Ben P.

1918 Buick 4 cylinder oil pan

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One year ago I got a 1918 Buick E-35 (4-cylinder). It had sat for 10 years after its owner of 50 years became to frail to use it. The first thing I did was drain the oil and remove the pan. The oil was surprisingly amber in color, no sign of real sludge in the pan. Looked around a bit, didn’t see anything ‘wrong’ or out of place, so wiped it out, put it back on and moved on (this car had a known vacuum tank problem, and a number of other issues from sitting).

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This past weekend I dropped the pan again to install gaskets from Olsons since the ones I tried to make leaked.

This photo is what I saw.

E9E9C4C4-E800-4A18-913D-56851BE0B273.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

Anyone see anything wrong? I didn’t. Surprisingly black and dirty, a little sludge - but I had been running detergent and had been having fuel issues.

But when I went to clean it out I found this⬇️ (If you find this, the damage is already done.)

6FB2FDAB-94D9-4BA4-814B-94A4244A300F.jpeg

Edited by Ben Perfitt
Typo (see edit history)

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Where did it come from? I panicked. But finally being at that age where I’ve leaned to ignore my own exaggerated thinking when panicked - I finished cleaning out the pan before crawling back under the car to look for the missing cotter pin.

I found something else: That copper tube that runs the length of the pan returns oil to the engine from the sight-feed on the dash. It has 4 holes in it - one for each trough. Each trough serves 1 connecting rod. It is imperative that oil flows evenly and equally out of each. Buick made them this way. If they don’t — there is a clog.

I had a clog. 1 trough had just a drip.

I tried sending a fine wire up it to clean it out, but this was useless. So I poured a tiny amount of gasoline into the inlet hole on the side of the pan and let it run through the pipe into the troughs. After a few tries it began to flow evenly out each distribution hole.

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So back under the car to look for the missing cotter pin. Spent 20 minutes under there. Saw that each connecting rod bolt had its pin present. Each was accounted for. I texted my brother a picture of the pin and told him that, he said, “Someone might have dropped it in there. But, huh.”

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Posted (edited)

I did see this⬇️

And before go on - the results of a compression test in January were: 50-55-50-55.

FFD0111F-05C5-42D6-9EB1-C0FDD1CD70FE.jpeg

Edited by Ben Perfitt
Forgot comp. test results. (see edit history)

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Which looked a bit different from the other three pistons which look like ⬇️

EEB286FC-69D0-411D-B9BD-8DBC4357652A.jpeg

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The piston photos above are zoomed in on and expanded and were taken with a flash. From under the car I couldn’t see nearly as well with just a light. The only difference I saw was a ‘brassy’ looking spot on the piston pin on 1, and a silver spot on the other 3.

At that point I went to bed. 

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The next day I measured the broken cotter pin and consulted the 1918 Buick parts-book looking for anything in there about that size (1”). The only cotters listed at 1” were for the main bearing studs. Those were accounted for.

Slightly smaller were 5/8” for connecting rod bolts. Again, accounted for.

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Posted (edited)

That left⬇️

Clearly not a full 1” - but I don’t know, maybe it elongated when broken? Maybe I don’t know how to measure a cotter pin? Maybe the wrong size was used?

D71706CA-E83F-48F6-8922-A4EB6BB949AC.jpeg

Edited by Ben Perfitt
Forgot key point (see edit history)

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Posted (edited)

So I went back under the car and looked at the pistons again - this time knowing that the piston pins (wrist-pins) used cotter pins.

I can’t stress this enough — Again, I had a broken cotter pin in the oil pan. Aliens did not put it there. The parts-book called for cotter pins on the piston pins. All others I had touch counted and accounted for. Yet it was difficult to see if they were there or not.

Sure enough...

Edited by Ben P. (see edit history)

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There was only one cotter pin (from the ‘brassy’ photo) present. The other 3 were gone.

How I only found one broken one in the pan I don’t know. But three are gone. Have 6 gouges in cylinder walls to prove it, and they’re deep ones too.

 

This just might explain why the plugs foul up after 1 run.

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“Would have, could have, should have...” it’s just waste of time.

But I can tell you this: For now on, as often as I go to the Dr. for a physical — this oil pan will be dropped and the cotter pins on the piston pins will be counted and verified.

How do you know they are there? You stuff your hand up the cylinders and touch the two low ones. Crawl back out from under the car, turn the crank, go back under and touch the other 2.

