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Guys how am I gonna clean this mess up?


Peter Bird
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Pulled the rocker covers off the other day because I had to change the gaskets and this is what I saw...post-83364-143141953975_thumb.jpg

I think most of it is old cork gasket (and oil) and God only knows what else. On the other side I found some pieces of old rubber hose in there!

The engine actually seems to run quite well.

I guess the only true way to service this is to take the heads off and give them a good clean.

Never seen such a mess!

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Get a cheap shop vac that you care nothing about, loosen the stuff gently with a screwdriver, and vacuum out as much as you can. Even then, the only way to clean all the sludge is hot-tanking and rebuilding the heads. That will almost certainly turn into a MAW where you'll end up pulling the whole engine. Ask me how I know this...

That is actually not the worst I've ever seen. A buddy had a 75 Monte Carlo that he got with supposedly 40k miles on it. If the miles were in fact that low, I doubt that engine had ever had an oil change. The rockers were so sludged up that two were barely functioning.

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If that is what the rockers look like, I can't imagine what is in the pan. The last time you changed oil did it run out or drop out like candle wax? Best of luck with this one. I'd drop the pan also and clean as much as possible (oil pump, pan, rocker area, oil ports, etc.) and run a couple of back to back oil and filter changes. I don't know if you would have to pull the heads off at this point. Just MHO.

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I would start it with the covers off and see if all the rockers are getting oil, and as long as the oil is not going down the valve stams and burning oil, I would instal new gaskets and give the outside of the engine a bath. (it will need one after you are done)

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That reminds me of the 55 Y-block Fords that were my first cars. Non-detergent oil, poor filters, and not enough oil changes. The Fords had a poorly designed oil passage the fed the rocker arm shafts so an added benefit was worn out rockers. IMO you have two choices - if it runs quiet and has good oil pressure, leave it alone. Otherwise your should hot tank and rebuild the whole motor.

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I agree with Don on this one --- My '54 Mercury had the same sludge with its Y-Block oil return, but several of the valves were already burned before I bought it (Cheapie on the back row of a Used Car Lot in Elizabeth, NJ in 1961). We did a valve job, and scraped out a 3-lb coffee can full of sludge from the heads and much more from the oil pan when we replaced the rear main oil seal. But that black '54 Merc convertible was a real looker!!

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I'm pretty sure MAW means something quite humorous and all too often true...??

Might As Well... you know how "little" projects always turn out. I pulled the intake off a Toronado years ago after some friends talked me into doing that and cleaning it with oven cleaner. And as usual, Might As Well fix other stuff while I'm in it, because if the valley looked that bad, you can only imagine what the rest looked like... and that was on a 64000 mile engine.

MAW's are the bane of old car hobbyists all over the world.

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Might As Well... you know how "little" projects always turn out... MAW's are the bane of old car hobbyists all over the world.

Ah yes. Related to Whileyouratititis.

Of course, it's not just cars... we pulled up the carpet in the master bedroom of our 1912 house for a simple replacement in February. I'm now at the drywall and taping stage, having so far gutted two rooms to the studs and joined them into one, built in a media centre, replaced several doors, and rewired the second floor. Dang carpet hasn't been replaced yet either.

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Pull the heads, and soak them in kerosene, or diesel fuel. fill the engine with the same, and let it soak. This will loosen up the junk that is in the oil passages. It may/will take a few treatments. After you are pleased with the results as seen by draining the engine; then drop the pan and clean it, drop the oil pump, and soak it so the pump, and pickup tube are clean. After you are done fill up with a light grade oil, maybe 5W30, remove the coil wire, and crank the engine to circulate the fresh oil, drain the oil, and check the it for sludge. If you are satified with what you see; then refill the engine with light grade oil, and start it up. You might consider adding Marvel Mystery Oil, or a similair product to lubricate the valves and upper cylinder area. Your engine will probably smoke a bit so open the garage doors. I've done this procedure twice, and it has worked for me on both occasions. Good luck.

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Your going to have to at least pull the heads. Thank goodness all first generation Buick, Olds, Cadillac and all Pontiac engines have a lifter valley pan. You have to take the intake off to get the head off so while your there pull the lifter valley pan off. You can do this before the heads come off. This will give you a indication of how far you have to go. I wouldn't be surprised if the engine doesn't have to come out.

