Psychology of Engine Building 2011

By Otto Mittelstaedt

I’ve always considered myself a very “hands-on” car guy. I do all my own work, with the exception of whole car painting, and engine block machining, for which I don’t have the tools and facilities. It makes it a problem getting someone to do DE Tech Inspections, because I don’t have my “own” mechanic, as most people do. Truth is, though, I haven’t really done much major work recently. I haven’t rebuilt an engine for almost 20 years! In those days, I never made a careless mistake – not tightening a bolt, say, or leaving tools inside the patient.That brings me to the present. I’m now a distracted 60 year old, and I’m assembling an engine. In the old days, I could whip in a new camshaft in a weekend. I’ve so far been assembling the engine for a couple of weeks, and I don’t even have the heads on yet. Part of the problem is technology. In the old days, I’d just use a gasket. Now, do I use a gasket, anaerobic sealant or RTV?  Does the new grey RTV allow you to torque the joints, or will the sealant all extrude out? The internet does not have the answer to every question.Another problem is finding the parts. The whole car is dissembled, so the garage and attic are filled with boxes containing sandwich bags full of nuts and bolts. I’ve owned the car for almost 40 years, so I thought that I knew all of the parts intimately. Most of the bags are not labelled – only where during the dis-assembly, I thought there might be some confusion. This has not worked as well as expected. The first bolts that went missing were the pressure plate bolts. I spent an hour searching for 6 plated bolts before I gave up and ordered some new ones from ARP. Then, yesterday, I couldn’t find the valley cover bolts. I remembered them as having blue painted heads. I searched everywhere. I looked into every bag and every box – three times. Nothing.  What I did find, though, were the pressure plate bolts. They weren’t plated. They were black oxide. It then dawned on me that I was not finding parts because I was presupposing what they looked like. It was a eureka moment. I ran out into the garage and found the valley cover bolts immediately!

You know that feeling when you have just driven away on vacation, and you realize that you may not have turned off the stove? I had that feeling the other day after I had just installed the timing cover, and realized that I may not have tightened the camshaft thrust plate bolts. What to do? take it apart and trash the gasket that I got in a 28 dollar kit? In the end, I decided just to stop obsessing and just get on with it.

Building an engine is definitely the wrong time to have senior’s moments!

Leave a Reply