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1932-67 buick 272 rocker arm cleanup


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Anyone have any advice to cleanup these rocker arms, springs, etc. in place without removing them? 

I want to be lazy without sacrificing integrity/preservation so I can get this car back on the road.

Or do I need to remove everything from the head and disassemble and clean everything the old fashioned way?


This car saw very few miles/hours over the last 20yrs.  The owner would drive it 10-15min, park it, then wait a few hrs, then drive it home and it would sit for weeks-months.

My hunch is that the oil lines were plugged long ago, and the steam would sit in the valve cover and then slowly corrode the metal.

Maybe another reminder that these cars need to run!


FYI, I think this was the cause of destroying my textolite composite cam gear.

I was hand cranking the cam, and at some points its easy and smooth, but after a few revolutions, if I let it sit a moment, then I need to apply much force to the wrench to get the cam turning again.




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I would definitely take them off, disassemble, clean and inspect. Then you can check for sticky valves too any maybe work some oil into the stems and free them up. 

Looking at the pictures though, the engine really needs a cleaning up and washing out. 

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With the amount of crude I see in the oilside of the engine,  There is one other hidden item that I would remove and clean.  The breather tube on the driverside can be removed and cleaned, but there is a shaft that threads into the block and extends through to the passenger side.  there is a louvered screen  on the end of the shaft that should be cleaned.


Bob Engle

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Well, the votes to remove won out, and I am glad I did.

Nuts and bolts were easy to remove, nothing rotted or rust-welded, so hopefully the arms cleanup nice in the parts washer, and cleaning the valve springs and upper head goes easy.

I am probably going to be flushing this engine multiple times, and yes to the pan, I left it on for now, but it will be my catch basin for the next few weeks.

Thankfully the valve springs are tight and the push rods ride nice on the cam.

I really think this engine has pretty good bones, just needs a scrub and flush and then run often.


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I am very concerned that this engine has leaked water into the oil system.  There is almost no way for the timing gear mess to have gotten distributed all over top of the cylinder head.  I still would refer you to the photo of the lifter galley and the  crud in the red circle.  Have you drained the oil out of the pan?  If there is water in the oil system you will see it first come out the drain plug before the oil does.  


If my assumption is that it is water in the oil, then  you will need to determine how it got there.  


Bob Engle

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Ok, maybe its time I do that - pan is still on the engine, so I should drain some of the pan to see what comes out.

Time to say a prayer that its only black dirty oil and no water....


If it is only oil draining from the pan, I am hoping that the low usage over the last 20yrs has simply deposited residual moisture/steam, normally found in oil since it does contain some water, on top of the head and never had a chance to evaporate, and as a result just surface corroded the bare metal due to high humidity in the valve cover, which also had some meager air movement to get the oxygen to create rusting, but not enough to dry out the valve cover.



If its water first draining from the pan, then you are correct, I have some sherlock work ahead and decisions to make.


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What does this mean:

"There is one other hidden item that I would remove and clean.  The breather tube on the driverside can be removed and cleaned, but there is a shaft that threads into the block and extends through to the passenger side.  there is a louvered screen  on the end of the shaft that should be cleaned."


Do you mean the crankcase vent bell close to the firewall?

Or do you mean the road draft tube behind the carb?


If its the draft tube behind the carb, and if it has a shaft that extends thru the block, how do I access the louvered screen on the end of the shaft?

Can you post pics?

Does the long shaft need to be removed on the pass side, or driver side?

Now that I have the generator, oil cooler, water pump off the block, is this the best time to check the louvered screen on the pass side?

Or do I need to remove the intake manifold and carb to get access to the louvered screen from the driver side?



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See photos from a 50 series engine.  The crankcase draft tube is held on with an acorn nut.  The shaft is threaded into the block and the screen seen from the lifter side is held on with a nut.  If I recall, it is a 7/16 hex.  You need to remove the screen nut if you want to remove the shaft.  Removal of the shaft makes it easier to remove the screen.

The long shaft is removed from the driverside.

33 scrren 2 (1)_800x600.jpg

33 scrren 2 (2)_800x600.jpg

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I cleaned the head topside, including full disassembly and polish of the rocker arm shaft and rockers etc.

Things are much smoother now, shame on me for not doing this before the bound up valve train destroyed the cam timing gear.


I pulled the pushrods, inspected the cam/lifters, all good.

I am glad you suggested I do this Bob, because you were right, it was easy and allowed me to clean/inspect even more of the engine.

I cleaned behind the screen as you mentioned (I was able to remove/reinstall the nut on the pass side of the car using a magnet technique to ensure nothing is dropped).

I am going to 'wash' the engine when its back together.


Now, time to start reassembly...so I can eventually, at some point, get back to the cam timing gear! 




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Thanks, appreciate the help!

Its been fun so far, and my wife keeps asking lots of questions, she surprises me with her interest (specific, not general) in what I am doing.

IHMO, working on the 272 motor reminds me of working on a tractor.

Ok, I will get the cam gear on next, but first I need to finish the oil system eval, broken piston skirt eval, and reinstall the oil pan.

The motor is currently supported from the front using some brackets I made so I can work free and clear with the engine underside.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, making good progress, and after some research and a broken rocker arm bolt due to over torque, I decided that the rocker arms shouldn't be torqued more than 40ftlb.  The bolts are soft, probably not more than grade 2. 


Cam gear is in (torqued to 50ftlb), rough timing is done, crank and cam, generator and water pump turn freely and smooth.

Valve lashes are set 0.010 to 0.012 cold, so hopefully its easy to verify/adjust for 0.008 hot per spec.


I added a canister oil filter, found a packard unit on ebay, go fig, my wife and I always wanted a packard, so maybe this is as close as we can get to affording one!


Hopefully in the next couple weeks I get the piston back from the local machine shop.  I am thankful to have found a local guy with about 30yrs exp working on early cars, rebabbitting, boring, major engine work.  In fact he is currently rebuilding a 1910 buick motor, in addition to many other unusual cast iron piston projects like mine.  He has a piston boring and grinding machine and all of the tools, and I think the equipment might be the old south bend brand which was pretty common in the 30s.



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