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Thanks guys. Yeah, it seems to have good oil pressure. Runs/idles quite well. It was blowing a heap of smoke out the back of the engine and I suspected it was the power steering pump leaking fluid down the rocker and down the back of the engine (which it was doing quite badly) Fixed that up and then tackled the rocker covers. That's where I am at. I think I will do a bit of a clean up in there, not disturb too much and run an oil flush through it. As you said, check the sump, etc. Haven't long had the car (a couple of months) so it's history is a bit of a mystery. Let you know how I go. Heads off could be the next step.

Peter

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Maybe you can start using a high detergent motor oil like a diesel motor oil and let it clean the engine slowly. I know it works but I am not sure if it will work in your case.

Yes that would be great with all that crud going through the bearings and letting the oil control rings scrape it off the cylinder walls. does wonders for the oil pump and don't forget a filter getting clogged to the point of by-pass. There is a right way and the midnight auto way.

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Been there, done that. I personally could not put the valve covers back on knowing that sludge was there. I plugged all of the oil drain plugs with paper towel balls and scrapped mine clean if nothing else, just to clean out the oil return passageways on the heads. I put it back together with an oil change and even though it really didn't appear to make any difference, I felt better about it. Yes, you can dislodge chunks that will foul your filter and bearings so you have to be careful. But basically it will need a proper rebuild to solve the years of neglect.

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Gents, thanks once again. Excellent replies one and all. Does look a bit dry, must confess. Other side is nowhere near as bad, but still not pretty. Will be tackling this over the weekend. Was gonna repaint the rockers while they're off, but can do that another day. Painting now looks to be the last thing I should be doing. Other thing is, I bought one of those aftermarket Spin on replacement oil filter gizmos a while back. Will give that a go as well. Let you know. Cheers and beers. Peter.

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A few things to consider . . . at ONE time, the oil WAS circulating up there, obviously. I suspect that all of the moving parts ARE getting some sort of pressure lubrication, even if there is a "protective coating" around them.

Other than fully disassembling the engine, you might do as a L-M dealer used to do when he'd trade for a middle-'80s Crown Vic or Grand Marquis, with the "double-sump" oil pan. His used car mechanic would pull the valve covers and oil pan, removing as much "gunk" as he could, then he'd wash down the motor internally with Varsol solvent to get all of the "accumulation" out of the heads, lifter valley, etc. When he was satisfied that things were clean enough, then he'd put it all back together with a fresh oil/filter change. He probably ran it a while before doing another oil/filter change before putting it back on the lot for sale . . . provided everything came out as desired.

As I understand it, the cars would come in at about 80-90K miles. They'd been in a dusty environment all of their lives and usually saw "minimum" maintenance (for many reasons). The engines sounded like they needed a rebuild, but "the cleanout" procedure made them purr again. Possibly very messy, but financially-viable to do. Of course, the "environmental disposal" issue was not that intense, especially in the non-metro-hub area where they were up there . . . which might be different in more recent times.

Heck, in the later 1950s, many county precinct garages took their used motor oil, mixed it with sand, and suddenly had "cold-top" paving material for their "dirt" county roads. Worked very well! Certainly can't do it that way, today!

Unless there's a really compelling reason to remove the motor, as "needed" as it might be perceived to be, try the "mechanical removal" procedures and then "the wash" to see if that won't get things where you're comfortable with the situation. Trying to get it all out with oil additives or oil changes would take a good while plus increase the risk of a clogged oil pump pickup screen.

Just some thoughts . . .

NTX5467

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Thanks for those thoughts. Very interesting reading. I gave it a good wipe out. Nothing special, and changed oil, filter, gaskets etc. - I did mention that I was going to try the new spin on aftermarket unit that I bought even before I had the car. However, After looking at the original and the aftermarket unit, I decided the original unit looked like it might have at least as good flow thru as the modern filter, if not more. And I decided to stay with the original filter. Anyway, bolted it all back together. fired her up. Still some smoke out the back but considerably less, so I am hoping its still just some old oil from the old rocker cover gasket burning itself off, or the former power steering pump leak. One thing I noticed was the oil pressure gauge . Before it sat a whisker above half- now it has gone right to high. Anyway, guys, I'll just keep it in mind that someday soon it's probably gonna need a rebuild. I just didn't want it to be now, because I've had the car barely 2 months and want to get it on the road and at least a few short cruises in it before we tear it down, if you know what I mean. Best wishes, Peter

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