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 My engine blew up today....

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59vista

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PostSubject: My engine blew up today....   Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:37 pm

Oh shit Sad - my engine just died on me today, while i was doing about 80 on the freeway. I suddenly felt a substantial drop in power, and at that moment i noticed the 'hot' light. As i pulled over i noticed almost no oil pressure.
Lots of white smoke and oil smell, and the radiator over pressure was steaming and hissing at me. I waited a while for the engine to cool, and tried to start it - there was a loud bang, and a cloud of white smoke (oil smoke). I wonder if it was a ignition of oil fumes inside the engine. I called the auto transport, and had it taken to my house.

Once home i carefully started it, and it does run, but with almost no oil pressure, and extreme amounts of white smoke from all openings. There is a a hissing sound from inside one of the cylinders, but no metallic sounds, like from bearings.

What do you think - is it just a head gasket, or should i go ahead and order a 'master kit' ?

I am going to start disassembly today, and have a look at the damage - remember i should have been at a car meet, drinking beer and having fun....

Oh well, i sure hope i can fix it....
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:50 pm

I just pulled the first head - there is definatly a hole in the piston affraid . I got one on the other side with no comp. as well - properbly the same thing....I sure expected a head gasket failed, but this is somthing else... scratch . The pistons are flat tops (now dished...) - i wonder if i should get dished to lower the comp. ratio a little - i have even been running on 99 octane - but it may be an old injury.

All champers are completly clean though - that V-power stuff realy works.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:53 pm

Sounds to me like you popped one or both of the head gaskets. It's not a good idea to keep starting it if that's what happened. Water and bare metal are never a good match, especially when it comes to bronze bearings. Pull the heads and the pan, let everything dry out and coat every surface of the rotating assembly, (the crank, cam and lifters with assembly lube) It is a red sticky substance used for initial start-up of a freshly rebuilt motor. Rotate everything SLOWLY to get the moisture out if you don't plan on taking the engine out of the car. The main thing is to get the water out of the motor, since anti-freeze is very corrosive to machined surfaces!! Good Luck and keep us posted!
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:59 pm

Ah Crap..a hole in a piston sucks! Holes in the pistons only comes from detonation....Either too high of octane or bad timing. These engines of that era are not designed to run on that high octane stuff. In '59 the highest octane rating for ethyl fuel was 70! I "only" have 92 available here and the engine completely original, so I have to ad lead substitute to keep the engine from knocking. Sorry to here about the event, but hopefully you cna get her back on the road soon....Keep us posted!
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:43 pm

You mean too low octane makes it knock right ??. I have been running 99 Vpower to keep it from detonating (and i definatly heard the knocking was much reduced, and only occured on rare occasions (extremly hard pull at low RPM). I definatly had a detonation problem - the pistons look like they have been hammered with a small hammer. Coking and soot in chambers can't have been the reason for detonation, since they were totally clean.

Plans are to go buy a engine stand - next measure out and see if it need drilling (expensive around here - 100$ a bore i was told, so i really hope i can do without). Then order a master kit and fix it all. Luckily i have friends that has invested in all the tools (ring compressors, measuring gear, camshaft bearing removal tools etc..). I have been promised some help, so i guess there is a fair chance of succes....
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:28 pm

Damn, that SUCKS!

I would try to investigate the cause of detonation before investing lots of time and $$ in engine rebuild. You don't repeat this again anytime soon!

A few things that cause detonation:

Improper timing setting

Distributor issues (mechanical advance sticking, weak advance springs)

Bad vacuum advance diaphragm (vacuum test it)

High engine temps (Install an aftermarket analog gauge!)

Wrong heat rating of spark plugs

Lean fuel mixtures - vacuum leaks (bad heater/ac and power brake booster diaphragms, hoses, intake manifold leaks,) dirty carb, maladjusted carb, wrong size jets ect.

Stuck heat riser in passenger exhaust manifold (a big issue with these cars!)

Crossfiring of spark plug wires.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:14 pm

Thanks for the list - i have narrowed it down to 2 possible causes :

1. Lean mixture at high RPM.

I checked for any vacuum leaks, and car has no break booster, so that is fairly simple. I found none. Carb looks fine, but i i dont know how to test at high power (maybe a oxygen gage in exaust).

My plan is to change the carb for a Q-jet if i can fit it on my edelbrock EP4B manifold - i figured that since it is all apart i might as well go 4 BRL. A friend of mine has a brand new Q-jet (holly) that needs a home.

2. Ignition timing

This has always been a problem for me. There seems to be no original marks on the flywhell. There is a small yellow mark, that appers homemade - it looks like TDC of cyl 1, but i cant match it with the specified setting, sinncee the distributor can't turn far enough - and if i try the car runs like crab. My conclusion was that the mark is incorrect - now that the engine is apart i can make an exact TDC mark. I firgured i can make a new degree scale if i divide the distance around the edge (dist = 2*pi*r) by 360 degrees - that should be the distance between degrees on scale.

