There's nothing more frustrating than discovering there is something major amiss with a race engine, whether at the shop or at the track. The worst part is the realization that there is nothing you can do outside of heading to your engine builder. That, of course, requires using valuable time to pull out the engine.
But pulling an engine doesn't have to be frustrating. Make no mistake, it's not going to be enjoyable and it will involve work, but there are some things you can do to make it less frustrating.
There are a lot of steps involved when pulling the engine out of any vehicle, and some may be different if you are driving a front wheel drive vehicle, but most of the same steps apply:
Undo the driveshaftDrain the transmission grease
Drain the waterDrain the engine oil
Unhook fuel and oil linesUnhook the steering box lines from the power
steering pumpUnhook the carburetor
Attach the lift plate to the intakeHook up the cherry picker
Drop the exhaustPull the headers
Pull the motor mounts
Now you should be ready to pull the engine. Anyone ever involved in this process will tell you that it can take a few hours.
Here, in no particular order, are a few steps to help lower the frustration level. Again, a few of these helpful reminders may not apply to your particular vehicle because of the differences in the drivetrains from vehicle to vehicle.
Drain The Water OutsideI quickly learned that, no matter how hard you try not to, you are likely to spill a lot of fluids on the floor, which can make it extremely difficult to perform the other tasks when pulling an engine. One of the smartest things you can do is to push the car outside and just quickly undo the bottom hose of the radiator and drain as much of the water out of the radiator as possible. This will help keep the shop floor clean, dry, and safe.
If your car is already on jackstands, it's a good idea to get a big drain pan that can catch any fluids that will come out of your engine and transmission. If you choose not to drain the transmission grease, you can get a rear housing plug for the transmission, keeping all of the fluid in place.
Purchase An Engine StandNever, under any circumstance, should you rest the engine's weight on the oil pan. I learned this the hard way after I used an old tire carcass on the bed of a truck to support an engine. I only did this once after my engine builder showed me the oil pan and how badly it was bent. The engine stand is quite inexpensive when compared to the investment in your engine. An engine stand, like the one shown in the accompanying photos, ranges from $45 to $60. Why risk damaging the oil pan when you can use something this inexpensive?
If you decide to purchase a stand for the engine, go to your local hardware store and purchase a few casters. Then weld the casters to the bottom of the stand. Now you have a rolling engine stand that will be much easier to transport and to move around your shop.
Never Pull The Engine Out AloneIt is never a good idea to pull an engine out of the car by yourself. You need assistance, even if you simply have a friend there to make sure nothing goes wrong. There is nothing wrong with working on the engine alone as long as you have a safe working environment, but it's much safer to have someone there to help you. Also, the more people on hand to help, the quicker you can get the engine out.
Consider investing in a good cherry picker. Remember, this piece of equipment will be responsible for lifting your biggest investment in and out of the vehicle, so it's worth the investment.
Purchase A Carburetor HatBefore you start working on the engine, the first thing you should do is pull the air filter and cover the carburetor with some type of carburetor hat. This will prevent debris from entering the carburetor and ruining the engine once you get it back in the car. Once you have the hat on, pull the carburetor and store it in a clean place. Be careful not to drop anything in the exposed intake manifold before you put the plate over it. Just like the engine stand, a carburetor hat is inexpensive when compared to the cost of your engine.
Invest In A Set Of Line WrenchesI'm amazed at the number of teams still using regular wrenches and even crescent wrenches on oil-line and fuel-line fittings. They then often wonder why they have to replace so many fittings during a race season. Line wrenches are great because they are made specifically for the fittings and usually come with a smaller handle that's ideal for hard-to-reach places.
Also make sure that you have a box full of line caps to cap the fittings and prevent leakage that can create an unsafe working environment.
Have Some Duct Tape HandyDespite the jokes, duct tape is extremely useful when pulling an engine. You're able to tape wires together and keep them out of the way, tape up the heads once the headers have been pulled, and cover any other exposed areas that could allow debris to enter the engine.
Mark All Of Your Motor Mount PillsMost motor mounts have a pill in them that allows you to raise or lower the back of the engine. That way you don't have to worry about the exhaust dragging. Make sure that you mark which way the pill is facing and which way the pill needs to be placed in the mount to get your engine back to the correct height when you place it back in the car.
Also, it's a good practice to sit the car on the scales before pulling the engine. After the engine work is done and you put it back in the car, you can make sure that all of the weights are back where they should be. This will help ensure that the engine is back where it was before you pulled it out.
ConclusionPulling an engine is never fun. I'd venture to say it is something that we all dread because of the amount of work and time it takes to pull a motor and put it back in the car. It's usually something we want and need to do quickly, but remember that safety has to be a prime consideration. By following these steps, you can use your time more efficiently, protect your equipment, and pull the engine as quickly and safely as possible.