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Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 3:55 PM

I'm looking for advice on the best process to go through when bringing a dormant engine back to life.

I have a 1982 Chris Craft Boat, which is now almost completely restored. The boat has a stern-drive engine - GM 350 cubic inch small block and Mercruiser outdrive. The engine was completely rebuilt, and all external parts (manifolds, carb, ignition, fuel system, water pump, alternator, starter) replaced or rebuilt. The engine work was done in 2000. The restoration work started in 2001 and has been a painstaking 8-9 year (vacations and weekends) project.

Now, it's time to do something about the engine - which ran fine for 45 minutes before the boat hull split open on rocks... ... which lead to the restoration project.

The engine has been in the engine compartment for 10 years, covered and protected from rain and freezing.

What steps would you recommend I go through before trying to start the engine?

Some things I know I will need -

1) New starting battery

2) Clean fuel and fuel filter (the tank is welded aluminum and has been flushed, there are no gaskets or seals to replace, and all the fuel lines are new)

3) new water pump impeller in the outdrive

4) new bellows and thrust bearing - probably

Any tips on how to get the engine running while minimizing any "set-up" damage would be great help - I'm looking for ideas on whether I should pull the entire engine and re-hone everything; or pull the spark plugs and fill the cylinders with (some kind of?) oil and let it sit for a day and hand-crank (x number of revolutions); or run 30 seconds, then change oil and filter again; to ???

Thanks!

TX

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#1

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 4:19 PM

Will it turn over?, use a breaker bar and socket on the crank to hand turn.

You may need to pull down and clean out the carburettor and replace the dried out gaskets.

If it won't turn over, pull the plugs and pour a little transmission fluid down each cylinder and leave over night. Then try again with hand turning.

If it does turn over. Take the distributor out and drive the oil pump with an electric drill to bring the oil pressure up (you have put new oil and filter on, yes?). Reinstall the distributor but dont connect the coil.

If it won't turn over its a motor out and pull down job

Turn the motor on the starter a couple of times.

Now put the spark plusgs back in and wire up the leads and distributor.

Put the rebuilt carburettor back on and prime the fuel.

Connect water flusher to the stern drive and turn the tap on.

Start the motor, it'll be smoky but that should clear after a little while, run the motor on fast idle but not racing, till it warms up and is happy.

you might like to take it for a run on the lake but don't go too far till your happy with it.

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#15
In reply to #1

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 7:51 AM

I liked your post.

The only change I would make is to leave the plugs out, once it has been proved that the motor is not solid. Then put a shot of engine oil in each cylinder, leave for an hour of two, then run the starter till oil pressure has built up, after that put the plugs back and see if it starts.....I would not dismantle the drive to the oil pump......

I would also use new synthetic oil and a filter as well.....good stuff for an engine not in daily usage.

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#31
In reply to #1

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

08/10/2012 3:02 AM

It turns by hand!!! Not seized. That's a great start on the way to getting her going again. I ordered a little fiber inspection scope to look inside the cylinders. Can't wait to have a peek inside the plug holes...

Got my PB Blaster ready, and appreciate all the suggestions about synthetics and Marvel Mystery Oil Soaking.

Picked up an oil pump driver from AutoZone.

Washed the whole boat just because it seemed the thing to do. She needs to be shiny when I take pics of the first running, even if it is with just the muffs and still on the trailer!!!

Pics soon, too.

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

08/10/2012 7:37 AM

I ordered a little fiber inspection scope to look inside the cylinders. Can't wait to have a peek inside the plug holes...

These are sometimes available at a great savings, used from your proctologist.

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#33
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

08/10/2012 12:56 PM

......but they are only for ars***les!!!

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#34
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

08/10/2012 1:33 PM

And they smell terrible.

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#35
In reply to #31

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

08/11/2012 3:06 AM

I was certain that it would.

You've now "got the drum" as we call it here.

You know what to do next.

The old girl will be just fine.

Keep an eye peeled for crankcase fumes, especially under full load.

That'll give you an idea of bore and ring condition.

Let it "bed in" again.

Have great fun in the boat. I'll be envious of you having the time to do so.

Cheers,

Stu.

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

08/14/2012 11:37 PM

Pulling the lower unit off the outdrive in the morning to check on the impeller condition. It was new when the outdrive was re-installed.

If it is soft and pliable, i will leave it be. If it is hard as a rock, I'll replace it. In fact, now that I think about it, since I am opening the thing up, I will just replace it.