Anyhow the detonation is clearly audible when it occurs, and if it ever shows it ugly head again i will NOT hesitate to do somthing. It is not like the pistons burn through in 5 minutes, but apparently the sound should not be ignored.

All the other things have been tested, and found OK - ok, maybe not the advance springs, but that is going to be the first test once the engine runs again.

All local experts that i have talked ,say that i should be OK with modern premium gas and 10:0 comp. - so it has to be another problem. A friend who has a 68 buick runs 10.25 : 1 on standard gas (original 350 with Q-jet), and he never had problems with detonation.

Also i wonder - all the kits i have looked at includes a camshaft, but no specs. Does that mean that is standard specs, or for you to specify. And is there a modern and more desireable grind available (without changing the rest of the valve train components, and without affecting driveability and idle too much). Anyone have experience in this field, or are you all running stock camshaft ?.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:21 pm

Damn that sucks!!!!

Too high of octane shouldn't cause a hole in the piston. Too lean or too hot will. Like they said above, check to make sure you have the right plugs and the right timing. You can always pull #1 plug and rotate until it's at TDC and then check the balancer to see if it's marked. If not I guess you could mark it yourself. You should be able to tell if it's advanced too much by listening to it. You said you could hear it knock under load. Could be advanced too much or weak springs in the distributor.

I wouldn't think boring it out would cost $100 a cylinder. It's pretty cheap and I would guess the machine work would cost about a grand for everything over here.

Post some pics of the carnage!

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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:53 pm

Exactly - that was what i had in mind (finding #1 tdc and making my own scale).
Unfortunatly all that includes manual labour is fairly expensive here - it look like i can do without boring, but i can't make the decision until i have the engine out and get a micrometer measure.

I have ordered a engine stand, a honer and a ring compressor -it should arrive at monday - then it is just a question of borrowing a crane and calling in a few friends...

Pictures will be comming up one of the next days.

First measurements, using calibers, shows that the cylinders are standard sized, and appears never to have been bored.

Apart from the unwanted holes in pistons there appears to be nothing wrong, but i better change it all when the engine is apart. Strangely there is no oil in water, or water in oil. Could the white smoke have been gas fumes or ??.

Anyway i am putting in my best efforts, and crossing my fingers. This is my first total engine rebuilt, although i have taken part in other projects like it, so i am a little nervous - my biggest fear ofcourse is cracks in block or heads, though i do consider it fairly unlikely.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:09 pm

Shit happens. It will all work out. Hopefully it's not cracked though

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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:57 pm

OK, so i carefully inspected the pistions today after taking off they other head. At the drivers side bank there was damage to front most piston (moderate), and a small hole in the next. The two rear cylinders are practically unharmed. At the opposite bank there was a >1/4" hole, and no evidence of detonation on the other 3. What the fuck scratch ? - so i think this rules out ignition, sparkplugs, block temp and the such, since this should show on all cylinders, right ?. Cylinders otherwise look the same and are fairly clean (no deposits). The only reason i can think of is uneven fuel distribution (however the two cylinders in question are each supplied from upper AND lower plane in the manifold scratch . Why the hell is the problem apparently focused on the two opposing cylinders. And why not the rear most, since they are passed by the lowest amount of coolingwater scratch .

Since i am planning on 4brl the problem should be solved or ???. What do you think - ever heard of this before ?. OK, i did push it a little, but if the damn thing can't take a little abuse what is the point ?.

This realy has left me confused - any good input appreciated (as always cheers )..
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:10 am

I don't think it rules out timing. Of course all your pistons aren't going to get holes blown in them at the same time. Somethings got to give and it happened to be those pistons.



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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Sat Sep 11, 2010 2:23 pm

Robert, i see your point, but what strikes me as odd is the lack of evidence of any detonation on the rear pistons - as oppose to the gaping holes in the other two.

The engine is in a stand now. I had two friends come and help me, and we pulled the engine yesterday.

Pistons have been removed, and it seems i am going to have it bored 0.02 over - crank is apparently OK, and will just need new bearings. And now that it is all out in the open i am going to grind the valve seats as well..
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:42 pm

59vista.....Purchase your pistons before you have it bored. Sometimes it is difficult to find oversized pistons in certain sizes. The 59 block has a lot of meat, and can be bored as much as you need to get to a standard oversize. They have been known to be bored as much as .125". Boring is cheaper than custom sized pistons. I would also suggest that you get dished pistons. If your original pistons were flat, you already have a 10:1 compression ratio. Boring increases the cylinder volume and therefor compression ratio. If your heads need to be shaved to true them up, this will reduce the chamber volume and further increase the ratio. When having the heads worked on, at least have hardened seats put in the exhaust seats. It would be a good idea to have the crank checked, as that pounding that detonation causes can damage the rod and main journals in addition to the bearings.
Getting back to the original problem, I think you can find it in your rearview mirror. When your car was new and everything was fresh it had only 280hp, and a 3.08:1 rear gear. It would be hard pressed to pull that trailer back then, let alone now that it is old and tired. Back then, premium gas was 100 octane and leaded. Today it's 93 at best and full of other junk that these older engines don't care for. Hope this helps......John
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:25 am

John - Thanks, and point well taken..
I have sent for a quote on the machine work, and i am going ti ask for a quote on hardened seats as well - it would be nice to get rid of that lead additive that i have been using.
I was thinking og getting pistons with valve reliefs in order to lower the comp. a little. Dished is also a possibility, but the standard sets for 389 i have been looking at, don't come with dished pistons, and i don't want to go too low and hurt power...When i find the parts i am going to write a post before i make an order ..
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:04 am

I was thinking somthing like this ...

http://www.fastengineparts.com/products_view.php?id=392

Note the torque camshaft - torque is what i really need..but is this upgrade any good for this application ?

