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Old 11-09-2018, 01:37 AM   #1
apbright
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Default Engine [Near] Death

Yesterday I was happily 65mph freeway motoring in my '31 S/W Town Sedan on a California sunny early-November day, taking in the rewarding purr of that Ford engine. Then, of course, a sudden change in sound, a slight loss in power, and a growing knocking sound. Initial thoughts were of a choke left open. But then the air was permeated by that dreaded burning-oil smell, followed by a yet-more dreaded louder knocking sound. Fearing something awful, I killed the ignition, depressed the clutch, and pulled over to the shoulder.

There, I opened the right engine hood to discover an oil return tube dutifully returning oil.... to the ground. Opening the left engine hood, I checked the engine oil level, to discover it has leveled off to zero. With two decades of engineering experience as a guide, I then took the next logical troubleshooting step: I called my priest and asked him to administer my engine's last rites over the phone (his response was I should consider spending more time with my family). The day ends with a long drive home in the cab of a AAA flatbed, consoling myself by listening to the young truck driver's nice stories of rebuilding his dad's '69 Camaro, the one he was driven home in from hospital after his birth.

That night, assuming my engine was a fused monad of metallurgy, on a lark, I checked to see whether it would turn over. Much to my surprise, it did. I pulled the spark plugs, squirted oil into each cylinder, added 4 quarts to the crankcase, and turned over the engine several times to mix fresh oil with my previously-remaining carbon-deposit lubricant. Pulling the dipstick, I see, indeed, an odd mix of carbon-deposit and fresh oil. I let this sit overnight.

Today, I drained the remaining fresh-oil/carbon-deposit mixture, and replaced it with more fresh oil, a new oil filter, and turned it over a few times with plugs out. Then, plugs back in, ignition on, rub rabbits foot, prayer to Patron Saint of Automotive Numbskulls.... hit starter... and, well, yes, it started right up. It blew smoke for a while (presumably burning off the oil I poured into the cylinders), and... then ran just fine. No remaining knock detectable.

I'm sure I divided by two (or more) any remaining crank bearing life. And, on my drive to work tomorrow, I still half-expect the entire block to split right down the middle and crankshaft to drop to the ground. But, given that molten lava was my expected result, I, for now, am most surprised and feel blessed. I'll take it for an early Thanksgiving.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving to all,

Andrew
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Old 11-09-2018, 04:59 AM   #2
Synchro909
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Confirmation that these are very forgiving cars. I wish my wife were the same!
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Old 11-09-2018, 05:29 AM   #3
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Quote:
Originally Posted by apbright View Post
Yesterday I was happily 65mph freeway motoring in my '31 S/W Town Sedan on a California sunny early-November day, taking in the rewarding purr of that Ford engine. Then, of course, a sudden change in sound, a slight loss in power, and a growing knocking sound. Initial thoughts were of a choke left open. But then the air was permeated by that dreaded burning-oil smell, followed by a yet-more dreaded louder knocking sound. Fearing something awful, I killed the ignition, depressed the clutch, and pulled over to the shoulder.

There, I opened the right engine hood to discover an oil return tube dutifully returning oil.... to the ground. Opening the left engine hood, I checked the engine oil level, to discover it has leveled off to zero. With two decades of engineering experience as a guide, I then took the next logical troubleshooting step: I called my priest and asked him to administer my engine's last rites over the phone (his response was I should consider spending more time with my family). The day ends with a long drive home in the cab of a AAA flatbed, consoling myself by listening to the young truck driver's nice stories of rebuilding his dad's '69 Camaro, the one he was driven home in from hospital after his birth.

That night, assuming my engine was a fused monad of metallurgy, on a lark, I checked to see whether it would turn over. Much to my surprise, it did. I pulled the spark plugs, squirted oil into each cylinder, added 4 quarts to the crankcase, and turned over the engine several times to mix fresh oil with my previously-remaining carbon-deposit lubricant. Pulling the dipstick, I see, indeed, an odd mix of carbon-deposit and fresh oil. I let this sit overnight.

