Engine Restoration


| January/February 1987



 Rt. #4, Box 268, Lillington, N.C. 27546

When beginning an engine restoration, the first thing I do is replace any missing parts and repair any that are broken. It is better to do this kind of work early than to try and do it after you've done the other things like painting, etc. I also try to make sure the engine runs about like I want it to.

It seems that everybody has their own remedy for freeing stuck pistons, and other parts that are rusted together. Here's one the readers might want to try, and that's soaking for three or four days in apple cider vinegar (brown variety). Vinegar is slightly acidic and will dissolve rust that has formed in between the piston and cylinder wall and since it is thinner than oil, it penetrates as well as most penetrating oils. Works good on pot metal fuel pumps like those on some of the I.H.C. engines, too.

Next, I completely disassemble the engine. This is so I can get to all the rust and dirt that can hide in the small parts in any little crack or corner. The major parts like flywheels, crank, head, etc. are put aside for later. Small parts like throttle and governor linkage, mixer, oiler, etc. are put into a bucket or box so they don't get lost.

Bearings are marked with a scratch awl so they can eventually be put back in their original location. Bearings and shims are tied up with wire or string the same way they sat in the engine so they can easily be reassembled. All this seems like an awful lot of work, but I've found that it's about the only way to get a really nice looking restoration.

Now that the engine has been taken completely apart, it all has to be cleaned up. I start with the larger pieces first, such as the main frame, fly wheels and head. For this I use an angle grinder with a wire cup brush. With this outfit you can take off heavy rust, grease, paint and almost anything else. Unlike sandblasting, which seems to open up any surface pitting, the wire brush seems to have a smoothing effect on cast iron. If you want to go a step further, a flexible abrasive disc on the same grinder can really smooth out those old rough castings, but if you intend to use some type of filler material, you may find that you don't need to do a lot of actual grinding on your engine. One important point to remember during all this is that the finished paint job will turn out no better than what is underneath it. For small parts and for those areas that can't be reached with an angle grinder and wire brush, you'll have to resort to sanding by hand or cleaning with a hand held wire brush.