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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well the worst has possibly happened. After a very long time, I attempted to start the engine I built last night. I primed the oil pump with turning the engine over to 4 different spots, filled the carb bowls and fuel lines with gas, lined up the distributer, and it would not fire. I checked power to the distributer and it's good. Starter engages and spins the engine but no go. I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Darrin from Nitemare last night and he gave a bunch of good tips. After thinking on it overnight, the one thing I didn't recheck was that I was on the compression stroke still after priming the pump (I'll check on this over the weekend). I'm thinking I may have the wires off by 180 degrees. I actually hope this is the case since at least I'll know why it wouldn't start.

My concern now is that I cranked the engine over way more than I would have liked without it firing up. The total crank time by starter was probably around 1 minute or so, way less than 2 but I'm afraid I could have damaged the cam and lifters. I'm thinking that I should pull the intake and valley cover to see what I have in there. If there is damage, will it be obvious like clear score marks on the lobes? I was really trying to beat the New England weather and get this on the road, but now, I'd rather slow down and make sure I don't make a bad situation worse by running it damaged.

As you can imagine, this was extremely disappointing. I have been working on this almost every night after work for the past few weeks and the planning for this build happened well over a year ago. I am going to take a couple days off of it but will check the timing position on Sunday. It's supposed to rain then anyway.
 

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I am no expert but I do not think turning the engine over with the starter for this amount of time would "wipe out" you cam. You did use a breakin lube right?
 

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Well the worst has possibly happened. After a very long time, I attempted to start the engine I built last night. I primed the oil pump with turning the engine over to 4 different spots, filled the carb bowls and fuel lines with gas, lined up the distributer, and it would not fire. I checked power to the distributer and it's good. Starter engages and spins the engine but no go. I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Darrin from Nitemare last night and he gave a bunch of good tips. After thinking on it overnight, the one thing I didn't recheck was that I was on the compression stroke still after priming the pump (I'll check on this over the weekend). I'm thinking I may have the wires off by 180 degrees. I actually hope this is the case since at least I'll know why it wouldn't start.

My concern now is that I cranked the engine over way more than I would have liked without it firing up. The total crank time by starter was probably around 1 minute or so, way less than 2 but I'm afraid I could have damaged the cam and lifters. I'm thinking that I should pull the intake and valley cover to see what I have in there. If there is damage, will it be obvious like clear score marks on the lobes? I was really trying to beat the New England weather and get this on the road, but now, I'd rather slow down and make sure I don't make a bad situation worse by running it damaged.

As you can imagine, this was extremely disappointing. I have been working on this almost every night after work for the past few weeks and the planning for this build happened well over a year ago. I am going to take a couple days off of it but will check the timing position on Sunday. It's supposed to rain then anyway.
I think you are fine. I doubt you have damaged anything with what you describe. I literally had nightmares about the same thing as I approached my start up day. If you primed and have good assembly lube on the lobes, you are probably OK. I would certainly prime the oil pump again before another startup session. If it would make you feel better, you could open up the valley pan and coat the lobes again but probably not neccessary. Are you using a good break in oil with Zinc? If your cam instructions specify it, did you remove inner springs? All these things should make sure break in goes smoothly. I think your anxiety is getting the best of you but like I said above, I certainly understand because I've been there myself not too long ago.
 

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If you prelubed the cam with any remotely reputable grease or oil, then you could probably turn it over for 6 hours without any adverse effects. In fact, it would probably be a decent break in aid. OTOH, if the engine fired up and was running at 1000 RPMS without lube, then thats another story.

I recently discovered an odd distributor anomaly, and it cleared up a serious mystery for me
 

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When I bought my car, the dizzy was sloppy and the car was a mess, so I swapped in an HEI, as I have done for more than 30 years, and the car wouldnt start. Of course, all of my friends and the entire internet claimed that I had installed the dizzy out 180... I was well aware of this sondition and I knew that I had not, nevertheless, I appeased Earth by rotating the dizzy 180, and it still didn't start.

Two weeks later, after countless research on the web and dozens of lifeline calls to my buddies, I finally got it started... Was never really sure what happened.

Turn the clock ahead one year: Last month I pulled the dizzy to install the vacuum advance limiter and tweak my curve. Having my last dizzy nightmare fresh in my memory, I marked the Hell out of the dizzy, the rotor, and the cap, so that there'd be no mistakes. I pulled it, made my mods, and one hour later I went to reinstall it, and it wouldnt go in where it was supposed to. I was very confused, so I assumed that I had marked it wrong.

I reinstalled it and NO START! So I took a screw driver and turned the oil pump so that the distributor would fit in as I marked it, and it started right up!

What had happened is that somehow my oil pump rotated by itself when the dizzy was removed. I assume that the pump can hold pressure, and once the dizzy is pulled, it can release itself and rotate? Regardless, it has now done it twice!

