Should I, a newb, build my own engine

Discussion in 'Engine Topic' started by Arsonist80, Mar 2, 2021.

  1. Z-Life

    Z-Life Nasty Member

    Likes Received:
    Oct 3, 2016
    I'm a firm believer in you can do it, you can do anything you set your mind too, just take your time and think each process through from start to finish, learn what you need to learn, then imagine it in your mind going over each detail in preparation. From spec ing out the crank and installing bearings to gapping the rings and installing pistons you will take the time to do it right and you will know its done right. Watch out it can end up being addictive....
    KingofThings and Happy_Dan like this.
  2. Brian H.O. Cornelius

    Brian H.O. Cornelius Breeze

    Likes Received:
    Jul 1, 2001
    Bonaire, Georgia
    It's totally your call. I've done it both ways and if you equate the cost of your time it's more expensive, time consuming. Additionally, if done properly you have to consider proper cam/engine break in with no warranty. However, there is no equal satisfaction when you do it right, the old "I built mine vs you bought yours.
    You can also consider a partial build. Get a short block (less expensive) and build up, heads intake carb or fuel injection.
    Either way enjoy the project.
    KingofThings, Happy_Dan and Z-Life like this.
  3. 70_half

    70_half New Member

    Likes Received:
    Apr 15, 2019
    I'll throw my opinion into the mix with another resounding yes! I dove head-first into building my first engine simply because I liked engines and wanted to know more about them, and now after recently completing my third engine build I can say I don't think I'll ever go back to paying someone to do it.

    Like others have said, make sure you take your time, double-check your work, and don't be afraid to ask questions. This stuff really isn't rocket science, and there's nothing more rewarding than hearing your car roar to life and saying "I built that!"
    KingofThings, Happy_Dan and Z-Life like this.
  4. 80hurstz28

    80hurstz28 Veteran Member

    Likes Received:
    Oct 12, 2012
    spokane wa.
    KingofThings, Arsonist80 and Z-Life like this.
  5. T/A Tom

    T/A Tom Member

    Likes Received:
    Apr 29, 2019
    I would say yes, definitely! It’s really not that complicated, you can save yourself a lot of money and the sense of satisfaction is huge. As long as you’re keeping it stock, or close to it, it’s really pretty basic for anyone who has good mechanical aptitude and a decent set of hand tools.
    I strongly suggest picking up a good book such as How to Rebuild a Big Block Chevy and read it cover to cover before you start ordering parts and digging in. YouTube and forums like this are extremely helpful, but it’s also very nice to have a good reference book within reach.
    Go for it, and let us know how it’s going!
    KingofThings likes this.
  6. Cardinal

    Cardinal Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

    Likes Received:
    Jun 22, 2003
    Endicott, NY
    This is a lot tougher question with a lot of ramifications!

    I'd say yes and no to "can I rebuild/build my 454 myself.

    NO!: you need a lot of special tools and a lot of knowledge to rebuild a motor. THEE best too is to make a friend who has SUCESSFULLY and REBEATABLY built/rebuilt a BBC! Although rebuilding a motor is the same for every motor (attention to detail) there is lies the crux to the matter: each motor has nuances that MUST be addressed or you're making expensive junk.

    Tools: ring expander and contractor. Torque wrench. I AWAYS degree my cams in so a cam degree kit. Obviously, good quality hand tools. Make a LOB (line of business) expense cost and timeline so you can see how long it's going to take and how much it's going to cost so you can budget both. The LOB will include parts you have to machine (block, heads, crank, pistons?, rods?, cam kit?,), replace (pistons, rings bearing, gasket kit timing chain gear set, oil pump & pickup, cam kit?, etc.), balancing (which is a good idea to include), rebuild kit, expendables (RTV, oil filters, etc.).

    YES: THEE one motor that I had assembled (SBC short block) was a piece of junk from the get go! I honestly don't know what they did to it but it wiped ALL of the bearings out! The good part of building/assembling/rebuilding your motor is that YOU know EVERYTHING that was done to it! BUT it takes time, patience, and ATTENTION TO DETAIL to do it properly. PLUS when you fire that motor up for the first time, the pride of knowing that YOU put it together is OVERWHELMING!

