Cleaning pushrods & valves on an old engine

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Green427, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Green427

    Green427 Comfortably Dumb

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    Basic info:

    1938 Chevy Master Deluxe inline-six
    68K miles
    Stored in a garage all its life
    Never been driven in wintertime by original owner
    Engine was rebuilt and all electric components replaced in 2001 after a piston developed a hole.
    About six months later, Dad tried to start it but something happened, and the mechanic said that the pushrods were bending due to bad gas deposits making the rods & valves stick. Took the head off and boiled it, I think. Fuel tank was emptied and cleaned out.
    Put it back together and all was fine.
    Shortly afterwards, Dad could no longer operate the clutch, so the engine has not run since. He added oil in each spark plug hole twice a year.

    Sat in the garage since for almost 11 years now with the same gasoline and all other fluids.

    Car is now in my possession, and I am pretty sure that I will have to clean the bad gas deposits as well. I don't want to try cranking the engine until I am sure nothing is going to bind.

    1) If I remove the spark plugs, put a little bit of oil in each cylinder, remove the crank hole cover and use a ratchet to hand crank the engine, will that be a good idea to get the moving parts lubricated, or should I assume that I have to remove the head and have it professionally cleaned?

    2) If there are sticky gas deposits, I assume that the only way to tell is to see if there is a lot of resistance while trying to crank the engine without compression?

    3) If there are deposits, is there any less intrusive way of cleaning them without removing the entire head?

    Everything under the hood looks brand-new from the factory, so would like to keep it that way.

    Thanks for any tips or suggestions.



    p.s. If anyone here has experience with these old Chevys, especially with knee-action shocks, let me know, I could use some expertise when I eventually restore it.

    If there is enough interest, I can post pics in the shiny-things section when I get the chance.
    #1
  2. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    yes, oil or kerosene in the cylinders & roll it by hand should be fine.

    clean the gas tank & carb

    change the oil. I usually like to pre-oil the engine. pull the sparkplugs and spin the engine with the starter until you get oil pressure.

    as for the knee action shocks, ya, I dinked with them,,, last time was in about 1973 :rofl. don't remember much about them other than I had them apart & back together. my brother still has them on a rig or two. I can ask him about parts sources & such if nobody else chimes in.

    research Hemmings Motor News
    #2
  3. troidus

    troidus Long timer

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    +1 on dump the old gas before you accidentally try to pump what's sure to be near varnish into the carb.

    If you want to pre-oil with pressure and not take the chance of scuffing the cylinders or bending anything, see if the distributor drives the oil pump. If it does, pull the distributor and spin the pump drive with a drill motor. Change the oil and filter first, so you're pumping quality stuff through the system. If you don't want to mess with it, then do what Beezer says and change the oil and filter, then spin the engine with the starter with the plugs out. Make sure you have good gas in the tank and line or disconnect the fuel pump inlet before cranking or you'll pump half a cup of crap into the carb.

    At this point all of the fluids are probably crap, so I'd be changing everything--transmission and differential oil, brake fluid, antifreeze, washer fluid (assuming it has washers) repack the wheel bearings, lube the suspension, oil all the hinges, graphite in the locks, etc. Every rubber seal on the body could use a wipedown with silicone, too, and check the tires and hoses for weather cracking. Leather seals will need saddle soap.
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  4. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    Yes, get some photos up.
    Pull the plugs and squirt lubricant of choice in each cylinder: light oil, Marvel Mystery Oil, Kerosene, etc.
    Give the oil some time to seep. Hopefully, some will seep around the rings and reduce the risk of scuffing.
    What was mentioned earlier about pulling the distributor and spinning the oil pump is a good idea.
    Crank the engine by hand to help circulate the oil and make certain nothing is binding and then spin it with the starter to clear some of the oil before reinstalling the plugs.
    If you wish, you can bypass the gas tank and pull gas from an auxiliary tank until you have a chance to deal with that.
    Start that bad boy up. Try to resist using stating fluid.
    When it's been running for a while (hopefully) you can gradually pour
    Seafoam into the carb. It should run rough and smoke like crazy but it usually helps clean and unstick stuff.
    I'd drain the oil that's in there now before starting and I'd drain it again after running it for a while and I'd use a flush in the coolant before draining it. I think you'll be wanting a non-detergent oil in that engine but I'm not at all sure of that.
    #4
  5. motu

    motu Loose Pre Unit

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    I had a '38 Chev Coupe when I was 18. In the late '90's I was servicing a daily runner '38 sedan, did all sorts to it, and the last thing we did was get the bearings changed to shell after the owner ran the big ends. So....cast iron pistons, I'd be worried about them rusting to the bore, pull the plugs and pour whatever you can find slippery down there, leave for a few days and gently turn it over. No pressure to the bigends, just dippers and jets. Sometimes the jets can clog, but you can't find that out unless you pull the sump and blow through them. Strip and clean the carb, rebuild the dizzy...should be good to go.

