Pending Restart

It’s been awhile since I posted anything, let alone something about the Subie. I think it’s about time I kick it in the butt and get it done.

Yesterday while I was prepping the barbeque for some boneless ribs, I decided I’d try something with the Subaru. I wanted to know if it was going to run if I grounded the fuel pump. For the uninitiated, the way Subaru runs things through the ECU is it runs grounds out to many of the parts so it will work. The ECU activates the ground to get it to work. In this case, the ground goes out to the fuel pump. What I did is just directly connect the wire to ground so it runs all the time. I originally thought I was going to have to connect it through a relay, but I had an epiphany yesterday. The key-on does this automatically for me by providing power. When the key is off, the pump won’t run because it doesn’t have any power going to it. So, I grounded the pump, turned the key to the on position, fuel pump kicked on, turned it over to start and it fired right up.

I wasn’t sure if it was going to run this way if I tried to rev it up. I had tried to do this before when the ECU was running the fuel pump. This time it did. While I was able to rev it up a little bit, it was running on four or maybe five of the six cylinders. I decided I would change out the plugs and see if it helps any. This morning I went down to AutoZone and picked up some NGK 7092 plugs for it and installed them. While it is running a bit better, I’m not sure it helped the dead cylinders much. I need to get the exhaust done on it to see if the back pressure helps any. When you rev the engine up and drop the throttle back to zero, it sometimes backfires. I don’t really like that much at all. We’ll have to see where this leads us and what I’ll have to do to get it running like it should be.

Something I’d done a couple of weeks ago was create O2 extensions. This makes it easier to route the wiring so it doesn’t rub up against the axle shaft and create issues. The O2 wiring is just long enough without the extensions, but adding another 10″ or so to them makes it a lot easier to deal with.

The other thing I checked today was while I had it running, I put the DMM to the alternator to discover it isn’t putting out any juice to the battery. Looking further at the wiring, I’m not seeing as how the alternator is attached to the battery at all. I believe the output wire on the Alternator should be going directly to the battery, but there’s nothing there which I can see. I think I’ll re-run the main power lead coming off of the alternator and see if it then is charging the battery.

Previously I had welded a bracket up which mounted the VW reservoir ball and the charcoal canister.

While working on the spark plugs, I removed the canister to get some more room. The way I designed it was to just create a “V” out of two pieces of flat metal and welded them at the correct angle so as to capture the canister through an interference fit.

This worked out pretty well, but the two nipples for the vacuum lines pointed the wrong way. After I had pulled it off, I decided I was going to mount it on the back side of the “V”, thus effectively turning the canister around so the nipples would be facing towards the engine and not away.

This makes the routing of the vacuum lines that much easier. I had to unbolt the horn from its happy home in order to do it, but the canister now sits happily in its new location. I’ll have to make a small spacer in order to mount the horn, but it shouldn’t be an issue.

I hope this entry finds you well. I’m hoping you all found it at least readable and maybe a little interesting. If not, I’ll try harder next time.

Until next time … Be Well.

Exhausting Work

My son has a Silverado which is a year older than mine (his: 2005). My Daughter-in-Law drove it up here with the kids to VA to stay with us for a few days. While she’s here, we decided the truck needed a new exhaust system installed. The old one was SHOT!!! Here’s what the old muffler looked like on the truck:

This image shows the bottom of the Flowmaster muffler blown out the bottom. It really doesn’t show all of the damage, though. Most of the hangers were rusted through at the weld on the pipe and had torn free. My son has fixed it temporarily (the hangers, not the hole) by just wiring the stuff up. At least it wasn’t banging around anymore, but it did nothing for the noise.

I went onto eBay and ordered what looked like what we wanted. I ordered a kit which included aluminized, mandrel bent pipe, a Flowmaster Super 44 muffler, hangers, clamps, and stainless steel tips. The company is called Performance Curve. For the money, I’d highly recommend you give this company a go because their description was spot on, the fit was good, and the sound it produces has a nice rumble (that last bit belongs to the Flowmaster, not the company which sells it :o). Here’s what the kit looks like as Performance Curve posts it on eBay:

It comes just as shown. The shipping happened really fast. It came to me in one day, but since the company is only about a 1/2 a state away (they reside in Roanoke, which is just the other side of VA from me), it’s no wonder why it came as fast as it did. It was boxed well with no worries or irritations.

Getting the old exhaust out wasn’t too hard. At least nothing a Sawzall couldn’t easily fix! I had to go purchase a couple of new blades. It’s amazing how well new blades will tear through metal. The old cliche about butter and hot knives comes to mind. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out exactly what I wanted to do, cut the old bailing wire holding up the rear part of the exhaust, and then have at it with the Sawzall. It all came out fairly easily. Here’s what the muffler looked like after removal:

Here’s the new setup laid out and ready for installation:

I first started with the muffler. The inlet is 3″ OD and the exhaust from the y-pipe back is 2.75″ OD, so an adapter was in order. I went by Advanced Auto. The best they had was an adapter which was 3″ OD on one end and 2.5″OD on the other. It turns out it worked out pretty well. The 2.5″ OD slid inside the 2.75″ OD pipe. Since the other end was the same size as the muffler, it required I butt weld the two together. The first hit of the welder on this blew a small hole into the adapter. This meant I’d need to be a bit more careful with it. I turned the Amperage down a little bit and ended up stitch welding it little by little until the whole thing was welded all the way around. Here’s what the ugliness looked like after the fact:

I then hit it with some black hi-temp paint, which should help it not rust in the future … at least for a little while.

I slid the adapter into the exhaust pipe and put one of the clamps on it, which held it in place really well. The exhaust pipes come in two pieces for each side. I was able to fit the passenger side front piece into the muffler. I needed place the rear of the front piece and them put the rear piece into it to see where everything would align. This allowed me to figure out the placement of the hanger. I decided I’d weld it to one of the cross bracing bars which help stabilize the rear of the truck frame. This round tube worked excellent.

