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Another in the " How To Do Series" A Review of Technique - The De-Mummification Of An Idle Engine

buick man

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I have been going full bore these last 6 months on getting my project up and completed. Let's just call my project " Car 57". Admittedly, I have wanted to say "Car 57 Where Are You?" ... many times over. But I am trying to stay focused and take it one day at a time.

As of recent it has become painfully obvious to me that as I cruise the net and various Forums of differing sites, that one theme keeps popping up almost as much as the question," Just how big of a compressor do I need?". Well, you might of guessed, namely how should one properly bring back to life a hibernating or mummified engine. You know, I'm sure you have seen on youtube or read on one site or another where some guys are whipping a dirty motor back to life just to have the lifters rattle like a snake as it idles or worse. So what kind of vehicles am I referring to? Say one that has not run for many years to even just a handful of years. Regardless, chemistry and physics causes changes to the once fluid state of your engine's internals. Just throwing a direct rubber hose gas I.V. to the carb, a known good battery propped up on the fender and a squeeze bottle of gas, is not how to go about it. There is a lot more to it than that. That is if you follow the physicians oath, "Do No Harm" then perhaps this little how-to- do, may come in handy and save you much in $$$ down the road. Yes it is somewhat of a hassle. Dirty? Oh by all means. Might even require you to do some stretching before you get into it. But in the end you will be paying yourself back and not the loan you took out to pay the machine shop.

The following is an excerpt from a post reply I wrote. In this instance, the question was asked, " Just how should one go about cleaning the internals of an engine?" Just change the oil? Run some snake oil cleaning potion through it? Perhaps even something that would involve getting dirty and possibly scraping a knuckle? So short of pulling the engine out and dismantling it on the one hand or just running a magic flush through it and saying "Ah-Men", we present to you the following method:

When I pulled the pan off of my 57, it took about 10 minutes to do so not counting the time it took to remove the bolts. Just removed the 2 bolt off of the frame on the passenger side where the cross member attaches to the idler arm, put the 2 bolts back in for safe keeping, lowered the cross member as it drops down at that point, removed the lower flywheel cover, ( 4 small bolts) and went about removing the pan. Do not remember is the 55 has the rear type pan or not

Note: Assuming the Engine will turn by hand with a socket and breaker bar or ratchet attached to the end of the crank shaft snout. If not, you will have to free the engine first which is a whole new post in doing this.


If you are going to do this right, remove the radiator, fan, water pump and cross bar in front of radiator so as to gain complete access to the engine.

Remove the oil pump, disassemble, clean and check for wear. There is a spring and check valve in there that will no doubt be gummy beared.

Remove the oil filter boss from the block, clean and make sure to remove and clean check spring and ball valve in this as well.

Remove the intake manifold with carburetor attached and the lifter valley cover as well.

Remove valve covers, rocker assembly, push rods and lifters making damn sure not to mix up where they came from so a labeling and ledger system is required as well as having plastic compartmentalized holders to store each part in. Clean, Verify and Reassemble as pointed out this provided link.


Obtain a large concrete mixing tub from your local lumber store, a 6 x 6 piece of heavy plastic ( 4ml or 6ml) and place under your block area. Clean the lifter valley area out completely using first Orange blaster Degreaser, then some Dot 3 Brake Fluid to remove the varnish. Brake fluid is a Fluid so it will wash away with simple water. Repeat as needed using the various and obvious brush and pick tools needed. Do not use anything that has metal in it to clean. Such as brushes or picks. Use wooden tooth picks and plastic brushes. Clean to your satisfaction. Then Flush Clean Lifter Valley Areas - Including Lifter Bores and the Entire General Area upon completion with Kerosene.