    A tough old engine, plenty of stories of guys pulling pushrods out of a dud cyl and running it for months as a 5 cyl. With those cast iron pistons and white metal poured bearings they don't like to be over revved - 4,000rpm is way over the red line.

    Oh - don't know about knee action, most Chevs we got in NZ were just a beam axle. Vauxhall LIP's had knee action, but we didn't go there....probably because they were pretty reliable, oil filled I think.
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  6. fatboy

    fatboy Been here awhile

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    +1 marvel mystery oil
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  7. ttpete

    ttpete Rectum Non Bustibus

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  8. Green427

    Green427 Comfortably Dumb

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    Thanks, all, for the tips. The article on knee action is interesting, thanks for that. It has been years since I read stuff on old Chevys, now that I have the car, time to re-read everything while on breaks.

    I have a few body parts, a couple of knee-action shocks, several gaskets, accessories, and a few manuals. Supposedly people got tired of maintaining the knee-actions so there was an aftermarket conversion kit to put a solid axle in place instead. I will need to rebuild the knee actions since they leak whenever the car is jacked up.

    What I find interesting is, I have a dealer accessory brochure (original) on this car, and fender skirts were a $4.50 option, and a banjo steering wheel with a factory spinner built in was a $0.75 option. My Dad paid $1500 for a pair of original fender skirts about 15 years ago, and the spinner steering wheels are around $700-$1000 these days if you can find one.

    Will keep y'all posted on my progress, which will be slow....
    #8
  9. Green427

    Green427 Comfortably Dumb

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    Here is a pic of the Chevy as it sat in storage for 10 years:


    [​IMG]



    Original color was Gunmetal Grey. Supposedly it was painted black in the late '50's. Using rubbing compound, my Dad was able to take the black paint off and expose the original red pinstripes.
    #9
  10. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    Beautiful car. Looks like a really fun project.
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  11. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    ya.... nice. stock engine was prolly a 216 and as mentioned above much of the lubrication was by simple splash. I had a series of Aero Sedans back in the early 70's. They were produced in the late 40's and also came with the 216 but we swapped them out for the more modern 235 which used the same block.
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  12. Green427

    Green427 Comfortably Dumb

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    Update:

    Flushed the old gas out, smelled pretty bad, but not quite at the varnish stage. Sucked it out of the lines and put fresh gas in mixed with Seafoam. Put a temporary disposable inline fuel filter in place of the OEM filter to catch everything before putting the OEM back. New battery, put MMO on all valve stems, lifters, and pushrods. Manually opened each valve to be sure there was no sticking. Cleaned carb out.

    Had to put a new condenser & points in the distributor. Bitch started up immediately. Here is a video of the valves in action. You can see the starter mechanism in action at about 0:20 and the valves up close at about 1:05.

    Will replace all fluids and put it on hold until Spring.


    http://green427.smugmug.com/Cars/38...96962_fZSsQN#!i=2288842040&k=6CZ2P7V&lb=1&s=L
    #12
  13. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    sweet! back in the day we had a few of those engines with the rocker tips worn out, so we used to set valves by sound because a feeler gage wouldn't be accurate. run the engine, one guy would adjust, the other guy would listen to the valve through a piece of hose
    #13
  14. ragtoplvr

    ragtoplvr Long timer

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    in this old car you have no oil filter right. I think the original oil was non detergent so the stuff would drop out. You can still buy non-detergent oils at most farm stores.

    These engines do need warmed up before driving in cool weather. A good block heater is very useful in cooler weather. reving too high in the cold can bend the slingers, followed by bearing failure.

    Rod
    #14
  15. Benesesso

    Benesesso Long timer

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    So can running low on oil--ask me how I know. One thing for sure, I got quite an education from my '51 235 engine with Powerglide. Be aware those engines don't have timing chains. They use gears. Surprise, the cam gear isn't steel. It isn't even metal. It's some kind of crap fiber. Some cold morning you may find the oil pump, driven from the dist. gear, just doesn't feel like pumping that thick oil (pre-multi grade here).