I worked one side at a time, finishing the right side, then the left. After getting the hanger aligned and welded, I clamped the forward pipe to the muffler. After aligning rear section, I marked it to figure out how much I’d need to cut off so the tips would fit correctly. I then again used the trusty Sawzall and cut off the needed amount. With everything to the correct sizes, I then clamped everything in place. One side was done … I duplicated the effort for the other side. Here’s how it turned out:

Not a perfect job, but it worked out pretty well. Started it up and it was a bit louder than I’d like, but the noise was further back and headed out the end instead of coming up just under the cab of the truck. Everything was solid, so I think it’s in good shape. I’ll have my D-n-Law drive it later and ensure it’s all tight.

All-in-all it is a job well done (IMHO). Took a little bit of work, but not too shabby. Definitely a lot better than what was on there. Until next time … Be Well.


Getting Solid

I’m venturing into a new realm, that of dealing with 3D CAD software. I was able to get SolidWorks downloaded to my workstation at home for a very minimal price. I found I could get it due to my status as a Veteran for $20 and decided to give it a whirl.

I’ve only been working with the tutorial at this point, but have found the software to be fairly easy to use. To figure out exactly what you want to do with it is going to be a whole other ball of wax. I’m not very far into it, but am liking what I’m doing. Here is my first rendering, which is actually just part of the tutorial.

I really have no idea what it’s supposed to be, and anyone who’s done the tutorials would most likely recognize it. It took me about 20 minutes to build and has given me some insight into how the software works and functions.

I had tried to go through some YouTube videos to help me along the merry path of learning the software. I’ve found the videos there marked as “beginner” aren’t intuitive and leave A LOT to be desired. I may end up doing my own tutorials on this if I get to that point. I have a feeling something like probably has a ton of stuff on the use of SW, so may give a look-see there. usually has the best tutorials anywhere on the web, but at a cost.

I did want to mention what I’m using as a workstation. I built my workstation about two years ago. It has a Intel i7-4770 Haswell CPU, 16GB of RAM, 480GB SSD, and an EVGA GeForce 1060 6GB SSC video card. I was worried from what I saw online that this system may not be good enough to run SW, but much to my pleasure and enjoyment I’m having no issues. I get absolutely no slowness or jitters out of the software and the workstation seems to be handling all aspects of it just fine.

I may or may not post more on SolidWorks on my blog, but know I’m having fun with it in the meantime. I like where it’s going and what it might be able to do for me. I have a friend who has recently gotten into 3D printing, so I may start hitting him up with design things and see if I can create what he wants so he can print it out, or possibly do some work here and have him print it for me. It could be a lot of awesome fun!

Until next time … Be Well.

I Just Couldn’t Buy It

Last weekend I made a trip down to North Carolina to visit my son and look at a 78 Chevy Stepside he found for an outstanding price. The pictures looked reasonable for the money, so I took a chance and rode down with the family (about a four hour drive) to take a look.

I was rather excited about it, as I liked the pictures my son sent me. here are some of those so you’ll see what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong, this truck needs some work. It was everything I could want from a truck like this. I liked the stance. There were a lot of new parts on the truck. I didn’t like the rattle-can red spray paint on the rims, but that could be easily taken care of.

The truck had some issues. Mostly concerning rust all in the typical places you’d find them on a truck of this age. The rocker panels were very much TOAST. They’d need to be replaced if I were to keep it. It had some other old Bondo issues and just some rather nasty clean up items. One of the major items I see with it is it has manual brakes. I’d put a booster on there so fast it would make your head swim (and the truck stop!). I’ve dealt with manual brakes before and it’s not a lot of fun, especially for a larger vehicle.

Mechanically it had a few issues as well. The first and foremost problem was, it doesn’t run. My son had dumped some fuel down the carb the day before and had the engine running for 5-10 seconds he said, so I knew it was just a fueling issue. The truck has the small, in-line, glass fuel filter. It was bone dry, so I was pretty sure the fuel pump had gone out of it. I was ready to replace it, which is most likely a 30 minute job at the most. The second thing which is wrong with it is the tranny pan is leaking. I’m pretty sure a new pan gasket would resolve the issue.

My son and I sat in the parking lot where the truck is parked waiting on the owner. When he finally arrived, we talked about the truck and found out it had been sitting for about 3-4 months. The person who bought the truck hadn’t had time to get it fixed. We talked a bit about it and I offered him $650. He had purchased it for $600, so he was making a little profit off of it. I asked him for the title and started looking for the VIN on the truck, only to find out they didn’t put it in the obvious spot on these truck (the dash). I looked online and found out they stamped the VIN on the frame rails, so we were in search of some numbers. I looked in the several places where it might be stamped, only to figure out those areas are covered by “stuff”. The only place I could find anything stamped on the frame rail was on the passenger side of the engine bay. The problem was, though, I couldn’t match these numbers to the title. I’m not saying the VIN wasn’t right between the title and the truck, I just didn’t have a way to verify it. DANG! I had to tell the guy I wouldn’t be able to purchase it from him. The guy said he completely understood.

My son and I left shaking our heads about it. I think he thought I should have bought it anyway. Realistically I could have had it titled without the vehicle itself ever getting checked. It would have been fine, had I been keeping the truck for myself. The problem is, I was going to do a fix/flip on this. Running, without any other modification, I could sell the truck for $2500 easily. With a little more work to it (throw in some metal panels), I could have turned it around for an easy $4000-4500. There was some serious profit to be made with the truck, but since I couldn’t verify the VIN I wasn’t going to touch it.

Since the guy is a friend of my son’s and seemed very nice and genuine, I later told my son to tell him exactly what was wrong with the truck, what to do to fix it, and the parts he’d need to do it. Realistically, it would have taken about $40-45 to get it running and about 30-45 minutes to do it. He can easily turn the truck around in a few days and have the money he needs to get some bills paid off. Well worth the time and effort. I hope he does it and is able to get it sold. Until next time … Be Well.

Weight Loss

Alright, alright … I know you all are going to think, “What the heck! This guy is a motorhead! Why is he posting a video about weight loss?” The fact is, I lost some weight and everybody continually asks me about it. When you lose ~50lbs, it becomes self evident something has changed about an individual. So, instead of writing it all down, I decided I’d make a vlog about it. I’m just posting the video here to advertise it just a little. I hope it helps someone. Until next time … Be Well.

Relocate and Weld

I was able to get a couple more things done on the Subie today. I moved the battery to the trunk (though it’s not installed yet) and moved the Jetta ball from where the A/C compressor is supposed to be to where the battery was at.