Pics of the clean, smoke-free engine compartment coming soon!

TX

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#2

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 4:47 PM

One thing to add; buy one of these. It is driven by a an elecrtic drill. Be sure to mark the rotor when you pull the distributor to do this so you can get it back in the right position.

You want oil pressure as soon as that crank starts to turn so, you'll need to be sure that the pump is primed and ready to pump on the first crank.

Good luck.

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#4
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 8:01 PM

Good answer.

I'd be inclined to pull the engine apart if it is not fairly easy to get it to turn by hand (such as by putting oil in the cylinders and letting it sit for a couple days.) If it takes heroic efforts to free it up, then there is probably enough corrosion to cause problems once it runs (leading to overheated and spun bearings, etc.)

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 8:10 PM

I think it will crank.

Chances are good that there is still an oil film on everything.

Running the oil pump first is critical.

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 10:13 PM

Yes a GA from me for this , but I would of thought anybody tinkering with bowtie boat anchors would already have one in thier tool box.

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#16
In reply to #6

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 11:26 AM

"bowtie boat anchors"
I had to think a second about this! Danforth? Mushroom? Oh yeah, got it!

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#3

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 7:27 PM

Depends on how well the engine was sealed....If the engine was not sealed tight, I would probably tear the whole engine down and go through it....The boat sounds nice, how about a few pics....

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#7

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 10:40 PM

Yeah,that's a GA to Lyn.

But, pulling the plugs and oiling the bores and then hand cranking it is a real good idea too. See Ken's post.

You will have some light corrosion on the open valve seats and faces, so run it for a couple of hours on med - high revs, NO load, till the valves have pounded their way through this. Some upper cyl lube will help here too.

If worried about valve leakage test the compressions. If you have significant leakage the ultimatum will be burned valves.

But you'll only need to pull the heads to fix that.

Good fortune, and enjoy the water.

Cheers,

Stu

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#8

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 10:46 PM

This engine should not be cranked. The 9 years of storage at water level will have made the inner spaces of the engine 'breath' ambient air with temperature changes. This will have condensed on these spaces and there will be plenty of rust in most inner areas, especially some of the pistons whose valves were open, but even the sealed one will have rust.

See if you can borrow a fiber optic video inspection camera with coaxial light and viewer you can insert into a spark plug hole. Some will give you room to inspect and you can record what you see.

If you can free it, there will be severe scoring from the embedded rust dragged through the rings if you operate it, and if you force it to run you will soon be blowing oil out of your crankcase breather, and you may need new rings and liners.

You will need to open it up, clean and hone everything and assess it. Then run or fix?

This engine is a mature and well known item. You can buy refit kits or even short and long blocks easily on line for a reasonable price - there are many choices.

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#9
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 11:42 PM

I am currently running a 2.3l turbo diesel engine in a car, the engine having been in storage in my garden shed for about 15 years.

I turned it over by hand using the flywheel diameter as leverage, no bars, etc- it turned over smoothly for a full revolution.

I changed the oil - one thing which has not been mentioned in previous posts, - gave it a new oil filter, bolted it in, sorted all the electrics, suspension and plumbing, replaced the glow plugs, supplied fuel and the engine started. The vehicle was previously petrol, but a diesel version had been available, so I was able to source all the appropriate parts for the conversion.

It is running fine without smoke or other obvious problems.

My point is that the potential problems mentioned are worst case and certainly possible, but likewise all may be well. It is however better to be safe than sorry, so an internal inspection would be a wise course of action.

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#10
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/19/2012 11:54 PM

The guy said it had bee rebuilt and not run,

It will not be necessary to open it up because it'll still be liberally coated with assembly pre-lube on all of it's working parts.

It will not have rust any where near the rotating parts.

That is unless the rebuilder is a complete shonk.

If it turns over easy there will be no top-end rust and my considered advice is to give the valves an easy time till they're bedded in again.

A compression check is advised.

I've rebuilt several thousand engines of all sorts and genres some of which went into storage as standby duty and have rarely (10yrs) been used.

Stu.

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#17
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 11:58 AM

The guy said it had bee rebuilt and not run,
Actually he said "which ran fine for 45 minutes before the boat hull split open on rocks..."