Then acquire some clear plastic 3/8 ID tubing and a cheap drill operated pump along with a 5 gallon bucket and a variable speed drill and 2 gallons of Kerosene. With all the above parts removed, take and stick the tubing up into the orifice opening where the oil pump shaft went. Use a little duck tape to secure but should stay put making sure the O.D. of the tube is a tight fit to the I.D. of the pump shaft opening. Replace your cleaned oil boss along with just the filter can housing and bolt back into place making sure it is properly fitted and just tight. Then fill your bucket with 1 Gallon of Marvel Mystery Oil, 1 - Quart of Lacquer Thinner and 1-pint of Kerosene. Attach the cheap roto pump to your drill and start spinning, easy at first and not too fast, just a slow to medium spin rate. The solution will go up the tube and up into your block. It will then go up through your oil boss and up into the block, pushing through the factory center bored passage ways " Oil Gallery " of the crank and cam areas. This will effectively flush the main oil gallery system out. The crap will fall down into your concrete mixing bucket which is just long and wide enough to catch all droppings. Stop when you are about 1/3 way down from the top on your solution in your 5 gallon bucket. Stop and let it sit over night. Cover the solution bucket for safe keeping. Then the next day, start the drill up again and do another 1/3 solution flush. Then stop, cover solution bucket and let system soak n rest. Then on the 3rd day, use the rest of the solution in your bucket. Set yourself up with a 1-1/8 socket and 1/2 inch drive ratchet and apply it to the crank hub bolt head so you can spin the engine in a clockwise fashion while you are pumping the solution through. Either have a helper do this while you are pumping or pump, stop turn the crank a few turns, then pump a little, stop turn the crank a few revolutions, then repeat. Now let things rest overnight. On the 4th day, remove the drip concrete mix bucket and drain into a designated 5 gallon holding bucket. If you want as I did, you can obtain automotive paper filters from you local automotive paint jobber. They give these away free along with stir sticks and are very handy for filtering solutions of all kinds. I then take a funnel and filter the crap out of my solution. I do this 3 or 4 times and then you have a dandy cleaning solution to be used on other parts when needed. Just make sure you get a container with a sealable lid.

So now you are ready to put the concrete mixing bucket back under the engine. Pour a Gallon of Kerosene into a clean 5 gallon bucket and start the drill back up at a slow spin rate and let it flush. Go through that 1 gallon completely. Then pour in another 1 gallon of clean Kerosene and repeat the process again. Let the engine rest and drain for 1 hour. During this time you can be cleaning up your 5 gallon bucket and cleaning your concrete mixing tub for the next step.

Remove the oil boss/filter and clean again. Reinstall.

Now pour a clean 1/2 gallon amount of pure Marvel Mystery Oil into a clean 5 gallon bucket and start the drill up again with a slow spin rate. This will pump and saturate the engine blocks complete oil gallery delivery system. Let the engine rest and drain for a couple day.

During this time, continue and complete the cleaning all of your lifters, oil pump etc if you have not already done so.

Now Remove the Concrete Tub from under the engine and filter this into a sealed container bucket. Replace tub under the block.

Reinstall the Lifters, Push Rods and Rocker Arm Assemblies.

Now fill up a spray bottle with Kerosene and put on a cheap full face shield like you use in your shop on the grinding wheel. Get up under and to the side of the bottom end of the block so you can look up and into the crankshaft area and belly of the block. With the jet stream set on the spray bottle, start at the upper most (highest) point areas and work your way down to the bottom of the bearing caps. Allow to drip for a few minutes and repeat procedure at least 4 times getting up each time to turn the crank a few revolutions and then getting back under and repeating this process. You have now flushed the internal sides of the engine block of the crap that invariably wants to continue to cling on.

Now get a clean spray bottle and fill it up with Marvel Mystery Oil. Repeat the spraying just like you did with the Kerosene spray bottle as explained above, remembering to turn the crank each session as well.

Now get a cheap gallon of single 30 weight Dino Oil and again spin the pump while also repeating the crank turning procedure applied above. Pump and turn the crank clockwise. Watch for the oil to come out of the front ends of the rocker shafts. You will also see oil going into the valley area as well. Oil will be dripping as well out of the cranks journals and cam journals. Most importantly you will now see oil saturating and dripping from the rear main seal area. The seal needs this and will swell once again.

You now have a properly cleanly flushed and primed engine. Go ahead and do your thing in putting it back together and attempting to start it. Caution. It is always a good idea to ensure that there are no fluids in the piston bore areas or you will get hydro-lock when you put the plugs back in when attempt to start the motor. So spin the starter before installing the plugs. This will compression push any liquids in the cylinder out if you have put in any while doing the re-awakening of your engine. Just make sure you have towels placed over the holes because the compression can eject liquids out 5 feet or more.

You can take it from there.

Hope this helps everyone in doing theirs as well.

Oh.... yes this can be messy if you are not properly prepared with buckets, plastic and towels. But with a little precautionary preparation, the task is easy and very effective. Yes, you will have to eventually recycle the fluids, but they can also be once again filtered and bottled up to be reused in your parts washer or for any separate parts cleaning project you need to do.