I wonder if a 'full gasket set' includes lifter seals and crank neoprene seals as well - is a set really all i need, or ? Before i call them and ask stupid questions i might as well do it here lol!

Sorry for asking all these qeuestions, but seeing my pistons in a box next to the car makes me a little scared affraid
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:42 pm

Photos from last part of engine removal operation (taken appx 3 am drunken )



Bleeding engine fresh out of the car.



Hole in piston affraid



Engine on stand



Block with pistons removed.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Tue Sep 14, 2010 12:09 am

59vista.....Full gasket sets include the valve stem seals and the crank seals. Usually the crank seal is the impregnated rope kind. There is nothing wrong with these if installed correctly. The Viton seal would be an upgrade to the kit, or they can be purchased seperately from another supplier. These are a little better, but must also be installed carefully. The cam seems reasonable for your purpose. Remember, stock Pontiac engines are torque machines and are usually out of breath by 5000rpm anyway. I really don't think that flattop pistons with valve reliefs is going to get the compression down to where it needs to be, between 9.0 and 9.5:1 for todays gas. Hardened exhaust seats will eliminate the need for that lead additive, which I think is snakeoil anyway. By the way, a .030 overbore gives you a 396cu.in. engine. Chevrolets anyone?.....John
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Tue Sep 14, 2010 7:10 am

OK, i think i would like the neoprene seal as an upgrade, since i am a little more familiar with that, and i don't want to pull it all apart twice.
Is the dished pistons available with different levels of dishing, or could i machine a little off myself (i have acess to a lathe that is suitable for that purpose).. I should point out that i normally use 99 octane rating, but ofcoulse it would be alot cheaper to run regular 95 or so - that is if it does not hurt power too much..
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:27 pm

Get the newer designed graphite rear main seals. It's currently the best rear main seal out there.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:31 pm

59vista wrote:
Is the dished pistons available with different levels of dishing.

No, you'll have to take them to a machine shop and have them dished. It's a very complex and exact process that you shouldn't do yourself. Also, you can have the combustion chambers opened up to reduce CR. Have a machine shop CC the heads and then remove the correct amount of material to reduce CR to your desired spec.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:35 pm

OK, quotes for engine work is in, and i am about to order parts. Plans are :

Heads to be CC'ed (i'll do that myself), once they are fitted with new valves (maybe i'll go with just the exaust valves). This is because no one would install the hardened seats around here, and my theory is that new harder valves may be better for the soft seats - and i will have to keep using 'lead' additive. I'll use the best stuff available (castrol valve master), and cross my fingers. If all else fails i'll get a set of heads with seats from the US. With the chanber volume available, i will adjust the compression to appx 9.5 : 1, by means of dishing the pistons.

That means ordering new valves, a master kit (i am leaning towards the one prviously mentioned with the RV cam), a modern main seal.

I am having the 59 pontiac AFB that i got of ebay rebuilt, and planning to install the EP4B intake that i got from the same source. Fortunatly it came with all the brackets and rods, so i hope it is pretty much a bolt on. I am going to need a 4brl aircleaner though.

I am going to have it bored 030 over, but the crank seems OK, and should be fine with new bearings.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:37 pm

Christian- It sounds like you have all of your ducks in a row. Keep up the good work. Patience is the key in rebuilding an engine....never rush putting one back together. Take your time and make sure everything is clean, clean, clean! I agree with the others, even though you have access to a lathe, leave machine work to the experts. The rotating assembly (crank, rods and pistons) are precision bunch that should not be fussed with. Pistons even being out of balance by a few grams will cause a vibration that could be catastrophic down the road! It would be like chasing your tail trying to figure out just where the vibration is coming from. I have seen guys mistake a vibration or another balancing problem with timing, only to find it something more serious after a rush job putting it together or using old parts or substandard ones. Good luck...I look forward to seeing it back on the road.
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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:33 pm

Finally dropped the heads off for a valve job today. Block is going out for machine work later this week.
I also dropped of the carter 4 brl AFB carbs that i got from e-bay for a rebuild.
I am soooo looking forward to putting it all back together... I hope to be ready for summer holiday trip.



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PostSubject: Re: My engine blew up today....   Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:31 am

Christian.....Good luck with the rebuild. How does that work over there? Over here, for a normal rebuild (not hi-performance) the rebuilder usually does the measurement work, orders the needed parts, and does the machine work. Do you have to coordinate the parts?.....John
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