To start with I disconnected the battery and moved it to the trunk … wow, that’s surprising :o) As I disconnected the negative lead, I did hear one of the relays click off, which to me tells me the battery is holding a charge (nothing really discharging it). I put it in the trunk, but I’m unsure which side of the vehicle I’m actually going to mount it on … more on that later.

With the battery moved, I took the bolt out of the mount for the Jetta ball. Why do I call it a Jetta ball? Really no clue, other than you can find it in a Jetta and sounds better than a Purge Reservoir or something else. Anyway, it’s in the shape of a ball, so there you go. Once removed I started looking at where it could go and how it was going to fit along with the charcoal canister at the typical battery location. Having put all the work I did into the mount in the first place, I didn’t want to waste the effort.

After looking at where it would be at, I decided I’d put a strip of angle iron down along where the battery mount is at. In order to do this I’d need to lengthen the original mounting tab which I’d drilled the hole through to tighten on a bolt. While it would have probably been cleaner to just cut what was on there away and weld a new piece of metal onto, butt welding a small piece of the same size metal onto the other piece saved me some metal in the end. I don’t have very much of the flat stock left (down to about 18″ now) and I didn’t want to make another trip to the store to purchase more, so I’m trying to be frugal with what I have. Since I have plenty of flux core welding wire (picked up a new roll a couple of weeks ago at Harbor Freight), welding seemed like the best route to go. Definitely not the prettiest route, but I went with it anyway. I measured what I needed to in order to get the right height on the Jetta ball once it was in place. I calculated I’d need about 2 1/2″, so I measured twice, cut once, and welded. I then figured out the length of angle iron I need and cut that out. Measured exactly where I’d want the Jetta ball to end up, marked the angle iron, cleaned both pieces of metal up and welded things together. I think the end product turned out pretty good.

Here’s where the ball will reside when it’s welded into place in the battery space.

To mount the charcoal canister I plan on taking two pieces of flat stock and welding then in a “V” shape onto the angle iron, to allow the canister to sit between the Jetta ball and the engine. The V shape will be just the right size to friction fit the canister down into it. It should work out pretty well in the end. I’ll create a new blog note when the time comes to cover it. I’ve already purchased the hoses and the T-pipe adapter so I can run the coolant lines when I get this completely installed.

I started laying out the cables for the battery. I wanted to show you the cabling and how good they are. I bought a relocation kit from a business on eBay. The company name on eBay is powderperform. As of this blog entry they have a 100% positive feedback with nearly 2400 entries. I mention this because of how pleased I am with what I received. What I was sent was EXACTLY what was on the eBay page I purchased from. I couldn’t ask for a better product.

The product itself was advertised as a Battery Relocation Kit, 16′ long, 2AWG Welding Cable. I have to say, it is exactly that. Here is a comparison of the cable sizes between the stock negative cable which goes from the battery to the engine and the welding cable which will be replacing it.

As you can see, the physical size of the cable is nearly identical. The huge difference comes from how the cable itself is fabricated. When you look directly at the end of the cable, you can tell what I’m talking about.

The core is 100% copper made of fine strands. I couldn’t tell you what the count of the strands are, but can tell you there’s plenty of them. This is great for two reasons. My understanding of how electricity flows in wiring is on the outside of it (this may be wrong, but I’m going with it). With as many strands as this has, this stuff will flow electrons like nobody’s business! The other thing is, all of the strands make this wiring very pliable. Playing with the stock wiring, it is very stiff. This stuff is going to go where ever I want it and won’t put up a fuss doing so. The other ends of the cables are just as good as the wiring itself.

The ends of the cables are professional grade. They look really good. The other thing you can see in the top first image is the ends which come with it, plus shrink wrap to finish them off. The idea here is to get the length cut exactly as you want them, trim back the sheathing, fill the terminator up with solder, melt it down, and stuff the end of the cable into the hot solder to get it to stay put and be well connected. You want to ensure you don’t foget to slide the heatshrink on the cable before you put the end on it, or you’re most likely just going to have to do without. I’ll blog about it when it’s all together so you can see the finished product.

Not everything done today I wanted to get done, but progress is progress. I still need to figure out where/how I’m going to run the positive cable from the back end of the Subie, as well as which side I’m going to put the battery on for sure. The cable seems like it might be about a foot too short to put on the passenger side, so it may end up on the driver’s side. I know this goes against conventional wisdom, but that’s the way the ball bounces when you need to get stuff done.

While you are contemplating your next great build, all I have to say to you is … Be well.

Cut to the Quick

Over the weekend I purchased some new hoses for the cooling system. I then had to order some adapters so it would fit on both sides of the equation. The engine side is 1.5″ and the radiator is 1.25″. I bought two adapters so I could fit the 1.5″ ID hoses onto the radiator. It looks as though it’s going to work, but we’ll see once I get coolant into the engine. I still have to relocate the reservoir ball before I can get the rest hooked up, though. Argh … I’m ahead of myself!

The first thing I did was to put the radiator in place. Then I figured out the basic shape of the hose I’d need to do the job. I then drew a rough shape on a piece of card stock. I then started cutting them down until I got what I wanted for length and basic shape. They turned out like this:

I measured both ends (engine side and radiator side) which I’d need to connect to and wrote the information on the cut pieces of card stock. After I was satisfied with what I had, I took the templates to Autozone to see if I could find something which would work. This is what I came up with.

Upper radiator hose:

Lower radiator hose:

(Yah, cut me some slack … I’d already cut it before I realized I hadn’t taken a picture yet :o)

I told you I had to put an adapter into the radiator side of each hose. Here’s what it looks like with it inside the hose. I hope it will work out when all is said and done … only time will tell if it will work well or not.

Both of them worked out okay, I think. I cut them to fit at the proper points and here is what they look like installed.

Like I said before, I still need to do some relocation of the reservoir. That’s going to be a chore in and of itself. I should get the cables to move the battery later this week and I’ll get it done. As always, I’ll write about it as time allows and things progress. Until then, be well.

