with this stuff. You can add to gas and to the oil if you like. However, the best and quickest is going to be pouring it directly into each cylinder.

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#5 92GTA

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 05:50 PM

Try putting Marvel Mystery oil in each cylinder and let it sit for a few days and then blow it out. I have had great luck with this stuff. You can add to gas and to the oil if you like. However, the best and quickest is going to be pouring it directly into each cylinder.

Scot


Thanks for confirming!
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#6 JFranklin

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 06:01 PM

ATF might be a good choice to soak the cylinders with, I have had luck with it. another trick is to start it up with the radiator covered and let the heat gauge rise to almost hot and cool for a few cycles. Sometimes the extra heat makes things move a bit.

#7 Jim_Edwards

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 06:08 PM

If the Marvel Mystery oil treatment doesn't work drain the oil out of the crankcase and fill it with Kerosene. Run the engine at around 1200 rpms for fifteen to twenty minutes, then drain out the kerosene and replace the oil filter and put in fresh 10W-30 oil. Kerosene is a light oil and will provide adequate lubrication for the short time the engine is being ran. FYI, I've done this procedure many times, most typically to wash out sticking lifters and never had an engine suffer bearing damage from doing it.

Once you have refilled the crankcase with fresh oil and put on a new filter, take that sucker out on the road and red line it a few times because all the rings should be very loose and some may even need to re-seat. When you get back, drain the oil again and change the filter and refill the crankcase with HD-30 oil to keep from screwing up your cam.

Jim
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#8 Rusty_OToole

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 06:20 PM

It may just need more breakin miles. An overnight soak of MM down the spark plug holes may help. Then drive it. 50 miles at a time or more if possible. Do another 2000 miles or so and if there is no change you may have to tear the engine down and install new rings.

Incidentally a friend of mine bought a late 60s Chev pickup in similar condition. It started and ran well but burned oil. He drove it around town for several years with no problems. When he tore it down all the rings were still stuck in the grooves. He replaced the rings and honed the cylinders with a bottle brush hone and it ran like a new one.

I suspect if he had taken some long trips instead of puttering around town the rings might have freed up.

#9 Marty Roth

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 11:16 PM

The tip about kerosine in the crankcase really works - I've done it !

A safer alternative is to use half 10W30 and half ATF -- 3 or 4 successive oil changes with a fresh filter - let it idle at 1500 - 1800 rpm for 20 minutes with the radiator half-blocked with cardboard to have it run warm, but not overheat.

This will usually free-up stuck rings, lifters, (and maybe even the lollipop stuck to the upholstery).

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#10 NTX5467

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 04:45 AM

Ring "seating" should have already happened, even if you put a rough hone finish on the cylinder walls when the engine was rebuilt. On a rebuild, with a seasoned block, the bore will usually stay more round so there's less issues with the rings conforming to the cylinder walls' shape. Therefore, ring seating (initial and final) happens pretty quick.

The oil consumption will be related to the oil rings rather than the compression rings, as it's the oil rings that scrape the oil from the cylinder walls (as oil control). You can have good compression and still have oil rings that aren't working very well.

Of course, we're presuming that the rings were all gapped to specs by the engine builder, rather than just being installed "out of the box". AND that some sort of "low drag" racing-style piston rings were not used, rather than the normal-tension stock-style rings.

Some of the "soaks" mentioned might work . . . I've never needed to do that . . . but the more "oily" they are, probably the better. IF you're after more "flow", then regular motor oil in the lighter 0W-30 or 5W-20 viscosity ranges might be better. This way, you can add only some of the "cam protection additives" and run the lighter oil for quite some time, with no issues of multiple oil changes to get other flush fluids out of the system. CompCams and Crane now make such additives. Varying the rpms while driving, just as the older new car break-in procedures used to recommend, can help get the rings moving again, IF that's really the issue causing problems. IF you use synthetic oil, you can probably do without the oil additive.

ALSO, don't forget that oil consumption issues can also be due to valve guide clearance issues, plus the valve stem seals themselves. Too much guide clearance will wear the seals much sooner and also allow more oil into the head ports.

Regards,
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#11 packards42

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 05:42 AM

My good friend, that does ancient tractors, use diesel and AFT in teh clyinders, tows them home, then soak for 1-6 months, until they turn over, then fire them up, and then decides what to do, park-m, run-m, overhaul-m/ we talking 100 tractors in the shed.

I used diesel to free up a $200 NOS overdrive cable. soaked for 30 days, then I worked it from the pull end about 1/2 hour a night, progressively geting about 1/4 inch in the beginning. Continuing the process of soaking and working about 30 minuted, it took about another month to have working as good as new. I had to use vise grips in the beginning to pull the cable.
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#12 92GTA

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 02:24 PM

Thanks for the tips and info everyone!