    To review: Find that expert who has SUCESSFULY rebuilt a BBC. Read a lot of books that other's listed here and take notes (or highlight in the books what is important). Make that LOG so you have a begging, middle, and end to your build schedule and money wise.
    Arsonist80 and KingofThings like this.
  7. KingofThings

    KingofThings Veteran Member

    Likes Received:
    May 8, 2020
    My main advice is after every assembly step go back as far as you can and repeat. I learned this at 17 by buying a '63 Chevy II SS convertible for $150 with a 30 over 327 that ran for 22 seconds when he shut it off with zero oil pressure. I went to break the mains loose and almost fell on my head. Not a single main bolt was even snug! Luckily nothing was hurt and I put it back together and ran it for many years.
    Arsonist80 and Z-Life like this.
  8. Happy_Dan

    Happy_Dan Veteran Member

    Likes Received:
    Sep 13, 2013
    New Boston, NH
    I use a paint marker to mark every bolt after I torque it. That way I know I did it and didn't miss any. I don't just torque them all and then mark them all. I torque one, mark that I did it, then go on to the next. Only if it's multiple steps and then I only mark after final torque.
    KingofThings, Arsonist80 and 70_half like this.
  9. biker

    biker Veteran Member

    Likes Received:
    Dec 7, 2014
    YES! Read, read, read. Start with a running engine, pull it down to nothing. Measure everything, replace or machine anything out of spec and reassemble. Dont spend a pile on any performance parts. Get it running again and see how you did. If you change too many things and it runs like crap, you wont know if it was your work or the new parts. So, reassemble to stock spec. Pay attention to cleaning everything, prep gasket surfaces, proper torque and assembly order. Once you learn by a few hard knocks and experience, up your game from there.
    KingofThings, Arsonist80 and G72Zed like this.
  10. shad_van

    shad_van Veteran Member

    Likes Received:
    Jun 15, 2012
    las vegas, NV
    I would say yes and go for it. its not that hard. as other have recommended get the book on how to rebuild the BBC. i built my first SBC back in the late 80 with no help from anyone except the how to rebuild the SBC book and a few hot rod magazines. no google, no youtube, no forums. next to driving the car for the first time, the first fire on a new engine is my favorite part of this hobby. i would give the following advice.

    1. get a good torque wrench. you will need it for more than just engine builds. the Harbor Freight Pittsburg stuff is junk. the repeatability if garbage. I have not tried their new Icon line yet and probably wont for past experiences with there tools. Husky form Home Depot and Craftsman for Lowes/Sears are barely any better. I have a friend who is a pro mechanic that recommended Tekton to me a few years ago. they are affordable and extremely high quality, and they are certified to be accurate to +/- 4%. is around $80 on amazon so the cost wont break the bank. another good one is the AC Delco ARM303-4A. its about $210 on amazon. its pricey but its accurate to +/-1.5% CW and 2.5% CCW. it also has a digital angle gauge for torque to yield fasteners used on newer engines like the LS and LT. if you work on LS or LT motors or any fastener that requires torque to yield, then get one that has the digital angle gauge built in.

    2. get a good 6" dial caliper. again avoid the stuff at harbor freight, the repeatability and accuracy is garbage. Starrett is the standard of the industry in machine shops but they are pricey. I personally like digital calipers. they are easier to read than a dial. Fowler is another manufacture and they are inexpensive and very accurate, and reasonably priced. along with a good high quality caliper get a telescoping bore gauge set. again Starrett is the standard of the industry in machine shops and Fowler makes some good stuff at a reasonable price. with these 2 tools you measure any bore or bearing clearance in your engine. Plastigage is ok, and i use it as a final check to double check my measurements. but i don't rely on it to get my oil clearances.

