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How I flushed out my Buick engine block

buick man

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Well I thought a little winter story would be a nice thing. So - with that said, here in & forth with is my story on how I flushed out my 1957 Buick Roadmaster 364 engine block.

This car had sat since what I have been lead to believe 1970. Starting with the removal of the radiator it was found to be void of all fluids. When removing the new appearing lower radiator hose still with factory label on it the internal hose spring was history and the rubber itself stiff. The upper radiator hose looked the same. When I removed the goose neck on the water manifold that area too was dry as a bone with a lot of powder white/green effervescence. The water pump and manifold told the same story.

On the Buick nailhead, the front of each head has a water outlet port where the water manifold attaches to. The thermostat is housed in the upper center of the water manifold. Just below this area is where the water pump is located. It has two ports one on each side of the block just below the front of each head. The water pump is designed to pump bleed up into the thermostat area of the water manifold The nailhead water pump is placed over the upper area of the timing cover. In a nailhead the timing cover also serves as part of the water flow channel for the water pump and this section is separate from the cam and timing gears.

Both my pump and the timing cover internals had undergone electrolysis. The pumps lower inlet was rotted away. The big round surface area where water is shunted in the timing cover had some pitting but it was not too bad at all and the cover was saved.

Upon visual inspection into the heads and engine block orifices the internal areas appeared surprisingly open, moist, clean and green with remnants of antifreeze. Considering how long the car had sat and all other components dry this truly was a surprise. When I got under the car and removed each of the two block drain cocks, some green antifreeze did come out.

So how was I going to clean the block and do a really good job at it since I had everything off the front of the car. I would need to flush it out but how.

Well I did not have anything other than a compressor so if I wanted a professional flush setup I would have to construct one of my own.

I wanted to have plenty of hot water and I also wanted the benefit of having compressed air to help aid in the flush operation just like the big guys do downtown. As I could not use my house hot water heater I came up with something ever better. Another concern was internal rusty slush and surface slag. I knew some of that no doubt was in there and probably more than I wanted to admit. To do it right, this would also require some chemical muscle but one that would be friendly to the environment. With that I chose phosphoric acid. Just like urea nitrogen/ uric acid, the plants love it. But before you get excited, my method did not flush out onto the ground as I pumped and save the phosphoric acid for future use. I just use free auto paint store filters and filtered the solution back into a clean 5-gallon can. I had worked with a product called " A Must For Rust -TM", so I knew what to expect and chose this to be my catalyst. This product works great for converting rust. But when you are using this you first want to remove as much surface rust calcification as possible with clear hot water and air before you use any phosphoric acid. So here is what I did.

Well after much thought I rigged up a system comprising of stuff that I had laying around shop here and there.

- A used clean 50-gallon steel drum that I had purchased from a second hand dealer,

- Eight 16-inch x 8-inch masonry blocks,

- 3-strips of scrap iron measuring approx. 1/4-inch x 3-inch by 32-inches each to be used as a grill to hold the 50-gallon drum on top of,

- A well cleaned up large capacity self priming pump used to pump water out of drilled foundation and retaining wall pier holes,

- Needed Lengths of 3/4-inch garden hose,

- A 5-foot length of galvanized 3/4-inch piping with elbows and unions used to connect the pump to the hose ,

- A lobster boiler base burner I had around the basement for lobster boils as this would be my heat source,

- A 5-gallon propane tank with an inline variable gas psi regulator and finally

- One 30-gallon 6 hp air compressor. But a much smaller one would of worked out just as well since you do not need or want a lot of pressurized air going into your block. 18-25 psi is more than enough.