Today, I drained the remaining fresh-oil/carbon-deposit mixture, and replaced it with more fresh oil, a new oil filter, and turned it over a few times with plugs out. Then, plugs back in, ignition on, rub rabbits foot, prayer to Patron Saint of Automotive Numbskulls.... hit starter... and, well, yes, it started right up. It blew smoke for a while (presumably burning off the oil I poured into the cylinders), and... then ran just fine. No remaining knock detectable.

I'm sure I divided by two (or more) any remaining crank bearing life. And, on my drive to work tomorrow, I still half-expect the entire block to split right down the middle and crankshaft to drop to the ground. But, given that molten lava was my expected result, I, for now, am most surprised and feel blessed. I'll take it for an early Thanksgiving.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving to all,

Andrew
I await your next post with great interest!!
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Old 11-09-2018, 05:41 AM   #4
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Now, let's all make sure our oil return pipe is tight.
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Old 11-09-2018, 05:44 AM   #5
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

I'm pretty sure this is a babbitt engine and not an inserted engine. Correct??

If you heard knocking, then you heard an excessive clearance noise. Before doing anything else, drop the pan and clearance all 7 bearings. Inspect the cylinder walls looking for galling, but it is likely you will be ok after re-clearancing the bottom-end. If you had inserts, .....
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Old 11-09-2018, 06:03 AM   #6
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

I had my oil return pipe come loose right when i first got my coupe. I was lucky it was only a couple blocks from my return to my home, trail of oil out the drive and down the street. Previous owner mechanic was afraid to tighten bolts i think. Ive checked several times and they havent come loose,this reminds me to check again.
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Old 11-09-2018, 09:00 AM   #7
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Go easy tightening the oil return pipe because you can do some damage to the valve cover and block.
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:41 PM   #8
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Do you have overdrive or different rear end gears?
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Old 11-09-2018, 12:47 PM   #9
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Quote:
Originally Posted by apbright View Post
The day ends with a long drive home in the cab of a AAA flatbed...
I wonder if "back in the day" if AAA used AA trucks to tow As?

Good luck with the rest of the story. I hope you caught it in time.
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Old 11-10-2018, 02:22 AM   #10
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Thanks all for your kind words and support!

@Flathead: This car has a 26% Mitchell Overdrive and a 3.54:1 ratio rear end. I find that really kind of a requirement for daily driving on urban California roads and freeways.

@Bob B.: Nice drawing! Agree that 'just more torque' on the bolt holding on the return pipe isn't the answer - it always feels delicate to me. I will replace the gasket tomorrow.

@B. Terry: This engine has insert bearings, so maybe I will indeed shortly be in deep doo-doo. No knocking was heard today on my 7-mile each-way trip to work today. No doubt the right thing to do would be to re-inspect all bearings, maybe remove a shim per plastigauge result. However, this engine wasn't long for this car as it was - it never ran right - poor idle (missed below 700 rpm), I think some kind of imbalance, and a clutch that chatters like a 14 year old boy on a first date. This car's original engine is out being worked on, and will be back in four weeks or so, at which point I had already planned on a swap-out. For now, I'm limping to work and back on the remains of these bearings.
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Old 11-10-2018, 06:54 AM   #11
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Quote:
Originally Posted by apbright View Post
Yesterday I was happily 65mph freeway motoring in my '31 S/W Town Sedan on a California sunny early-November day, taking in the rewarding purr of that Ford engine. Then, of course, a sudden change in sound, a slight loss in power, and a growing knocking sound. Initial thoughts were of a choke left open. But then the air was permeated by that dreaded burning-oil smell, followed by a yet-more dreaded louder knocking sound. Fearing something awful, I killed the ignition, depressed the clutch, and pulled over to the shoulder.

There, I opened the right engine hood to discover an oil return tube dutifully returning oil.... to the ground. Opening the left engine hood, I checked the engine oil level, to discover it has leveled off to zero. With two decades of engineering experience as a guide, I then took the next logical troubleshooting step: I called my priest and asked him to administer my engine's last rites over the phone (his response was I should consider spending more time with my family). The day ends with a long drive home in the cab of a AAA flatbed, consoling myself by listening to the young truck driver's nice stories of rebuilding his dad's '69 Camaro, the one he was driven home in from hospital after his birth.