The Internal Combustion Engine

What is an internal combustion engine? It is responsible for turning an air/fuel mixture into motion. It does this by burning the mixture inside the engine to utilize the power output of the combustion explosion. There are different kinds of internal combustion engines like diesel or gas turbine. However, for the purpose of this article I am talking about ones utilizing gasoline as its primary fuel source.

In order to understand how an engine works, a look at engine makeup is required.


The block is the foundation of the engine. It is upon the block which everything else is mounted. Most blocks are made of either cast iron or aluminum. Most automobiles utilize 4, 5, 6, or 8 cylinder engines. There are many different configurations. Below are examples of different types of engine blocks.

Inline Four Cylinder

Inline Six Cylinder


Eight Cylinder

These are just a few examples. Other combinations exist, such as horizontally opposed (aka: pancake or boxer) four and six cylinder, V4, V10, W6, W8, W10, and many more. The examples shown should help you to understand the different combinations which are most typically found in vehicles today. At the base of the block reside the main bearing caps (or “main caps” or just “caps”). These caps provide the holding force for the crankshaft. The caps can be held to the block with two, four, or six bolts (or studs). The terms “two bolt main”, “four bolt main”, or “six bolt main” refer directly to the main caps and bolt configuration.


The piston’s only job is to fill the hole which is the cylinder. It is usually made out of an aluminum alloy, and can be cast or forged. Cast aluminum pistons come in several different types. Among them are ones with high silicon content known as hypereutectic.  Hypereutectic pistons are very thermally stable and can be machined for tighter tolerances. Forged pistons are made out of a solid piece of billet aluminum, but are machined down to its usable form.  Below is a picture of typical pistons.

Piston Rings:

The primary purpose of piston rings (or just “rings”) is to seal the piston within the cylinder. A secondary purpose of the rings is to control oil going into the combustion chamber or clear the cylinder walls of oil during the piston’s downward travel. Piston rings ride in grooves, called ring lands, in the sides of the pistons. In a gasoline engine there are typically four piston rings riding in three lands: two compression rings and two oil control rings separated by a spacer. Rings are made out of many different materials. For general production engines, cast iron is the material of choice. For aftermarket applications, such material as plasma moly (molybdenum) is used as a facing material which helps the rings to quickly “seat” (or seal) to the cylinder wall. Seating occurs during the break-in period. If a ring does not seat correctly, excess oil can enter the cylinder and a loss of cylinder pressure during the combustion cycle can occur. Another term which is used with rings is “end gap”. This refers to the distance or space between the ends of the rings as it sits in the cylinders. This is an important measurement, because if the rings do not have enough end gap when they heat up in the cylinder, they can actually cause the piston to seize within the cylinder. This will stop the engine until the ring cools down, but will happen the next time it gets too hot as well. There are rings which are made to be gapless. The regular way manufacturers can do this is by overlapping or stepping the ends of the ring so the gap is eliminated.

Connecting Rod:

The connecting rod does exactly as the name implies, it connects the piston to the crankshaft (which will be discussed next). Connecting rods (or just “rods”) can be made of many different materials and manufactured in many different ways. The most common manufacturing substance for a rod is cast iron. Iron is used due to it being inexpensive to work with, its ability to stand up to a lot of abuse, and for its longevity. Forged steel is another metal commonly used, but usually only in the aftermarket. It is stronger than iron, stands up to a lot of abuse, and also lasts a long time. The downside to forged steel is the cost. Aluminum alloy is usually reserved for racing engines because it tends to get stress fractures after what would be considered a relatively short amount of use.  Titanium alloy is another metal used, but very few production engines utilize the metal. The cost and manufacturing techniques involved with titanium is very prohibitive. Below is a picture of a typical connecting rod.


The crankshaft is a large piece of metal which turns the reciprocating motion of the piston, through the connecting rod, into rotating motion. This allows the power to be transferred through the drivetrain to the tires and thus we gain propulsion. Just like with connecting rods and pistons, crankshafts can be made of several different materials. Cast iron is most commonly used and machined to its finished shape. Forged steel is also used, but hardly ever in production vehicles as it is more expensive to manufacture. A crankshaft can be internally balanced, externally balanced, or a combination of the two. Each end of the crankshaft has its own balance and must be treated as such. Balance is important to a crankshaft due to harmonics and internal forces which occurs during operation. If not balanced properly, the parts connected to the crankshaft will vibrate and self-destruct over time. Here is an annotated image of a crankshaft:

Cylinder Head:

The cylinder head (or just “head”) has two main purposes. The first part is to seal the top of the cylinder to make it an enclosed space. The second, is to direct the air flow in and the exhaust flow out of the cylinder. Heads are made up of several components other than the head itself: valves, valve springs, retainers, keys (or locks), valve guides, valve seats, and spring seats. Valves are located within the head on all modern production engines and allow for both of these actions to occur. The valve rides within sleeve called a valve guide. The valve guide can be made of any of several different metals. The valve guide metal is chosen for its application and wear characteristics.  For most four stroke (4-cycle) engines, there are two valves per cylinder: one intake and one exhaust. Both are actuated by a camshaft (which will be talked about later as part of the valve train). Multi-valve engines are becoming more popular in production engines, which entail using more than two valves per cylinder.  Three (2-intake/1-exhaust), four (2-i/2-e), and even five (3-i/2-e) valves per cylinder can be found in modern engines. Basically, more valves equates to better flow if done correctly. Porting is a term which is used to describe the act of removing material from the head to encourage better flow through the head, into and out of the engine. Flow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Usually, the more flow, the more efficient an engine will run. Flow is measured on a flow bench, where both the intake and exhaust ports are measured separately. As a rule of thumb, if you double the number of CFM going into your engine, this is the approximate HP output the engine should be capable of at the crankshaft (ie: 300cfm = ~600hp). Heads are usually made of either cast iron or aluminum. Manufacturers are moving towards using more aluminum castings in the production of their engines as it saves weight and is easier to work with than is cast iron. Aluminum will warp more easily than cast iron if overheated, so therefor is used less frequently in engines which will observe a large amount of abuse (ie: trucks, cabs). Heads are sealed to blocks using head gaskets. Head gaskets allow similar or dissimilar materials (cast iron blocks/aluminum heads) the ability expand at different rates while still maintaining a seal. If a head warps, the head gasket can usually no longer seal the head/block together, allowing either gasses to escape during the combustion cycle, coolant to enter into the combustion chamber, or both.