Set your engine at TDC on the compression stroke. Install the dizzy without a cap and note where the rotor is pointing. Make that your number one plug and then install the rest in the proper order, counter clockwise.

IF the number one doesnt fall where you want it to, then turn the oil pump by hand until number one falls where you prefer. You can put it anywhere!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the input guys. This makes me feel better about this. There seems to be a bit of debate about what install lube to use on a new cam. After consulting with the manufacturer, I used the lube that came with the cam when I built the engine. While it was a liquid, it was super thick and seamed to stay in place when applied. Since the engine sat for a while after I did the valve train, I bought more and had applied right before installing the valley pan, say 2 weeks ago. Same goes for the break in oil. I'm using a Comp cam s I went with their oil. I figure that's what they would be using in house for any development they do (one would think anyway). The inner valve springs are off.

I ran into the same trouble reinstalling the distributer after I primed the pump. The pump rod has to be just so or it does not drop in. This was all easier when the engine was on the stand.

I'm going to check if I have the wires in the wrong place before I do anything else. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning in that direction.
 

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So you need to break it in without the inner springs? So this means you need to pull the heads after break in? Wow that is a PITA Or is there a way to put the inners in without pulling the heads?
 

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Don't freak out just yet. Just take your time. Make sure #1 (front, driver side) is at tdc compression and not tdc exhaust. Remember that Pontiac distributor rotors turn counter clockwise - wherever the rotor is pointing is #1. Firing order: 18436572 (unless you're running a 4-7 swap cam). Driver side, front to back 1-3-5-7, passenger side 2-4-6-8.

Bear
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks to everyone on this. The more I think about it, the more I think I am on the exhaust stroke. I have a busy couple day with other things so I am going to shelf the car until Sunday. That's the first thing I'm going to check before I do anything else. I double checked that I had the wires correct several times so I know they are in the correct order but maybe in the wrong spots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So you need to break it in without the inner springs? So this means you need to pull the heads after break in? Wow that is a PITA Or is there a way to put the inners in without pulling the heads?
You can do it with the heads on the car using compressed air and a spring tool that screws onto the rocker stud. It's still a PIA.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Don't freak out just yet. Just take your time. Make sure #1 (front, driver side) is at tdc compression and not tdc exhaust. Remember that Pontiac distributor rotors turn counter clockwise - wherever the rotor is pointing is #1. Firing order: 18436572 (unless you're running a 4-7 swap cam). Driver side, front to back 1-3-5-7, passenger side 2-4-6-8.

Bear
Thanks Bear. Your thoughts on either pulling the intake or just check and the fix timing issue and re-prime oil pump?
 

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Thanks Bear. Your thoughts on either pulling the intake or just check and the fix timing issue and re-prime oil pump?
Simple - Pull the No. 1 spark plug. (Pull the power wire + from the coil so no accidental firing up). Pull a valve cover on the drivers side, watch to see that both valves/rocker arms on No. 1 are in the closed position, and then bring the timing mark on the balancer to spec - 9 degrees-ish BTDC. You should be able to shine a light into the spark plug hole and see the top of the piston. If not, gently insert a screwdriver and you should be able to feel the top of the piston.

Some will simply pull the No 1 spark plug and put a thumb over the hole and as the timing mark on the balancer comes around, the compression will blow your thumb from off the hole and then at that point get the balancer mark lined up. Compression has to build before the cylinder can fire - so that means both valves are closed/rocker arms should have no tension on the pushrods and you should be able to spin them with your fingers.

Watch your rockers - Intake opens/piston goes down. Piston comes up and Intake closes. With both valve closed, Compression/firing take place at TDC. At TDC, piston goes down as this is the power stroke. At BDC, with the piston coming up, the exhaust valve will open pushing spent gases out. Just as it nears TDC again, the exhaust valve will be almost closed and the Intake valve will begin to just open (called Overlap) and take in a fresh air/fuel charge to start the process all over again.

So at the point where the Intake/Exhaust are completely closed, that is TDC, and when you want the distributor to fire. Where the Exhaust is almost closed/Intake just barely opening, that is the Overlap period, BUT also at TDC. You don't want the distributor to fire on this TDC point.

Be ready with the timing gun. I often find that when you do line up the balancer mark, the engine may still be off.

Run the engine 2,000- 2,200 RPM's as the purpose of that is to keep splash oil whipping around onto the cam lobes. Run it about 20 minutes if no issues/leaks. Let it cool, repeat after the engine has cooled back down to its room temp. My machinist says he likes to do 3 heat cycles of 20 minutes each - allowing the engine to cool back down.

