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Tour of an Engine Rebuild Shop

Part 4: Heads, Valve Trains and Gaskets

By Jeremy Wilson

In this part of the Tour of an Engine Rebuild Shop series, Ted King describes how Portland Engine Rebuilders rebuilds heads and the manufacturers they choose for gaskets.

“In the head department, we do surfacing and then install new valve seats and new bronze valve guides. We grind the valves, but not the seats. Instead, we use a cutting machine that gives them a perfect three-angle cut. Next we install the valves with new springs and shim them for proper spring pressure.”

If you have an antique or classic automobile, you may need to upgrade the valve seats.

“We commonly put in hard, valve-seat inserts in engines made before 1974, as they are not compatible with modern, unleaded fuel,” said Ted.

As a rule, Portland Engine Rebuilders does all of their own work with the exception of cam grinding.

“As far as the cams, we buy them new or we can have Oregon Cam Grinding regrind them,” said Ted. “They have an excellent record. That’s the only work we subcontract.”

Before an engine leaves the shop the valve train is put through a series of quality tests.

“During our quality control test we’ll spin test the engine and Bob Fairchild will adjust every valve and verify that the camshaft timing is correct.”

PER’s quality tests also include checking the hydraulic lifters to ensure that:

  • The lifter plungers are adjusted properly
  • The lifter is filled with oil and has been purged of all air
  • The lifters are rotating (if the lifters do not rotate the cam lobes will go flat)
  • The rocker arms are oiling properly

After putting a lot of time and money into an engine rebuild, you’ll want to be sure your rebuilder uses a quality gasket set.

“It used to be that Fel-Pro was the big name gasket maker, but since Federal Mogul bought them out, the quality has gone way, way down,” said Ted. “Many customers request Enginetech gaskets. They’re a company that makes the most common engine gasket sets. It depends on how rare the engine is.

If it was a Packard or something like that, we’d get that through BestGasket, which is a company in California that is making antique gasket sets. That’s another strength of our computer system. With our inventory control and purchasing records, we can tell you what we used in every engine and we can look at the last couple of engines in our history and know where we got the parts last time. If there’s ever a problem, we can flag that as a “do not put it on” or ‘do not buy’ product.”

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