I'm going to add some more information...

I don't seem to have oil consumption issues, it more of a blow-by, low compression in a couple of cylinders issue. When the original engine was rebuilt before being stored, it was built for racing by Fains Machine in Ventura CA. It only ever saw 1 drag race and about 2,000 street miles before going into storage. The 2nd owner that had Fain do the work said they went .030" over, used new pistons, and built it "loose" for racing. So whatever "loose" meant in 1965 to Jimmy Fain, I'm not sure.

As of today, I have another 300 miles or so of driving with the MMO in the oil and fuel since my initial post. It has been allot of mountain driving in 2nd and 3rd gear so I have been keeping the RPMs constantly changing and staying in gear slowing down or going down hill.
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#13 Jim_Edwards

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 04:19 PM

Thanks for the tips and info everyone!

I'm going to add some more information...

I don't seem to have oil consumption issues, it more of a blow-by, low compression in a couple of cylinders issue. When the original engine was rebuilt before being stored, it was built for racing by Fains Machine in Ventura CA. It only ever saw 1 drag race and about 2,000 street miles before going into storage. The 2nd owner that had Fain do the work said they went .030" over, used new pistons, and built it "loose" for racing. So whatever "loose" meant in 1965 to Jimmy Fain, I'm not sure.

As of today, I have another 300 miles or so of driving with the MMO in the oil and fuel since my initial post. It has been allot of mountain driving in 2nd and 3rd gear so I have been keeping the RPMs constantly changing and staying in gear slowing down or going down hill.


If you have blow-by, you have an oil loss issue. You'll be finding it in your air cleaner or oozing out the breather cap. As a personal opinion, an engine built loose for drag racing makes it basically useless for a street machine. Since Fain is still in business in Ventura I think I'd give him a call and see if there is a remote possibility he still has a copy of the blue print for that engine.

Jim

Edited by Jim_Edwards, 10 December 2010 - 04:29 PM.

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#14 92GTA

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 05:06 PM

If you have blow-by, you have an oil loss issue. You'll be finding it in your air cleaner or oozing out the breather cap. As a personal opinion, an engine built loose for drag racing makes it basically useless for a street machine. Since Fain is still in business in Ventura I think I'd give him a call and see if there is a remote possibility he still has a copy of the blue print for that engine.

Jim


I do get smoke out of my breather tube when the engine is running. It seems to use very little oil though and my plugs don't foul.

Fain was still in the garage of his house back in 1964/65 and would have no records. He built this engine for his brother-in-law at the time (who was the 2nd owner). I have tried emailing him to see if he remembers anything about the car but I have never gotten a response.

The engine has fair street manners after setting the timing right for the cam and getting the carbs adjusted accordingly with a correct heat range plug. I'm this weekend removing the 2x4 setup Fain installed and putting the original intake and rebuilt carb back on and I'll be tuning that accordingly too.

Aside from the little bit of smoke out the breather tube and the tone of the passenger side exhaust being slightly off compared to the left, I don't really have much of an issue. Not enough to justify tearing it apart at this time anyway.

I'm going to fill the combustion chambers with MMO and let it sit for a couple or a few weeks just to be sure eerything is as good as it can be. Then I'll drive the heck out of it and do a compression check and go from there. If I have a cylinder that is too much out of spec compared to the rest, then I will consider tearing it apart.
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#15 Jim_Edwards

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 05:40 PM

I do get smoke out of my breather tube when the engine is running. It seems to use very little oil though and my plugs don't foul.

Fain was still in the garage of his house back in 1964/65 and would have no records. He built this engine for his brother-in-law at the time (who was the 2nd owner). I have tried emailing him to see if he remembers anything about the car but I have never gotten a response.

The engine has fair street manners after setting the timing right for the cam and getting the carbs adjusted accordingly with a correct heat range plug. I'm this weekend removing the 2x4 setup Fain installed and putting the original intake and rebuilt carb back on and I'll be tuning that accordingly too.

Aside from the little bit of smoke out the breather tube and the tone of the passenger side exhaust being slightly off compared to the left, I don't really have much of an issue. Not enough to justify tearing it apart at this time anyway.

I'm going to fill the combustion chambers with MMO and let it sit for a couple or a few weeks just to be sure eerything is as good as it can be. Then I'll drive the heck out of it and do a compression check and go from there. If I have a cylinder that is too much out of spec compared to the rest, then I will consider tearing it apart.


Oil fouling of plugs is not a characteristic common to an engine having blow-by issues. Not wanting to magnify the issue out of proportion, you have to realize that blow-by is not necessarily a problem for engines used in drag racing, though from time to time if blow-by is really excessive amounts of unburned fuel getting into the crankcase has been known to cause an explosion in the crankcase, blowing the pan right off the engine and making for one hell of a fire. An engine is built "loose" to prevent seizing in a 1/4 mile run, this blow-by is a characteristic of engines built for drag racing, most particularly if the engine is being raced with no coolant, no water pump, and no radiator.