    3. have the machine shop install the cam bearings and freeze plugs. the tool in install the cam bearings costs more than to have the machine shop do it. also they need to be installed in a certain order and they need to go in specific locations, and the oil holes need to line up with the oil passages. there are specific tools to install the freeze plugs. some people do it with a socket, but i have also seen people drive them in too far or mangle the plug and have a coolant leak later on. its just cheaper and easier to have the machine shop do it.

    4. Camshaft selection and oil. modern store bought oil does not have enough ZDDP additive in to to protect a flat tappet cam. modern store bought oil are SN rated and only contain less than 800ppm ZDDP. a flat tappet cams requires around 1200ppm ZPPD for a long life. for this reason, i highly recommend swapping to a retrofit roller cam. they don't require the break in time like a flat tappet, they don't need ZDDP additives, so you can use off the shelf oils and you will get better performance from a roller. a complete kit (which i recommend because it has all matched components) goes for about $1100 on summit. if you decide to go with flat tappet cam, use a high quality oil after the initial break in. I highly recommend Lucas Oil Hot Rod and Classic oil, it has 2100ppm zddp and an anticorrosion additive package to protect cars that are stored for a long period of time (its what i use in 71 SS 396 when i park it for the winter). Amsoil Z-Rod has 1400ppm ZDDP and is another good oil. with high ZDDP oil you will need to change the oil religiously because ZDDP breaks down over time. its not like the modern synthetics that can go 10-15k between changes. if you go with a flat tappet cam, make sure to use a good break in oil, Lucas oil break in oil has 3600ppm zddp, or you can use regular oil mixed with Lucas Oil TB ZINC-Plus break in additive, 4.5gt +16oz of Zinc Plus to get 5000ppm zddp. I am not pushing Amsoil or Lucas, its just those are the one I know and have used personally and have experience with. the other reason i recommend Lucas oil is the machine shop i use includes Lucas break in oil with every flat tappet long block they sell. when i asked him why, and he told me he doesn't want one coming back for a flat cam. Lots of manufactures offer a good quality break in oil, Comp Cams, Lunati, Total Seal, VP, Brad Pen, and Driven all make a good break in oils, i just use don't have a lot of experience with them. one last thing, if you run a flat tappet cam, never user regular oil mixed with a zinc additive. most modern oil has a detergent additive package that will pull it from the oil and it will end up in your oil filter, it will also ruin the film strength additives in modern oils which reduces the oils lubricity.

    5. assembly lubes and sealers. I use ARP ultra torque lube on all the threads, washers and under on the flat of the bolt heads of all my fasteners with the exception the head bolts. the head bolts on a big block go in to the water jacket, so i use ARP thread sealer on the head bolt threads, and ultra torque on the bolt heads and washers. for flywheel i use Loctite blue thread locker on the threads on ultra torque under the head. for assembly lube like Permatex ultra slick engine assembly lube or royal purple max-tuff assembly lube. if you like the white lithium grease, i use Lucas NIGL #2 on the old fashioned non roller rocker arms, rocker balls and push rods and on the front balancer seal and rear main seal. as far a sealants go, i like the Permatex ultra black. i use a thin coat of it around the ports on the intake gaskets, and the china wall gaskets. i also use it on the front timing cover gasket, and fuel pump gasket. i also use it on the valve covers after adjusting the lifters for the final time after breaking in the engine. I use the Mr. Gasket 1 piece oil pan gasket. the Fel-pro 1 piece version is too thick at the front timing cover area and always squeeze's out and leaks. also make sure you reuse your GM front cover or get an after market front timing cover that does not have a hole in the center on the bottom flange where it mounts to the oil pan. the covers with the hole on the flange always leak, i prefer the Milodon 65604 or GM Original. all the chrome ones seem to have a hole in the flange where it seals to the oil pan. i hate oil leaks. so that just my preference.

    hope this advice helps and i hope you rebuild it yourself. there is almost nothing as rewarding as completing your first engine rebuild and firing it up for the first time. good luck with your build.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2021

Share This Page