You really should have the valve covers off to watch the pushrods rotate - I use stamped rocker arms and the rocker arm clips sold by Summit so the oil doesn't fly all over the place nor catch fire. Some cut an elongated hole in junk valve covers to do the same thing, but I think this wouldmcover up the pushrod, but works for rocker arm/valve adjustments. Put a dab of white paint near the top/side of the pushrod so you can see it. As the pushrod spins, it will be much easier to see the dab of paint. Sometimes it is hard to see them spinning without it. If you see a pushrod not spinning, it could be too tight and harm the lifter/lobe. You can first try to give it a spin to get it going with your fingers - sometimes that is all it needs. If not, then you will want to back off the rocker arm nut just enough to get that pushrod spinning. If the pushrod is not spinning, then the lifter is not spinning on the cam's lobe and that's where you could do some lobe/lifter damage during break-in. So just be mindful of that.

Hope that makes sense.
 

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I did the three 20 min runs as Jim described, because I thought it was heating up. Also broke it in with both springs, but the choice is yours. Maybe others will chime in on whether they used one spring or not on breakin. Enquiring minds want to know.
 

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I had nightmares, really, so I removed inner springs. I also got so worried that I did break in without the valve covers on so I could make sure the pushrods were turning. Guess what happened. oil sprayed everywhere and started a small fired on my exhaust manifold. I learned later about some clips that help avoid the oil splash. But anyhow, it ultimately turned out fine. Follow the good advice on this thread and you should have a good break in process. If I had to do it again, I would still remove inner springs for break in but keep valve covers on or use the clips.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
This all helps a bunch. I'm using roller rockers so the clips may not work for me. I'll try the cut an old set of valve cover trick ands see if it works. I have the ones that were on the car before and have no plan to use them again anyway. I was trying to do this after work which was a mistake in the first place. Next attempt will be on the weekend when both my adult sons are home to help with this. May be next week at this point. Today is busy and the rest of the weekend looks to be a wash here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hopefully this is the last question. Darrin recommended adding a line onto the damper 2.1 inches clockwise from the zero mark to use to time with when performing the break in so that it can be done at 2000 RPM. This is to correct for the RPM and the mechanical advance. I'm throwing this out there to make sure I understood correctly.
 

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Hopefully this is the last question. Darrin recommended adding a line onto the damper 2.1 inches clockwise from the zero mark to use to time with when performing the break in so that it can be done at 2000 RPM. This is to correct for the RPM and the mechanical advance. I'm throwing this out there to make sure I understood correctly.

How dare you question Darrin. I would think that that may be correct since he is correcting for the advance. Never did it, just set the engine timing at rest and fired it up. Probably a lot more accurate his way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
How dare you question Darrin. I would think that that may be correct since he is correcting for the advance. Never did it, just set the engine timing at rest and fired it up. Probably a lot more accurate his way.
Was not questioning Darrin. He has been extremely helpful when I've reached out to him. I was checking that my novice mind grasped what he was saying. Using everything I've gathered. I plan on setting the timing before I crank it as you described and add the mark to the balancer and check it once started using Darrin's technique.

I'll be checking the way I have the wires later today. I'll be surprised if it is anything other than a last minute sloppy mistake on my part. One good thing to come of this is I knew in advance that the wiring under the dash was a mess. I was originally going to deal with this when the engine was out but held off. I didn't want to throw new wiring into the mix if I had an issue getting the car to start up. I figured I'd do the wiring after the car was stored for the winter since there is so little under the hood that the engine being in there won't really affect the ease of the job. This ends up being slightly ironic. Even though I didn't touch anything under there, when I was hooking everything up I tested power to the distributer and it was dead. Whoever installed the HEI that was on the old engine used a wire that was spliced into at least 2 other times. They were using it to power an aftermarket radio and one of the connections came loose. Before I try to start it again, I'm going to replace that with the correct gauge before I try and start it again.

I'm still optimistic that I can get this started up, broken in, and maybe be able to put a few miles on it before winter. If it's like last year, that won't happen. We had our first snow here before Halloween last year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm not sure if you call this a win or not. I had the wires installed 180 deg off. It's probably a good thing this happened the way it did. I have a better handle on how to go about this a better way than I was before. Hopefully I can get this ready to go today while everyone is home. I may need all the help I can get.

This delay also uncovered a couple other issues I had going on under there (wiring is pretty rough). I already fixed the distributer feed wire but really need to replace all of it before too much longer.

Thanks again guys for all the help with this. I've learned a lot doing this project. I'll admit, this one may be scratching the end of my talents.
 

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This all helps a bunch. I'm using roller rockers so the clips may not work for me. I'll try the cut an old set of valve cover trick ands see if it works. I have the ones that were on the car before and have no plan to use them again anyway. I was trying to do this after work which was a mistake in the first place. Next attempt will be on the weekend when both my adult sons are home to help with this. May be next week at this point. Today is busy and the rest of the weekend looks
Definetly take your time
, double check oil etc. By the way you are using break in oil? If you want to be absolutley sure where your tdc is...use a piston stop. There are youtube videosto help. Not really neccesary to start it but when you do your total timing it will be more accurate. Then check to make sure you got spark at the end of your spark plug wire and have fuel in the carb. Spark, fuel & timing = 🚀
 
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