Spark Plug:

The spark plug provides the ignition source for the air fuel mixture to allow it to combust. The spark plug sits within threads located in the head. When the terms platinum or iridium are used in conjunction with spark plugs, it refers to what the center electrode is made out of. The more rare the material, the more expensive the spark plug, but usually the longer the spark plug will last. Most production vehicles have spark plugs which do not be need replaced for 100k miles or beyond. There are many different configurations for spark plugs.

Timing Chain/Gears (or Timing Set):

In OHV engines, the timing chain and gears provide the function of keeping the valve events happening at the right time. The smaller of the two gears is placed on the crankshaft. The larger of the two is placed on the camshaft. Both are connected with the timing chain. The larger gear has twice the circumference of the small one. This allows the camshaft to turn at one halve the speed of the crankshaft. It is located at the front of the engine behind the timing cover, which is behind the water pump. In high performance applications, the set can be replaced by gears and timing belt or gear drive.

Valve Train:

The valve train refers to the system which actuates the valves in the head. This usually includes the valves and supporting components as well. Below is a breakout of those components and what they do:

  • Camshaft (or just “cam” or “bumpstick”): As the name implies, the cam is a long shaft which has a row of actuator cams (or lobes) along its surface. These lobes provide precise actuation (or lift) at proper intervals to actuate the valves allowing the air/fuel to move into the cylinder and the exhaust gasses out of the cylinder. The cam runs at precisely ½ the speed of the crankshaft. Because there is a lot of information to relay about a camshaft, this is a just a basic introduction.

  • Lifter: The lifter rides upon the camshaft lobe. It provides a means by which the cam motion can be transmitted off of the cam lobe to the valve. There are two basic lifter types: hydraulic and solid. Of these two basic lifter types, there are two different variations: flat tappet and roller. Each has its place, though roller types seem to be used more often these days. (Think of flat tappet as old school and roller being the new school lines of thought.) Hydraulic lifters are most commonly used in production engines, while solid lifters are used in racing applications. This is due to the ease of use and maintenance with hydraulic lifters: solid lifters require setting lash (described in “How a Camshaft Works”) at regular intervals to maintain peak performance. Solid lifters can attain higher performance levels while being more consistent and stable, especially at high lift levels and engine speeds. They also produce more noise. Hydraulic lifters are used quite often for performance applications where the vehicle will pull double duty on the street. Roller lifters are used more commonly now in production engines because they allow higher lift with great ramp rates (also explained in “How a Camshaft Works”) with less frictional losses imposed upon the valve train. This allows the engine to produce more power at a lesser cost. The hydraulic lifter allows oil to build up within the body of it, so as to provide the cushioning effect for the valve train. Oil is also transmitted through it to the push rod. Flat tappet lifters turn in their bores (located in the block) which allow them to achieve even wear across the flat surface at the base of the lifter. When utilized and broken in on a cam, the flat tappet can no longer be used with any other cam or cam lobe. When the break-in process occurs, a sympathetic wear pattern exists between the cam lobe and the lifter. If used on a different lobe after this point, destruction of both the lifter and lobe will occur in a short order. Roller lifters do not suffer from this issue and can be reused if in reasonable condition.

Roller Lifters

Flat Tappet Lifters

  • Push Rod: The push rod is a small, pencil sized piece of metal set between the lifter and the rocker arm (described next). It transmits the actuation provided by the cam through the lifter up to the rocker arm. It can be made several different metals, but usually are made out of either steel, tempered steel, or carbon fiber. The carbon fiber will have metal balls attached at its ends. Application dictates how long or thick the push rods are. A mechanic can fine tune the valve train using different lengths of push rods.

  • Rocker Arms: Rocker arms (or just “rocker”) are used to change the direction of the up motion of the push rods, to the down motion needed to actuate the valves (it acts as a fulcrum). Rocker arms usually have a ratio associated with them to allow a magnification of the lift measurement at the camshaft to be turned into a greater total lift at the valve itself. (If this doesn’t make sense, it will be covered in greater detail later in the “How a Camshaft Works” article). Rocker arms come in many different variants, including (but not limited to) stamped steel, machined steel, cast iron, aluminum, full roller, roller tip, etc. These combinations and uses will be described in a later write-up. The rocker arm is where the adjustment for the valve train is made. This adjustment allows for the rocker tip to remain in contact at all time with the valve tip (in the case of a hydraulic lifter), or for a predetermined amount of “lash” to be allowed (in the case of a solid lifter). Most production engines (overhead valve) pushrods in use today have the adjustment already engineered into the rocker arms and associated valve train. These types do not readily have the ability to be adjusted.

  • Lock (or key): A lock is used to keep the valve and valve spring together as a single unit. It is typically made from machined steel and as of late is being made out of titanium for weight savings. The angle of the retainer, the lock, and the pressure of the valve spring, forces the key into the tip of the valve, capturing it and keeping everything together. At the tip of the valve there is a groove which corresponds to a ridge on the inside of the key. It is a common myth this actually keeps the key from coming off (or letting go of the valve). It is in fact the pressure of the lock being forced into the valve which causes an interference that holds onto the valve stem. The groove just helps to locate the lock during assembly.
  • Retainer: The retainer keeps the valve spring located with the valve via the lock. It is usually made from either machined steel or titanium. Titanium is primarily used in aftermarket applications for weight savings. This additional weight savings allows for higher engine rpm to be achieved without the risk of valve float. Valve float occurs when the speed of the engine is great enough the valve is not given enough time to close completely before it is required to open again. This causes loss of combustion chamber pressure during the combustion cycle and thus hampers performance of the engine.
  • Valve Spring (or just “spring): The valve spring provides the force needed to close the valve after it has been opened. Springs are made from steel wire which has been formed as a spring to specific dimensions, depending on what is required for an engine combination. The formed spring is then heat treated to obtain the resilience required for an application. Springs can come as single, double, or even triple spring combinations. The double and triple combination springs are used in high performance applications where additional force is required to overcome the inertia of the valve during engine operation.
  • Spring Seat: A spring seat performs two required functions. It locates the base of the spring in a specific location in the head, and also provides a level of protection for the head so the spring does not dig into the softer aluminum of the head during engine operation.
  • Shim: The shim provide the engine builder the ability to fine tune the spring height and seat pressure of the valve spring.
  • Valve: The valve is a device which covers the ports in the head to seal the combustion chamber. It is made up of several different parts: the head, stem, face, and tip. Valves can come in many different sizes and materials. Materials can include steel, stainless steel, and titanium. Valves can have hollow stems to provide weight savings, as well as sodium filled exhaust valves to promote heat transference.