That night, assuming my engine was a fused monad of metallurgy, on a lark, I checked to see whether it would turn over. Much to my surprise, it did. I pulled the spark plugs, squirted oil into each cylinder, added 4 quarts to the crankcase, and turned over the engine several times to mix fresh oil with my previously-remaining carbon-deposit lubricant. Pulling the dipstick, I see, indeed, an odd mix of carbon-deposit and fresh oil. I let this sit overnight.

Today, I drained the remaining fresh-oil/carbon-deposit mixture, and replaced it with more fresh oil, a new oil filter, and turned it over a few times with plugs out. Then, plugs back in, ignition on, rub rabbits foot, prayer to Patron Saint of Automotive Numbskulls.... hit starter... and, well, yes, it started right up. It blew smoke for a while (presumably burning off the oil I poured into the cylinders), and... then ran just fine. No remaining knock detectable.

I'm sure I divided by two (or more) any remaining crank bearing life. And, on my drive to work tomorrow, I still half-expect the entire block to split right down the middle and crankshaft to drop to the ground. But, given that molten lava was my expected result, I, for now, am most surprised and feel blessed. I'll take it for an early Thanksgiving.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving to all,

Andrew
I so look forward to hearing the rest of the story.
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Old 11-10-2018, 09:33 AM   #12
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Quote:
this engine wasn't long for this car as it was - it never ran right - poor idle (missed below 700 rpm)
FWIW, I had a Model T w/a "rebuilt" engine that wouldn't idle worth a darn. Turned out the camshaft was badly worn, replaced camshaft w/a reground one and it ran and idled fine after that.
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Old 11-10-2018, 10:58 AM   #13
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Inserts are not forgiving at all.Once that few thousandths of babbitt is damaged it is steel-to steel on the crank.you said you have inserts,but then I see you mention shims.I didn't know you could use shims with inserts.Although,the Allis-Chalmers WD 45 uses inserts,and the center main has shims.Never quite understood that one.
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Old 11-10-2018, 12:02 PM   #14
Ernie Vitucci
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Default Re: Engine [Near] Death

Good Morning...If the engine is now running quietly, change the oil once again with a strainer under the oil pan. If no odd parts come out...just oil, then leave it alone and drive it. Sometimes, these engines will cure themselves...look at the engine paint...if the paint did not show evidence of great heat...look at the head gasket...if it is not leaking...then I believe it is going to be all right. If the engine was rebuilt, it might have a 'hot' cam in it to give it better top end performance and in that case it will not idle like a stock engine...but will run smooth under load. I think you must pray to the right God, which ever one you use! Ernie in Arizona
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Old 11-10-2018, 05:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apbright View Post
Thanks all for your kind words and support!

@Flathead: This car has a 26% Mitchell Overdrive and a 3.54:1 ratio rear end. I find that really kind of a requirement for daily driving on urban California roads and freeways.

@Bob B.: Nice drawing! Agree that 'just more torque' on the bolt holding on the return pipe isn't the answer - it always feels delicate to me. I will replace the gasket tomorrow.

@B. Terry: This engine has insert bearings, so maybe I will indeed shortly be in deep doo-doo. No knocking was heard today on my 7-mile each-way trip to work today. No doubt the right thing to do would be to re-inspect all bearings, maybe remove a shim per plastigauge result. However, this engine wasn't long for this car as it was - it never ran right - poor idle (missed below 700 rpm), I think some kind of imbalance, and a clutch that chatters like a 14 year old boy on a first date. This car's original engine is out being worked on, and will be back in four weeks or so, at which point I had already planned on a swap-out. For now, I'm limping to work and back on the remains of these bearings.

Good to hear on the 3.54's and Mitchell, I was uneasy thinking of you cruising at 65 with the stock set-up.
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