As far as grabbing the connecting rod and checking it for ‘play’ — good luck with that check. I could barely tell the difference between the good pin vs the 3 missing. You want to know they’re there. 

The 3 missing pins, I’m guessing they all reached the same age and amount of use and their time was simply up. They failed. They were never intended to last 100 years (though it’s safe to assume mine weren’t 100 years old. I have pictures of the engine being rebuilt in 1968. So they might  have lasted 50 years.) 

That’s it.

If you have one of these 4 cylinders, that’s what needs to be checked when the oil pan is removed. It’s different from the 6’s which there is much more information on.

Good luck,

Ben P.

 

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I'll take pics of my 6 cyl piston. Dropping pan today, hope not to find too many cotter pins.

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This is one of the 3 - others look just the same. Won’t know more until I pull the pistons - and that will be some time. In the middle of an 80hr. work week.

 

FED25E38-16EC-4AD1-A31B-A0CD8E343357.jpeg

B0F765E7-D316-4C58-A0B3-126ACCC2F8EF.jpeg

8028E927-6EDD-46CB-B98A-4B7316222DA9.jpeg

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Until then, I have just one final thought — While this car didn’t deserve to get damaged, in a way I feel a sense of relief.

I owned a 1952 Studebaker for 30 years. I knew that car inside and out. When I got this ‘18 I knew it was a whole different ballgame. My _worst_ fear was something could go wrong in that engine and I might not know it.

Well, it happened. That fear is gone.

But I am also glad I have this car. When I first found that broken cotter pin in the pan   (It is not yet known when this happened. Have a feeling a machinist will be able to tell me one I get it apart)  my first thought was, “Boy, had I even suspected the potential this could happen I never would have gotten this car”. 

I like the car. This car was loved. This car is correct — and I didn’t actually know that when I first got it. It is correct, and whatever the damage is, and whatever it takes to make to make it right - it is still worth it. To me at least. 

There also isn’t any reason I can’t get to know this car and learn how to take care of it.

No reason at all.

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Ben,  

      These are really awesome cars when everything is sorted out.  Sorry for your cylinder wall damage.  Lots of learning in these early days about designs and their inherent reliability.  You can really see it in Buick as there are so many changes from year to year.  Hopefully you can fit a snap ring groove or something like that as a back up for the cotter pin.  I do a lot with my car trying to understand the theory behind how things were built and if some parts can be made a little more robustly.   That's what is nice about this forum.   Lots of us are in your corner with plenty of suggestions and support.   You are doing a great job keeping it alive.  Hugh

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I have had three '18 Buick engines. All three had scored cylinders due to missing wrist pin retainers.

 

When I re-bored the engine in my car I made teflon buttons that go into the pins to retain them.

 

Apparently it was one of Buicks really bad ideas

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These old cars are so full of cotter pins they should call mine a 1918 Cotter.

 

By the way Don, it was real easy to remove some of the pistons from below as you described elsewhere, pistons 3 and 4 were easy, because the whole crankshaft moves over, pistons 2 and 5 were difficult but possible if you move the crank journal over to the camshaft side and get it in the exact position, and it has to be the EXACT position. But 1 and 6 can't come out that way, unless you are a magician. Is there a magic trick?

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Morgan,

No problem removing 1 and 6 in my 1922, just had to get the crank in the right place.

 

R,

Mark

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1923 six has a tapered nose set screw instead of a cotter.  Not sure when that started.  there is a threaded boss on the wrist pin boss of the piston. Wrist pin has a matching tapered hole.  Not the greatest but a step better than a cotter pin.  Plain screwdriver slot in the set screw you hit with an impact driver as hard as you dare to set it. 

 

The teflon buttons are widely used.  Easier than matching snap ring grooves. 

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My 1922 has the same screw with a lock washer in place of the pin.

 

Mark

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Morgan,

 

I have always pulled the pistons with no real problem. But it has been so long I dont remember if there was a trick - I dont remember one.

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The curse of the cotter pin design!!!! got a little better when the adopted the set screw in the 20s.  On my recently sold 1917 D45 they improved the design using after market connecting rods, pistons and pins that mirrored the more modern design of affixing the piston pin to the rod and letting wrist pins articulate in the pistons.  Still not sure what rods they used but it looked like a casting date of 1948.  The rods used dippers for splash lubrication as original.  If I ever had to rebuild another 4 cylinder Buick I would look to this improvement.

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My 1918 E 6 cyl has cotter pins and they are all good. Not touching them.

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