  • Valve Seat: Valve seats are a ring which is pressed into the combustion chamber of the head. It provides a hard surface for the valve to sit and seal against when closed. It is usually made of cast iron. It is the valve seat which is machined when the term “3 angle” or “5 angle” valve job. By “cutting” the valve seat at several different angles, the valve seat becomes radiused which can allow smoother and greater air flow into the cylinder during the intake cycle. One of the “cuts” made during the machining process will match a cut on the valve which promotes sealing of the chamber. A machinist will further “lap” the valve to seat interface to promote better sealing. Lapping is done by putting a compound on the two faces and turning the valve to produce a sympathetic wear pattern between the two.

Oil Pump:

As the name implies, pumps oil throughout the engine. Can be normal pressure/normal volume (stock), normal pressure/high volume, high pressure/normal volume, or high pressure/high volume. Oil pressure needs to be maintained during engine operation or oil starvation, damage, and eventually engine destruction will occur.


While many would not consider oil a “part” in the engine, it provides many different functions. The oil does the following: lubricates, cushions, cools, cleans, and reduces friction. Without oil, the engine would come quickly to a screeching halt.

Oil Pan:

Oil is stored here until it is pumped throughout the engine via the oil pump. It also catches oil as it returns to be pumped again. It also covers the crank case (where the crank shaft resides) which keeps dirt and grime out of the engine.

Now that you know the different parts of the engine, we’ll discuss how those parts interact to make the power needed to motivate your vehicle.

Most automobile engines go through a 4 stroke cycle (aka: four stroke or four cycle or Otto cycle … the terms can be used interchangeably). The 4 strokes are: [B]Intake, Compression, Power (Combustion), and Exhaust[/B] (someone coined an easy phrase to remember this: [I]suck, squeeze, bang, blow … that’s the way the engine goes! [/I]). There are other types of internal combustion engines which use different stroke cycles, such as the two-stroke and Miller cycle engines.

Intake Stroke:

The piston starts at top dead center (TDC) to begin the cycle. The intake valve opens up and the piston moves towards the bottom of the cylinder. This motion creates a vacuum which draws the air/fuel mixture into the cylinder. As the piston reaches the bottom of the cylinder or bottom dead center (BDC), the intake valve begins closing which creates a sealed chamber.

Compression Stroke:

The piston begins to move from BDC back up through the cylinder. As it does, it compresses the air/fuel mixture. Through this entire cycle, the valves remain closed.

Combustion or Power Stroke:

Near the end of the Compression stroke, a spark occurs which starts combustion in the cylinder. As combustion occurs in the cylinder, extreme pressure begins to fill the small space which is left as the piston reaches TDC. This slows and then forces the piston back down towards BDC. Just prior to the piston reaching BDC, the exhaust valve begins to open which allows the exhaust gases to escape. This siphons off the pressure from the cylinder.

Exhaust Stroke:

As the piston travels back towards the top, the exhaust
valve become fully open and releases the exhaust gases out through the exhaust system. The piston continues to travel upward expelling all of the exhaust gases. Near the end of the exhaust stroke, the intake valve begins opening to prepare for filling the cylinder during the intake stroke.

Cooling System:

Most cooling systems consist of a radiator, thermostat, water pump, hoses, fan, and coolant. Through paths in the block and in the heads, coolant flows to pull heat from the engine and sends it to the radiator where it is cooled off. The same fluid flows back through the engine to do the same thing over and over again. Temperature is regulated via the thermostat, which opens and closes to restrict and direct the coolant flow. Some heat needs to be built up and retained within the engine during operation so it will work more efficiently. If an engine gets too warm it will often experience detonation (or pre-ignition) where hotspots within the combustion chamber will cause the air fuel mixture to ignite prior to when the spark plug sparks. This also causes excess Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) to be produced due to excessive combustion temperatures. NOX is the basis of acid rain and is very hard on the lungs. If the engine is too cool, it will not get complete combustion. This causes unburnt fuel to exit the tail pipe, reduces power output, and can burn out and/or plug your catalytic converter.

  • Radiator: The radiator is usually made out of aluminum due to its radiant properties and weight savings. It has tubes which coolant flows through set up in rows and separated by cooling fins. There are usually two “tanks” set up on either end of radiator. These tanks are connected to the ends of the tubes and provides an entrance and exit for coolant to settle while in transit through the radiator. Radiator hoses are used to direct the coolant out of the water pump, into the radiator, and back to the engine.
  • Water Pump: The water pump is the driving force behind the coolant flow. It us usually located at the front of the engine. It can be driven externally via a fan belt, or internally off of a timing belt or gear, depending on the type of engine it is. Some aftermarket types of water pumps are driven by an electric motor which frees up horsepower from the engine, allowing the engine to operate more efficiently. Most water pumps come with a “pee” or “weep” hole cast into the body of the pump. If the internal seals or bushings start to wear out, the coolant will start to “pee” (leak) from the hole. If the pump is not replaced in short order, the unit can fail which can cause catastrophic failure of the engine.
  • Thermostat: As stated, the thermostat regulates the flow of the coolant, as well as directs it. Here’s a great video showing the thermostat in operation:

Air Flow:

The engine needs the air/fuel mixture to properly go through the 4 strokes. Obviously, the more air flow you have, together with the right amount fuel, you can create a more powerful explosion inside the combustion chamber… meaning more power. So with that being said, what makes a turbocharger or supercharger so special?

To make a long story short, turbochargers and superchargers compress air BEFORE it enters the cylinder and once again after it is inside the cylinder. Remember, an engine without a Turbo or SC compresses the air AFTER it is already in the cylinder and only after. Ever heard of boost? Well the amount the turbo or SC compresses the air is your boost. The reason these devices compress the air before sending it into the cylinders is so more air will fit… you remember what that does right? The amount of pressurization of air is what determines how much power the turbo or SC can add to your engine.