I take that to mean that the engine is no different than any other that has been run and then stored without taking precautions other than covering it. Some of the cylinders will be pretty badly rusted. Often the galvanically-aided corrosion between the iron bores and aluminum pistons will leave the two effectively welded together. This would be the case for an engine that was factory new prior to the 45 minutes of running.


If it turns over easily by hand, then he is lucky, and pretty much home free.

The thin oil film left on cylinders after running does not offer much protection. The column on my drill press and the ways on my lathe require re oiling more than once a year, even in the areas where the oil is not rubbed off -- and they have the advantage of adequate ventilation, and an environment that is (relatively) temperature-controlled.

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#21
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 6:45 AM

Ok, I guess I skipped that bit,

But, my money's on that the motor is entirely OK.

Yes, it'll have a very light rusting of exposed wear surfaces, like exposed bores and open valve seats on the cylinders in which the valves have been parked open, but again, the first pass of a piston will effectively wipe that "staining "off.

Yes, I could say to him to insist on completely dismantling the engine and put it back together in "race ready" condition, but clearly this is not the preferred option.

I read it that he wants to expend as little effort as possible, without compromising the longevity, or performance too much.

My experience with my long-term storage of the very same engine is that we had a look into the bores ( endoscope) and found them OK. And I'm talking a bit over 9 years without being turned over. They were factory test-run, under load, and data logged, and then delivered to me.

They are marininsed small block MPI s @300hp, and 4 cyl International 3L turbo intercooled diesels @200hp.

They all could be turned by grasping the engine front pulley by hand, but of course, not over compression.

It's with this experience did I offer the suggestions as above, and I am motivated in the same plane; I really didn't want to have to take 'em apart to put 'em back in service. Nor do I wish to in any way compromise safety or longevity.

And they're fine.

I do agree re the experience with the lathe ways etc, but the atmosphere in the cylinders doesn't "breathe" as much as most folk imagine, and thus the moisture content of said atmosphere rarely gets to worriesome humidity levels, with most moisture condensing out onto the walls of the inlet and exhaust tracts, and then being cyclically reabsorbed.

Of course there is some staining.

I've not seen pistons galvanically 'welded' to bores without there has been some water ingestion by catastrophe, and left to become electrolyte and then do the damage.

On the converse, I've witnessed multiple and manifold "ring stains"in bores of old engines which have been ingesting water in service, sometimes for their entire lives, where the rings have lightly rust adhered to the bores each time the engine has been stopped.

Been amazed that these units didn't use oil excessively, and maintained acceptable power levels.

Of course the operators were also amazed that their engines had been ingesting water, sometimes pure salt seawater, and it was our quest to put this fault to rights too.

Anyway, like I said, I reckon that his engine will be OK.

Lube the hell out of everything and don't give it a "hiding".

Of course if he can, get someone to put a 'scope into the bores and see the catastrophe before the damage.

I've read that they can be bought for just over a hundred and a half dollars, and that'd be good insurance, even if it was discarded after the event.

Cheers,

Stu.

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#22
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 7:05 AM

The cylinders breathe if there is one valve partially open. Those in full compression at last run will be in better condition.

A motor stored inside, will be as Stu says, it will not breathe to the same extent as a motor stored in a boat or a car outside with large variations if temperature and humidity, which encourage breathing.

I have worked on motors stored outside for years, and have encountered the rust that prevents the motor from turning. Of course, all these motors were then stripped and fully rebuilt.

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#23
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 7:19 AM

You're right.

We have no idea what the median realative humidity is where this motor lives, or the temperatures and variances.

It'll be worlds apart if it's a lake boat engine at high altitude. Cool dry air.

Engines parked up in our "red centre" will be runable after decades of idleness.

If it's near where Ky lives there will be a problem with rust. Tropical humidity.

Cheers,

stu.

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#14
In reply to #8

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 1:59 AM

Sorry, didn't finish the post as I had planned. Got distracted.

Some guys have been here all day putting a 5KW PV array on my roof. Just done.

Anyway,

to the OP.

Make sure that the saltwater feed pump is disconnected, if it's belt driven from the crank, or, if it's in the outdrive, lubed with copious amounts of water. This will allow you to briefly arc-up the engine without damage to the pump/impeller.

The rubber vanes of the impeller will have well and truly become deformed after sitting for such a time, and most likely actually stuck to the pump body.

If the impeller was a new one when the engine was mothballed, it'll likely be OK,

But if it isn't, install a new one.

