Operation IDIocracy: The Rebuildening, Part II

Picking up where I left off somewhere after Motorama 2022, I was in the process of “Reinstall the new everything” on my way towards reassembling the IDI while trying to figure out what to do with the valve guides in each cylinder head.

What I found was seemingly a dearth of local automotive machine shops willing to rebuild those heads from age or lack of parts, or both. I managed to find one local place that was quoting me over $1000 per head for a rebuild. I kind of suspect that was a “fuck off” price, but hey, it is what it is.

The problem, as I touched on previously, was that the valve guides are just machined into the head and weren’t a separate piece (like I thought they all were), so that area would need to be very precisely drilled out and one of those separate pieces installed. They were otherwise far too sloppy for me to want to just re-use the heads.

Anyways, while I considered taking up the offer or trying to find remanufactured heads online, I kept on disassembling.

With symptoms of low oil pressure present, I wanted to take the piston pins out to see if that bore is damaged as well (which would necessitate new connecting rods, which would result in me just buying the Tesla motor).

To do this, I drilled a large hole in the crappy folding table I bought on Craigslist specifically for the head work and simply located a cardboard box under it. Two retaining rings and a gentle punch with an aluminum rod later, and I got all the connecting rods out.

The pistons were given their own “days long degreaser medley” bath to dissolve off all of the diesel crust.

Not too bad at the end, I’d say. Just a bit of wire brushing and Scotch Brite remaining.

I noticed that all of the pistons looked just a little melty at the area where the indirect combustion chamber opening would spray onto into the cylinder. This indicates some degree of piston overheating had occurred in the past, such as from long periods at high load, maybe while the low oil pressure meant the piston-cooling oil jets weren’t jetting very much.

Snekvan always had a pyrometer (exhaust temperature gauge) which I kept a fairly conservative eye on, so I’m hard pressed to believe I caused this. But who knows!? The pressing issue is that this high-surface area, lower-cross sectional area part of the piston will heat faster and be subject to more local deformation if I let it slide. In other words, the uneven bubbly surface will catch more heat transfer from the hot combustion gas, making everything worse locally.

New pistons are rare and expensive, so all I did was machine the area down a little. I found that only about 0.5mm was sufficient to scrape all the foamy aluminum off. I did this with a ball endmill to avoid creating a sharp square edge.

Even on the pistons that didn’t feature so much surface damage, I did the same operation to preserve an even compression ratio.

Hey, lower compression ratios are recommended for forced induction… right?

With pistons prepared, it was time for new rings. I thought parts for this thing would be cheap, but man is this coming up to a $2000 “rebuild” quickly.

I guess gasoline parts are far cheaper (what I’m used to for Vantruck with the 460 big block) and old diesel is a little bit specialty now.

These are substantially bigger rings than I’m used to seeing for sure. One upgrade path some people do seems to be modifying the first generation Powerstroke (1994-1997 year) pistons, which feature thicker piston rings for more b00st brah, but fit in the same bore. There was also a rare 1994-only factory turbocharged IDI from Ford, parts of which are found in the same store that sells unicorn horns. At least, I could only find oversize ones for bored-out rebuilt engines. If I found on-size ones, I might have sprung for those.

But otherwise, I’m not neckbeardy enough to chase down the more extensive mods – if I shoot these rings out of the bottom of the engine… well, it had a good run.

Starting the reassembly path for rotating parts by forgetting which piston went with which pin and which bearing cap. Fortunately, it turns out the bearing ends of each connecting rod are labeled.

I didn’t have any special “assembly lube”, but I did have a squirt bottle of machine way lube, which I’m led to believe will do the same task – be somewhat sticky and hang on for dear life for the first few seconds as all the oil passages prime. All of the parts got a dab as I put them back together.

After popping in new bearing halves, the pistons are ready for reinstallation.

I ordered a Dingleberry Hone for the cylinder bores. The proper thing to do here would have been to send the block to a shop to have these bores properly refinished. You can see a little bit of ‘lip’ at the cylinder head surfaces, and the honing somehow made it look visually worse. I decided it wasn’t significant enough to do anything but park the Dingleberry Hone over there longer, and definitely not worth another almost thousand dollars for the places I called to do it, plus the labor of hoisting this stupid block into Spool Bus and delivering it.