Fuel System: 

Basically, fuel is pumped from the fuel tank to your engine so it can be mixed with air and run the engine. There are a several different ways to accomplish this task. The three most common ways are Carburetion, Port Fuel Injection, and Direct Fuel Injection.

In a carbureted engine, fuel is drawn into the air as the air comes through the venturis of the carburetor. Basically, air is met by fuel immediately after coming through the air intake. The air/fuel mixture then flows into the different cylinders.

In fuel injected engines, fuel is metered by use of fuel injectors to provide each cylinder with the correct ratio of air to fuel for the engine to run efficiently. Port fuel injection engines have a unit which basically sits where a carburetor sits on top of the intake manifold. The correct amount of fuel is sprayed into the incoming air stream to create the air/fuel mixture. This is commonly referred to a “wet” intake tract (the same as a carburetor). Port fuel injection places the fuel injector just behind the valve and releases fuel just as the valve opens during the intake stroke. This requires greater fuel pressure to ensure proper fuel delivery. Direct fuel injection sprays fuel directly into the combustion chamber during the compression stroke. This process allows for greater compression to be utilized which produces more power output for the same amount of air/fuel used. This allows for better fuel mileage as well. Direct injection is used in newer gasoline engines as well as having been used in diesel engines. Direct injection requires even greater fuel pressure than the port injection so as to overcome the internal pressures incurred during the compression stroke. Port and Direct Fuel injection are considered “dry” intake tracts.

Exhaust System: 

The exhaust system consists of headers (exhaust manifolds), exhaust pipes, catalytic converters, and mufflers.

  • Exhaust Pipes: Exhaust pipes route hot exhaust gasses from the headers through the different components to the rear of the vehicle. These pipes are usually bent into a shape which allows them to conform to the underside of the vehicle while avoiding moving parts such as the rear axle. Several different methods are used to produce the bends in the pipes, which include crimp and mandrel bends. Crimp bends pinch the metal of the exhaust pipe to form the bends. This is a very cost effective way to create exhaust pipes at the cost of restricting the flow. Typically, the easier the exhaust flow is allow to articulate through the exhaust system, the less back-pressure is observed. Excessive amounts of back-pressure can cause loss of engine output. Mandrel bends are formed using a device to bend the pipe while allowing it to maintain its shape and size. This type of bend allows for easier transitions of the exhaust flow, which allows for less back pressure. This type of bend requires more expensive equipment to perform the bend, as well as more time to create them. More vehicle manufacturers are more readily using mandrel bends as standard exhaust systems. This is because of the ever tightening gas mileage restrictions for vehicles. In this case, every little bit of fuel economy a manufacturer can squeeze from their vehicle the better. Exhaust systems in general are usually made from soft steel or stainless steel. Soft steel is easy to form and bend and is cheap to produce. It has the propensity to rust over time, which will cause failure and need replacement. Stainless steel is harder to form and more expensive to make, but will generally resist corrosion, which allows it to last much longer than soft steel. This is very important in areas where salt and brine solutions are used in the winter months to clear ice covered roadways.

  • Muffler: The muffler quiets the noise created from the combustion of the air/fuel mixture. Most cars from the factory have noise regulations which limit the amount of noise a car can make. Mufflers can reduce the sound in one of two ways: through stuffing the chambers within the muffler with sound deadening materials, or through noise cancelling techniques. Usually, non-combustive fiberglass insulation is used as a filler within the muffler. It absorbs the noise as the exhaust gasses pass through the muffler. This is a very cost effective way to reduce the noise produced, but can create back pressure within the exhaust system. Noise cancelling techniques involve bouncing the sound off of different reflectors within the muffler, trapping the noise inside of the muffler itself. It does this while creating a minimal amount of back pressure on the exhaust system. This is being employed more and more by auto manufacturers as the cost to make this type of muffler is reduced.
  • Catalytic Converter (or cat): The catalytic converter is responsible for reducing the amount of harmful gasses released into the air. It also helps burn off unused fuel before it exits the exhaust system. It does this through the use of catalysts which are plated onto a honeycomb of metal which the exhaust flows through. Different catalyst materials are used to create the reactions, such as platinum. Since platinum is such an expensive element, thieves target catalytic converters by cutting them off of the vehicle and then selling them to metal recyclers at a very tidy profit. Catalytic converters come in either two- or three-way configurations, depending on what types of gasses you want to decrease. A two-way converter controls hydro-carbons (HC – unspent fuel) and carbon-monoxide (CO). A three-way converter also controls nitrogen-oxides (No2 – not to be confused with nitrous-oxide or N2O). As the gas flows over the catalyst, the gas molecules lose their chemical bonds, allowing them to reform into non-lethal gasses. NO2 is the basis of smog and acid rain. As the gas passes over the catalyst, it is fundamentally reformed into nitrogen (N2) and water (H2o), which are completely harmless.

Ignition System: 

The ignition system is responsible for providing the spark which ignites the air/fuel mixture within the combustion chamber. There are basically two different types of ignitions systems in use today, with many variants to confuse things. One system uses a distributor and one does not. A distributor style ignition system consists of a coil, spark plug wires, coil wire, spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor, and distributor. A distributorless system has multiple coils, spark plug wires, and sparkplugs.

Way Too Cool

My son and I had been working on his cooling system (see: Radiation Overload) attempting to get the radiator mounted into the radiator core. At first we were going to put it behind the front brace (the angle iron we affixed in place of the top core support portion). We figured out a little bit later into the build we wouldn’t be able to do this because the radiator would be sitting too close to the engine for the hoses to get run correctly. To deal with this, we decided to place the radiator in front of the angle iron. This allows us to put the electric fans between the radiator and the engine, as well as getting the hoses an easier run between the two.

It’s hard to tell in the following pictures, but there is now a ton of room between the engine and the fans. I’ve already mounted the fans on the radiator, which should work just fine.

While the son was here over Christmas break, I also made the tabs and welded them to the bottom core support. While it’s not a perfect job, the overall effort turned out well. The tabs are solid and support the radiator without an issue.