The Set-Up:

I placed the mason blocks in a hollow square fashion at a height so I could easily clear my lobster burner that I placed in the center with a hose connected and running out about 5-feet away to my propane tank placed safely behind a small wall consisting a few mason blocks I had setup. Upon the blocks I placed my scrape steel pieces to fashion a grill where upon I place my 50-gallon drum on top of. I filled the drum about 1/2 way up with a spiked concoction of citrus cleaner, simple green solution and tap water. I connected my pump to the galvanized piping as the water would be hot and a rubber hose connection could fail or collapse due to the heat. With that I connected the galvanized piping some 5-feet away from the drum to a hard rubber insulator connection made out of metal hose fittings from the hardware store. I then connect my water hose to that and led it over at a length of 25-foot of hose. To the end of the hose I attached a ball valve, with a T handle so I could easily and quickly turn if off and on.

Now I would need to be able to suspend the submersible pump into the drum but would need to keep it off the bottom of the 50-gallon steel drum some 12-inches so I placed a piece of flat steel channel on top of the drum and connected a wire to my pump top so I could suspend and adjust the pump to any depth I wanted into the drum of hot solution after the water was good and hot.

The engine heads and block:

I would also need to be able to get the hot water and air pressure into the block and head and wanted to do so without a mess. I also wanted to be able to reverse the flow by first running water and air into the head inlets and then disconnecting and attaching to the engine block inlets and vis-a-versa. To accomplish this I constructed an attachment Y-setup so I could have thumb controlled water and air flow when and by how much and a tight fitting to the head and block. The photos below detail the setup. I also wanted to be able to shut off the exit of the water and directed it out of any of the three inlets namely the head, block or block drain cock or any combination thereof. As noted earlier I had removed the block drain cocks. So I attached threaded 1/4 inch galvanized threaded pipe with a shut-off valve attached to clear 1/2-inch plastic chemical hosing with steel hose fittings so I would have a controlled loop. I also wanted to be able to deliver the hot water and air via the drain cock and thereby totally reverse the normal block and head flow so the water would come out of the head or block depending on how I directed the flow. So with this setup we had the following total flow control: Input air and water into via the front of the head or block with water existing either the block, head or engine block drain cock, or Input air and water via the block drain and existing via either the head or block or vis-versa.

The Cleaning:

The pressure my pump put out was equivalent to that of good house hold water flow and maybe a tad better.

The Cleaning:

I started out by flushing first the into the head and out of the block with intermittent light bursts of air. Then I shut off the block outlet and ran it out of the bottom of the block thru the cock opening. You should of seen the rust, scale and crap come out. Seemed every time I applied a little air a few seconds later some more crap would emerge. The dispersion was rusty looking as first with scales of metal rust coming with it. After cycling and reversing the applications I stopped after all my flushing ran clear in all directions.

Hooked on Acid:

I then hooked up a small water fountain pump I had bought from an el cheapo store. This was to be submerged into a 5-gallon plastic bucket holding 2-gallons of A Must for Rust-TM Phosphoric Acid - Straight up. I then connected my fittings I had used for the water flush to the pump and let the acid circulate through out my head and block for 2-hours. I then reversed the flow 2-hours. Note: I had to filter the acid after about an hour as the effluent was turning red again and some crap with it. After it flowed clean once again, I then disconnected the acid pump and then used a bucket filled with distilled water and flushed the block in the same manor for 15-minutes.

I then made sure I had filtered clean acid and ran the acid back through the system for 10-minutes. Then I ran it dry and attached my air hose again and just ran air thought the complete system to dry the acid and blow it out of the system. I let it run for about 15-minutes. Then reversed the air flow and ran again for 15-minutes.

I did this same procedure to the the other side of the block.


The Results:

A fresh clean internal block with a conversion inhibiting any further rust until I can get to putting everything back together. I went to this extent because the car had been sitting for so long and I felt I did not need to or want to pull the engine out or take the heads off. - QED

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Edited by buick man (see edit history)
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Guess what? Along with everything else that just was so great about finding this car as is, someone had replaced them at or near the time of storage. The outside of the plugs have no galvanic or rust corrosion on them what-so-ever and look like they had just been replaced 2-months earlier. Why a couple have the stick-on white round number tags attached to them. With that said, I am going to pop out the easy center one and take a look at it however. That will give me a general idea of the rest I should think.

Thanks for the input.

Edited by buick man (see edit history)
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  • 9 years later...

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