Edited by buick man (see edit history)
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That's the way to do it for a known good engine...one that was running well before being parked. But it may turn out to be a lot of work for nothing when you find out why it was parked in the first place.

Yes that is a good point indeed but scary to think of. However, One must always hope for the best. Since most of us acquire these cars with unknown histories, this procedure really is not all that much work. Looking at the photos that have been posted on this site of mummified tar pit oil pans and internals what other course of action should one make and be sure you are not going to funk a completely good engine with a "fast food" approach when cleaning it. Personally, I will spend the $ 25 in cleaning stuff and a 1 day gig in time just to make sure I at least did my best. As history has pointed out I have always been my worse enemy and taking short cuts is always a good way to start. So think of it this way. At the least, it will be clean "IF" you come across some problem or another that would require pulling the engine and and ultimately having to rebuild it. :eek:

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Guest Rob McDonald

BUICKMAN, thanks again for another detailed chapter in the How-To Encyclopedia. You are the voice of our collective good conscience - friends, listen to the man here. It certainly is exciting to fire up the old beauty you've just pulled out of Great-Aunt Lillian's carriage house. However, the damage you can do in the first two minutes of running may well push your new project out of your own financial reach. See Shadetree77's testimonial on this.

FRERE BUICK, were you counting here? Did it take Buickman six days to recreate his car's motivating universe, such that on the seventh day, he could rest?

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good point- no use doing the clean up on a dead engine. How do you know it's bad? well, let's say it starts and runs nice. quick, shut it off and clean it out!

but let's say you can't start it. turn the motor via starter (if possible) or via socket to the crank pully- may need to remove the fan and even the radiator.

Step 1- does it all turn nice and smooth? if you can't turn it, you may have a rusted cylinder if you or lucky. pull the heads and see if you can unstick it with penetrating oil, don't try to force it too hard

Step 2 if it will turn, pull the valve covers. do all the valves lift and return the same distance? If not, go ahead and pull the heads- pray all you need is top end work.

step 3. If it turns over, all the valves play nice, no metalic noises or sticky spots you are probably ready for the de-gunk. If the valve train is nice and clean, but well oiled, and the oil pan is pretty good, the car has had regular oil changes. If it is black and has visible tar it probably was not changed much and sat alot.

deisel will lubricate better than keroseen. Brake fluid will wipe your lubrication and rust will start right away, so don't leave it there more than 15 minutes and wash it off with oil. If you have a pretty good engine, not too gunked up, you might avoid the solvents. But if you are gunked up, motor oil won't disolve the tar. This is a touchy subject and a bit of russian roulette. I am attaching a photo of an engine that tricked me. ran perfect, low miles but the oil passage to the valves is via a threaded bolt and easily plugged. It died with a thud. One sticky valve is catastrophic, as the piston hits it at 45 degrees and bends it, breaks off the head and crashes it through the piston in about 3 seconds. I would rather purge the engine with solvent than risk absolutely destroying the engine and the heads- but putting anything other than motor oil in your engine is risky. The nailhead is more likely to crash from gunk than other engines, and an oil change alone may not get it.


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Thanks for the heads up guys. That is why there are really only 7 real work hours in a day so as to match the 7 days in a week.

Actually, Kerosene is not a true lubricant but is an excellent solute carrier as it is a low aromatic hydrocarbon and has the ability to transport solvent based solute particles out of solution via rinsing. As a carrier, it will provide the proper prolonged surface tension required to carry off what a flash aromatic solvent can dissolve and keep it in solution until rinsed within a reasonable length of time. Using only the highly aromatic solvent alone, the solvent will flash dry very quickly leaving residue solute particles behind on the surfaces oncer again that you are trying to clean. Think of the tar and silicone remover you use before you start to sand your paint on a paint job or just before you spray paint with a final wipe session. They instruct one to use 2 clean cloths, one with the solvent on it and the other clean to wipe off what the solvent has dissolved. So to with what we are doing here as well. So that is the chemistry lesson for today regarding that humbo gumbo.