In retrospect, the proper proper thing to do was to hand the whole engine to said shop and pick it up 2-4 weeks later. If I were to do this again (which I would never), it would be a handoff affair. I touched on this a long time ago when pulling Mikuvan’s cylinder head off, but I’m not someone who enjoys doing these things in a state of zen (or as I put it, polishing the same motorcycle). Any actual automotive nut will see how many shortcuts and liberties I’m taking because I want it together faster or the cost of some service was far higher than I was told should be the case.

After all, it’s not like I have dozens of recorded instances on this very website where I took shortcuts or easier-looking alternative paths that bit me in the ass a short time later right?

Honestly, I kind of envy the people who just Know A Buddy With A Engine Shop who seem to be able to get these services for much cheaper than anybody I could scare up around here. Conversely, I suppose I have contacts and networks for getting practically anything else designed, built, and fully-sent.

After I put the all new bearing halves in the block, the holy god this is humongous why crankshaft is back in. I suppose it could be worse, like I could need a shipyard crane.

Main bearing caps go back on now, and the crank is free to spin! At this stage, if I were going absolutely wild, I could install a Block Grundle which apparently prevents the block from exploding in half if you’re pushing something like 500 horsepower through it. Which I’m not.

When I was doing Spool Bus’ fuel system a while back, I bought a bunch of these Unnecessarily Shiny Fuel Pump Covers. I figured it was time to bust another one out. Vantruck is going directly to an electric pump system not unlike what I put together for Spool Bus (which is not unlike what people do on The Internet)

It’s piston installation time! I picked up a Piston Ring Installerator (one of thousands of stupid one-use tools that go into every automotive product) and put some little rubber caps over the connecting rod studs. These ensure that the unhardened crankshaft bearing journals don’t get dinged up when you cram the piston in.

As someone who generally deals with bearing journals being hardened and ground (like machine spindles and the like), the idea that you’d just shiny up a soft iron surface and then leave it alone!? is preposterous.

Whatever, it’s worked for a hundred years.

Well, one of them’s in. Might as well do the rest.

After the pistons are tightened down, I reinstalled the oil pickup along with a new oil pump. Hey, I can actually feel the pressure pulses from this new one! The old oil pump I could blow air through pretty easily with my face. I figure it’s not supposed to be that way

Turning the block upright now, new Valve Pusher Roller Thingies go in, along with their holders.

At this point, I’ve kind of run out of things to do with the engine. The pushrods can’t go in until I have heads, and I’m not closing the oil pan up until I close all the top side up (to prevent…. accidents).

I decided to turn my attention to salvaging parts off the rest of Snekvan before sending the husk off to be turned into future Harbor Freight products; at this point it was getting close to May, I’ve had a shitty van laid up in the driveway for 4 months, and I was beginning to feel like That Neighbor. Thank Robot Jesus for a non-HOA subdivision, but I like to pretend I have some honor left.

Ford, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put rivets and bolts on the same damn bracket. Maybe it made the assembly line run faster or something, but it meant I couldn’t just unbolt the engine crossmember brackets. I had to get through some 1/2″ diameter hot-set rivets first.

To do so, I made a drilling jig which had a countersink to axially align with the rivet, and a center hole that I could run a 3/8″ drill bit through. The drill bit made a center (ish) mark I could then follow up with stepped increases (1/4″, 5/16″, and so on) until the rivet broke through.

Some times the head was still off center enough that I don’t fully separate the rivet. For this event, I had my 4 pound Engineer’s Hammer™ and a cold chisel.

These plates are each held on by three nuts and bolts on the top face and two rivets on the aft side of the engine crossmember. What? Anyways, this was a short evening’s work. There will be more on the Dissection of Snekvan later.

The engine adapter brackets are freed up. Vantruck’s 460 mounts look a lot different, so in time, I will need to drill new holes for these.

I took an operational pause to really think about the cylinder heads. I cleaned all the pollen (IYKYK) off the block, hosed everything down in WD-40, and then pallet wrapped it all for the time being.