Good idea to fill the engine coolant passages with water/coolant too as the circulation pump mechanical seal will be dry as........

Let's know how you go.

Stu.

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#11

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 1:19 AM

I would add Marvel Mystery Oil instead of tranny fluid. And the hand cranking will tell you a great deal about the inner condition.

I do worry about being near water for so long....But if you pull the valve covers off and it's OK on top, and then change the oil and there's no or very little water in the pan, then you should do all the priming and such and fire her up!

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#12

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 1:42 AM

All of the advice given here has been spot-on,so no need to elaborate except on one point:If the engine is locked up, you can try this method, which has proven successful for me in the past,restoring old tractor engines that have sat for years out in the weather:

Take an old spark plug, and break out all of the porcelain, using a vise,hammer and punch(Wear goggles). Braze a 1/4 " MPT nipple to the remaining steel core. Put a quick connect male air fitting on the nipple.

Lift all rocker arms so that all valves are closed.Remove all spark plugs. Squirt oil into all cylinders.Now insert the home-made adapter into a cylinder.Apply air pressure from your compressor,maximum available pressure.You may hear a slight leakage from stuck valves, and if so, make a note of the leaky ones for future investigation.Allow the pressure to stay on the cylinder overnight.Repeat this process for all cylinders.

Repeat this process as long as necessary.Eventually, if you are lucky, the pistons will begin to move with the applied pressure.

Manually oil all of the valve stems and valve train, and tap gently on the top of all valves to loosen them up.If one is stuck, it can be freed this way by repeated tapping and lubricating.You can easily tell by the sound of the valve when tapping it if it is stuck open or not, as well as it's position, and sound of escaping air noted previously.

Reassemble all rocker arms and pressurize the oil system as others have indicated.I have made a tool for this by flattening the end of a 1/4 inch rod into a drive dog for the oil pump.

Squirt a little gas directly into the carburetor and start it up.You may have to repeat this several times until fuel is pumped into the carb.

The engine will smoke for a little while, naturally, due to the oil in the cylinders, but this will eventually burn off and clear up.

Good luck.

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#13

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/20/2012 1:57 AM

I had a freind give me a 350 V8 that had been rebuilt and then stored ten years. I took the motor apart to check clearances etc and found the assembly lube or oil was no longer fluid. I had to clean every part. Especially the oil pump, rod and main bearings, and rings. Also, on rebuilding most motors before initial startup take a distributor shaft without the gear and turn the oil pump (with a drill) until you have oil up to the rocker arms. I dont know if your 45 min. run included cam break in but it is critical to run the motor about 2000 RPM for about 30 min. to break in any new cam, which should be pre-lubed with cam break-in lube recommended by the cam manufacturer. Also before you start be sure to have a set of muffs with water pressure on the lower unit. While working at Bass Products Marine in the 1980s we would also run any new motor on the dyno to make sure they were fully synchronized and not leaking anywhere before taking them out on the water. Trying to synchronize at the lake while running wide open is no fun, and with all the money you have invested its better to do it beforehand so when you get out on the water you already know how it will perform. Good luck!

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#18
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/21/2012 2:26 AM

When winterizing a boat we would always run them out of gas and then drain the lower unit. The prop shaft seal on the lower units always let in a little water(sometimes a lot) and if not drained the lower unit may freeze and then crack. Even just 45 min running you may have picked up a little fishing line and that will eat up the lower unit prop shaft seal. Running the motor out of gas prevents old gas from turning into varnish and clogging up your fuel system. There are also plugs to remove to completely drain water from the engine. You did not mention if any of this was done. I want to also say once again about synchronizing. Boat motors are made to run WOT (wide open throttle) and without running the motor on a dyno hooked to the lower unit you are not going to get full power/efficiency when you get out on the water. Tuning by ear is almost always a disaster, and tinkering with adjustments at the lake takes all the fun out of going. Find a local boat shop with a dyno and use it. Just my opinion

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#19

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 2:32 AM

If there is any rust in the cylinders, you want to break that down BEFORE you try to turn it over. My suggestion would be to first pull all of the spark plugs. Then use the best rust buster you can afford. ( my preference is PB Blaster) spray the entire contents of the can into all 8 cylinders. Allow that an overnight soak time while you clean out the fuel bowl of that carb. Pull the oil pressure sending unit, and use a small drill powered pump to pressurize the oil system with the same oil as you plan to run in the engine. Think hard about using synthetic, as there has been some additional rust issues already. As the oil displaces the air in the oil system, the drill will drastically slow down. I would now drain the oil, replace the filter, and fill about a 1/2 quart low. Now fill the remainder of cylinder space with light oil ( like Marvel mystery oil ) to the plug holes.