The final step illustrates the importance of flushing your newly cleaned internals with a binder solution such as oil. But since truly cleaned steel will flash rust almost before your eyes, that is why I included the Marvel Mystery Oil (MMO) treatment right after wards. Marvel has limited lubricating faculties but great for de-rusting a flash surface and surface preservation capabilities in keeping it that way without attracting a lot of foreign dirt to the surface if left standing too long. Actually, if you are doing your under carriage and following faithfully along with what I believe Rob Mc has always preached, in keeping the top side shiny and the bottom side greased or something along those lines, MMO is excellent for that as well. Just put it into a spray bottle, put on your full face shield and start a spraying. Let it set for a week and then repeat. Then if you are going to want to paint then just take a green scrub pad or the like and start to scrubbing and then go from there. The surfaces will be surface rust free. In fact it is my firm opinion that the first thing one should do when obtaining your car is spray the entire car engine bay areas, suspension areas, fuel tank, chrome bumper front side and back side areas, under complete chassis areas, wheel wells etc with a couple gallons of MMO. Let it set and repeat. Then, if you don't want to paint or polish right a way, you have a rather clean surface rust free car and it will preserve itself as well in that state until you do get around to it within a reasonable length of time. A lot better approach IMO than in using hot soap/solvent pressure washing in initially cleaning these areas then not getting back onto the car until 2 years later where upon rust has had it's day. Use the hot soap pressure treatment the day before you start the painting project. In fact leave the MMO on all the surfaces while you are sanding and spray it on the surface as you are sanding. Acts as a great surface sanding lubricant as well and at this point all you will need is a few scour green pads to do any sanding. Then pressure soap/solvent clean wash the areas and paint.

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Guest chevy_dude97

Seems like alot of work. I think if I was to spend the money on all the required stuff to clean as stated above I would yank the motor and have it hot tanked atleast you know you can paint it and throw new bearings in it in less time than the "oil passage clearing" as stated above. I mean if it has set that long this is what I would do since I would check the bearings anyway.

Flash rust does suck as even those 5 min "engine flush" cans can cause corrosion on bearing even with oil still in the engine.

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not everyone can take the time to rebuild an engine. You still need the time, workspace and tools. There is a real satisfaction to reviving an old engine, alot of times you get lucky and they are quite solid. Are you going to pull a 264 for an overhaul? But if the engine does turn well, I still think a gunk flush is quicker, cheaper and more convenient. You can then plan for the overhaul when you have the time and money. The trick is making sure you have a good candidate, it is a complete waste if the engine has problems. Once a nailhead has a bad valve or a bad bearing, flushing is futile.

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Guest chevy_dude97
The trick is making sure you have a good candidate, it is a complete waste if the engine has problems. Once a nailhead has a bad valve or a bad bearing, flushing is futile.

Not to mention a crack either block or head, over heating problems,(corrosion or cloggs in the water jackets, coolers, heater cores or radiator)

I really was just mentioning the hot tank as a quicker solution and you would be able to check bearing surfaces and tolorences giving you a possible option if the internals look good to re assemble as is or replace worn/corroded items.

But when it comes to anything I usually go all in or none... Like right now I have a stuck stud on my head, I was thinking of removing the head to get better access and possibly plaining flush for the exhaust manifold to be guaranteed leak free. However If I pull the head I would yank the motor and do a good once over replacing items in question which for me usually ends up a complete overhaul. I would kick myself If I put any money into a motor to find out my tribulations where futile.

BTW to the OP, compressed air also works for clearing clogged oil passeges it is also free. If it where me I would at the least remove the mains to check the bearings visually and while doing so add some lube as to not start with the bearing surfaces dry. Even turning by hand can tear up other bearings if any corrosion or debris exists. Just my .02

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I found that you can spin the oil pump with a drill in the distributor hole, and it is surprising how much oil gets sqirted. But the main bearing passages are about imposible to be sure they are clear. Stealthbob wiped a main- what a bummer! Even with a flush it may have still happened. old motors are russian roulette!

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All good thoughts and observations. The Must for Rust in the procedure if done as stated takes care of any bearing flush rust on the journals. Compressed air pushed against non dissolved gummy bear will only compact it in even further like a musket rifle. But it is free I guess. When you do this procedure the actual time is taken in small increments. Also in my opinion this process is a necessary step if your intention from the get go is to shake a hibernating good engine back to life. Once you have the pan off you can pull No. 1 & No. 2 rod caps for example and the center main bearing to inspect and plastic gauge if so desired. Furthermore, with this process when you are pulling the lifters and rocker arms off you can inspect these parts too and get a pretty good idea of what you have before you start this detailed recipe cleaning resurrection.

With all this said, If your preservation project or restoration process calls for keeping the original engine all together and non molested as much as possible, then this treatment process is the main event. When you do this process the oil is flowing very well and everything gets properly oiled. There is really no replacement for good intentions coupled with concerted effort.

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