If my vehicle, I'd be running leak down tests on all cylinders to determine just how bad the blow-by may be. Realistically, you may have to have that engine re-worked to make it a safe to drive on the streets vehicle.

When you pull that intake to get it back to a single 4bbl set up don't be surprised if you see a lot of oil where it shouldn't be because of the amount that is probably being forced passed the PCV valve, assuming it was fitted with one to comply with California emissions standards back in 1960 something. If that engine still has a vent tube you may want to see just how evident oil is there and under the car. I'd also stick my nose close enough to the tube (again if it still has one) to see if it smells more like gasoline than oil. It doesn't take much fuel dilution in the oil to ruin a crankshaft due to improper lubrication of the mains and rod bearings.

Jim

Edited by Jim_Edwards, 10 December 2010 - 07:15 PM.

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#16 92GTA

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 07:21 PM

No PCV, these cars weren't made with them.

I smell my dipstick constantly and never smelled fuel. I'll have to monitor the vent tube and see how much is escaping there.

Thanks for going over how drag engines act and what loose means from back then, I'm clueless as I'm only 30.

Alex
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#17 Jim_Edwards

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 08:20 PM

No PCV, these cars weren't made with them.

I smell my dipstick constantly and never smelled fuel. I'll have to monitor the vent tube and see how much is escaping there.

Thanks for going over how drag engines act and what loose means from back then, I'm clueless as I'm only 30.

Alex


That almost sounds obscene........:D

Probably a very good chance when that engine was built up it got a set of Jahn's racing pistons and an Isky cam. It could be an interesting trip back in time to tear that engine down just to see what it really has in it.

Just watch that oil closely. Drag racers don't worry about oil dilution all that much since they'll often change the oil between runs. We used to consider it a good run if oil had blown out of the engine every imaginably possible place it could.

Jim
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#18 NTX5467

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Posted 11 December 2010 - 06:15 AM

Typically, "loose" for racing would mean piston skirt clearance, possibly a little more valve stem to guide clearance, and main/rod bearings that were near the top of the clearance spec, too. Piston rings usually are not part of that mix, though, nor might there have been the low-tension rings in that earlier timeframe.

Normal piston skirt clearance is about .002", but Chevy ran their light duty pickup truck engines and forged piston Z-28 motors at about .004" . . . looser due to the fact that these engines might well encounter "heavy duty use", compared to a normal car engine. About in the early 1970s, the light duty pickup truck motors started using the "car" piston clearance specs, though.

You CAN convert your engine to a PCV system, with the same parts that they used on the '67 motors. A "cap" that bolted onto the block where the draft tube attached, with a hose nipple for the PCV line and an inline PCV valve. Not very hard to do.

IF the engine has a very big camshaft in it, to complement the 2x4bbl situation, then you might well have issues getting the engine to idle correctly with an original OEM carb. IF you can't get it to idle right, you might need to drill some small holes in the primary throttle blades so the original relationship between the throttle plates and the idle and transition fuel slots is maintained. The Rochester carb book tells how to do that. Hopefully, you'll not need to do that.

I don't see any reliability issues in this situation. Nothing should blow up, from what I've seen, but it might idle a little rougher than you might like to sit in slow moving traffic with. Might want to try a more modern electronic ignition upgrade . . . Pertronix or similar, which might make the idle situation a little easier to live with.

Just some thoughts . . .
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#19 buick man

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Posted 11 December 2010 - 07:10 AM

Just a side note regarding Synthetic Oils: No synthetics have the requisite Zinc / Phosphate to combat flat tappet/cam lobe fatigue. Chemically they have an inability as a carrier to bind these cations in solution. Also there is a lot more petro-chemistry going on as well that does not make synthetics the love child for our flat tappet engines.

Yes synthetics have higher burn rates and lower temperature fluid state properties, but lack the proper structure to bind with Zinc / Phosphate molecules to be used as a carrier medium for them for OUR type of engines.
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#20 92GTA

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Posted 11 December 2010 - 04:02 PM

Just a side note regarding Synthetic Oils: No synthetics have the requisite Zinc / Phosphate to combat flat tappet/cam lobe fatigue. Chemically they have an inability as a carrier to bind these cations in solution. Also there is a lot more petro-chemistry going on as well that does not make synthetics the love child for our flat tappet engines.

Yes synthetics have higher burn rates and lower temperature fluid state properties, but lack the proper structure to bind with Zinc / Phosphate molecules to be used as a carrier medium for them for OUR type of engines.


Redline. It actually has even more zinc/phos than required.
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