Next day, prime the oil, and try to turn the engine over by flywheel or the crank bolt and an 18 inch long breaker bar. Turn only in the normal direction of rotation. With some luck, the engine will turn over easy after the first pull. As you turn it over, the oil in the cylinders will spill out. You probably want to be prepared for that, as there will be a good bit of it. I would want to turn it over at least ten revolutions, before using the starter. Each time you are going to turn the engine over, be sure to prime with the drill powered pump. If you are ready to use the starter to spin it good, remove the oil priming pump. As the oil pressure builds from the engine oil pump, the pressure might drive oil backwards through the drill pump. When using the starter to spin the engine, additional oil will be blown out of the plug holes.

If everything still looks good now, put spark plugs back in, prime the carb bowl with fuel by squirting fuel into the fuel bowl vent. When it runs out, that is enough. Hit the starter, pray, and hopefully it will start right up. If it does, try to hold the engine speed at 2000 rpm for a full minuet.

That would be my best suggestions. Good luck. If all goes well, get about an hour of running time on it, and drain and replace the oil and filter again. Cheap insurance. One last thing, if you are using a standard oil filter mounting, and have the room, there is a 2 quart filter available for this engine. It was used on series 50 and 60 Chevy trucks with gasoline V8 engines. Fram sells it as a Ph373, NAPA # is 1794. Good luck.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 5:15 AM

Good stuff Bob.

There have been quiet a few good answers here but yours is the one I would follow with no doubt in sight.

One with foam on top from me, Ky.

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#24
In reply to #20

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 11:54 AM

Thanks. I have a 351 Cleavland engine that has been sitting under a tarp for about 10 years with the heads off. My daughter has decided to build a "mudder" * and this engine would be good for that. I am going to try to salvage as much as I can from the Cleavland, so this was a good mental planning exercise for me.

* A mudder is a vehicle designed to drive through mud as fast as possible.

BTW, the worst engine I ever brought back to life was an large air compressor used for jack hammers, that had the vertical exhaust pipe exposed to rain for a year or two. We wound up pulling the head, and using a sledge hammer (with a 4x4 of wood) directly on the stuck piston. Every spray rust buster we could find. The piston was about half way down the bore. By the time we got it to the bottom, it actually was fairly free. honed the walls, and reassembled it. Did it run, yes. Did it smoke, use oil, have lower power? Boss only said it had to run. As long as I was with them it continued to run when needed. BUT, with an eXtension on the exhaust pipe to prevent rain collection.

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#25

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 2:57 PM

I think you are ready to go. It either will go or it won't. Why go to the trouble of opening up the engine to find out all is well. If at start-up, indication tells you something is bad, then is the time to open it up. Either way you go, you are opening the engine at least once.

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#26
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 4:09 PM

Well, there is great scope for damage to cylinder walls, and rings and the risk of valve interference on rotation in some high compression engines?. This engine has been overhauled and has few hours on it before this 9 year hiatus.

A little care with this secondary commissioning could give you an engine with a long life. careless premature operation may cause a catastrophic breakage or a short life before another overhaul is needed.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/22/2012 10:19 PM

Exactly my thoughts. A little care before the running will only help to avoid another rebuild. If the engine has seized together bad enough to require additional machining, the procedures I recommended are low enough in cost as to be a non issue in the maintenance of the boat.

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#30
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Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/24/2012 2:26 PM

Exactly.

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#28

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/23/2012 10:09 PM

You have some interesting and conflicting advice above. I'm no expert on marine engines, but with automotive engines that have not run recently, if it will not turn over or will go only a part turn then hang up, I would suggest that you try turning it BACKWARD by hand. Depending on construction, this may be easy (bolt/nut on front or back of crankshaft.) Or you may need a pry bar on flywheel teeth. This is in case a valve is stuck; forcing it might damage the camshaft/push-rods/etc.

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: Bringing a Silent Engine Back to Life

07/24/2012 12:25 PM

My only reason for requesting that the OP not turn in reverse direction was to prevent the loosening of the crank bolt. I hope that with the pre-treatment, that there would be very little resistance to the turning over by hand.

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