Here’s what the radiator looks like with the fans attached to it.

I had stated previously I was tapping the angle iron which is being used for the upper core support and had broken the tap trying to make it happen. I went to Lowe’s this morning and picked up a new 1/4-20 tap. This one had the correct drill bit with it (I couldn’t find the tap by itself) so I worked the holes a little bit with the drill, then ran the tap through them which worked rather nicely. Previously I had bought some new rubber snubbers which I was able to mount directly into the mounting tab on top of the radiator. I used some stainless 1/4-20 allen head bolts with flat washers to run through the angle iron. Here’s what the upper part looks like with all of it together.

My son and I mocked up the front end prior to his leaving. We needed to trim up the bumper to allow it to fit. Here’s what the whole shooting match looks like together.

I had previously created a bracket and placed the coolant reservoir in where the A/C compressor used to be on the engine. It was a great fit … unfortunately it isn’t going to work. Even with the extra clearance the JDM hood provides, the VW ball sits about a 1/2″ too high which means it’s going to have to move. I thought I would include a pic of what it looks like installed so you can see part of my handywork.

The alternative we are going to go for is purchasing a battery relocation kit to move the battery to the trunk. This will give us room to put the reservoir and the charcoal canister in its place and low enough so they are both out of the road. Yes, that’ll mean I’ll have to create another bracket or modify this one so it will hold the ball, but so is the life of fabrication. I know Nik Blackhurst from Bad Obsession Motorsport knows this all too well. I just wish I had a smidge of his talents!

Tunes for the Truck

My ’06 Silverado had a Bose sound system in it. With the radio on, it sounded great. There were two huge issues with it, though: 1) the CD player would skip tracks/songs/etc, which was not acceptable; 2) you couldn’t stream anything to it. With that in mind, the wife told me I could get a new head unit for it for my birthday (we won’t discuss how old I am now, lol).

I went online at Crutchfield. I have discovered they provide a lot of great equipment at reasonable prices (no, not the cheapest prices), great attachment products (to ensure the head unit will work with your vehicle), and provide awesome instructions and lifetime product support. I’ve gone back to them twice now and I’ve not been disappointed either time. With Crutchfield, you can plug your vehicle into their website, select the options you want, then boil down your selection to what you’d like and what you can afford. There is a huge selection, though they deal with what seems like just a few different brands … some of them which I’ve never heard of. I tend to stay with brands I know, like Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer, JVC, etc. You can find cheaper brands on their website, but I’m not as much of a stereophile to know if some of these “off brands” are good or bad. I’d rather pay a few dollars more now and not worry about it later. My selection of headunit was no different this time. I selected a Kenwood DDX573BH, which for my needs turned out to be a great choice. I also got their installation kit, plus the little box which allows you to retain the steering wheel controls, the Bose sound system, and the door chime since GM runs their chime through the stereo system.

The Kenwood had the features I was looking for at a price point I could deal with. It has Bluetooth, HD radio, and a USB port. It will let me use the stereo to do hands free calling, which is awesome … especially since I live near DC where it’s mandatory to use. I don’t go into the District very often, but when I do, I don’t want to get a ticket for something stupid like using my phone.

Installation was rather easy for the most part. I took took the “stuff” out of the packaging and made all the connections which would go between the head unit wiring and the connectors which would attach to my trucks wiring. These sure make things a lot easier than when I was a teenager trying to install a basic head unit into my 72 Chevelle! I used heat shrink on the connections to ensure they’d stay together for a long time to come. I really hate taking a dash back apart to fix something which has worked its way loose. Here’s what most of it looked like when I was putting it together:

Yes my desk was a mess as I was putting this all together! Here’s what the old head unit looked like when it was still in the truck:

I don’t have a picture of it, but once the old head unit was removed (nothing more than pulling the outer facing off the dash, removing three screws, and disconnecting the wiring … really simple), there was a small bit of plastic I needed to remove at the back of the orifice. I grabbed my handy dandy hacksaw blade and went to work. When I got that as cut as I could, I grabbed a pair of Vice Grips and yanked out what wasn’t needed. Took a few minutes as I didn’t want to damage anything I didn’t need to. The new stereo fit right in. All of the connections I’d done the night before worked as advertised and the new head unit was in business. Here’s what it looks like installed:

It sounds great and I’m very happy with it.

One thing I forgot to do which the instructions do warn you about, is pulling any CDs out of the old head unit before you unplug it from your system. Uh … whoops! Yah, I forgot to pull my Van Halen CD out. I realized this after getting the new system about half way installed, but at that point, there was no turning back.

To fix my conundrum, I went onto the trusty Interwebz and did some research. While I didn’t find anything directly relating to this, I put the noggin to use and did some thinking. I figured if I could just apply power to the head unit, I could probably get it to eject the disk. I found this diagram, which is for some other GM product, but it sure looked like what my plug looked like:

And here was the back of my old head unit:

With the diagram on my monitor, I found where the Ground and Positive Voltage pins were located. Inside the socket on the head unit, while you cannot see it in the image, all of the pins are marked with the proper pin numbers and row letters. It’s a good thing, too, because the diagram above is backwards to it because it’s actually for the plug, not the socket.

With that, I grabbed a 12vdc battery I keep around for just such occasions (for reference, it’s an old battery out of my garage door opener used for when the power goes out … it still holds a charge, so works great for powering automotive things). I also grabbed some leads which have alligator clips on both ends. I attached the proper leads to the correct pins and OH MY GOODNESS, I heard the CD changer inside make some noises. I looked at the front and pressed the eject button. One CD, freshly ejected. Like butter from a cow … wait … milk/cream comes from the cow … you have to make butter … I digress.

One last parting shot here … something I didn’t mention … make sure you put the alligator clips on the right pins … I put them backwards and superheated one of the two leads, which proceeded to melt in two, rapidly. Only took about 3 seconds and it was like butter. Oh, back to that … sorry. Just ensure you put the right leads in the right place and you’re golden. It wasn’t hard to figure out, nor to accomplish. Just one more thing and now I can play my CDs again. But I can also stream iHeart Radio. Or talk hands free. Or play a DVD … or … or …

Isn’t technology great? :o)

(PS: I would have said “Ain’t” in the last sentence, but the wife would shoot me.)