    Suddenly the car stops. WTF? Check for spark, none. So, having had a single hair get between the points once, I popped the dist. cap off. Bald! Time for a coil check. Cap off, open points with screwdriver a few times, nice fat blue sparks from coil wire. Now WTF? Get car home, watch dist. rotor while cranking engine, no rotation. Aha!, dist. gear must be shot. But it looks fine. Pull valve cover off, crank engine. Valves don't move. Big clue here.

    Remove timing gear cover. All teeth on both gears look fine, except for a few where they used to touch the crank gear. No teeth left. Good thing the POS wasn't an interference engine, huh? A year later I ran it too low on oil. Big mistake. What follows would take a book. Some other time, it's Christmas!
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  16. Langanobob

    Langanobob Been here awhile

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    Hard to tell from the video, but I didn't see any oil flow to the top end. There should be a stream of oil running down each rocker arm to the valve stems and pushrods. If it's not there I'd sure figure out what's wrong before running it.

    As I think someone mentioned, 216's do have an oil pump, it feeds the main bearings and the valve train, it's just the rod bearings and cylinder walls that are splash lubricated. The reason that the car originally used non-detergent oil was that detergent oil was not available when it was new. The recommended oil change interval was 1,000 miles. If the engine is all sludged up, there's supposed to be some danger of clogging oil lines with loosened sludge if you switch to modern multi-grade detergent oil. If the engine's clean it will be better off with a multi-grade modern oil. I don't think there is enough spring pressure on the valve springs to damage cams or lifters. If it were mine I'd still run a Diesel oil from Mobil, Chevron or Shell. It's going to leak a little bit no matter what oil you use.

    If it was mine and it was going to be a daily driver, I'd consider eventually going to a 12 volt system, replacing the points with an electronic aftermarket kit and installing a bypass oil filter. Also I would check the condition of all of the brake components and make sure the seals are compatible with modern fluids.

    Wonderful car, more so since it was owned by your father. I don't think I'd be able to resist using it for a daily driver.

    - Bob
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  17. ttpete

    ttpete Rectum Non Bustibus

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    Having done more than a few of the old babbitt-beaters, I'd probably go looking for a '54 or later engine that had full pressure oiling and shell rod bearings. It used to be that there were many rebabbitting shops that would exchange a set of rebuilt rods for your old ones and some cash. Not any more, though. The only fiber timing gear I had fail was on my '29 Model A Ford.
    #17
  18. Benesesso

    Benesesso Long timer

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    Been a long time, so my recollection was off a bit. The fiber cam gear failure wasn't on a 235" 6 cyl, but was on my much later Chevy II 153" 4 cyl. engine. While I consider both engines to be nearly worthless, they had major differences-although both had the same stupid fiber cam gear for years.

    The biggest difference was in the bores and strokes. The 153" 4 had far larger bores and a MUCH shorter stroke than the 235" 6. Big deal, right? It sure can be if your cam gear fails. The 153" 4 is a true non-interference engine, but not the 235" 6. However, the interference doesn't involve the pistons or the valves--surprise!

    Seems that with the very long stroke of the 6, when the cam stops rotating but the crank is still spinning, the con rods can hit some of the cam lobes. I don't know about the 216 6 cyl.--but it had a shorter stroke than the 235.

    Nowthen, why would someone (me), at the age of 18, proceed to use chisels, sledgehammers and some friend's assistance to chop a freakin' hole in the top of one of those heavy cast iron 235" pistons? Here's a big clue, Pal Nuts.

    [​IMG]
    #18
  19. ttpete

    ttpete Rectum Non Bustibus

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    Did they use Pal nuts to safety the rod nuts on those? Been 50 years, and I don't remember. I know Willys did, because I owned one recently.
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  20. Benesesso

    Benesesso Long timer

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    The dumbbells sure did. Some of Detroit's automotive/mechanical/flangehead engineers just didn't get the basics. Those stupid Pal nuts didn't do a thing. Ranks right up there with the use of left hand threads on left side wheel studs.

    Unfortunately like the well paid asshats, at 18 I didn't know diddly about fastener preload. :huh I paid a big price for that knowledge.
    #20