GM Chevy Mid-Size Cars 1964-1988 Repair Guide

Engine Overhaul Tips


Most engine overhaul procedures are fairly standard. In addition to specific parts replacement procedures and specifications for your individual engine, this section also is a guide to acceptable rebuilding procedures. Examples of standard rebuilding practice are shown and should be used along with specific details concerning your particular engine.

Competent and accurate machine shop services will ensure maximum performance, reliability and engine life.

In most instances it is more profitable for the do-it-yourself mechanic to remove, clean and inspect the component, buy the necessary parts and deliver these to a shop for actual machine work.

On the other hand, much of the rebuilding work (crankshaft, block, bearings, piston rods, and other components) is well within the scope of the do-it-yourself mechanic's tools and abilities. You will have to decide for yourself the depth of involvement you desire in an engine repair or rebuild.


The tools required for an engine overhaul or parts replacement will depend on the depth of your involvement. With a few exceptions, they will be the tools found in a mechanic's tool kit (see Routine Maintenance of this guide). More in-depth work will require some or all of the following:

a dial indicator (reading in thousandths) mounted on a universal base
micrometers and telescope gauges
jaw and screw-type pullers
valve spring compressor
ring groove cleaner
piston ring expander and compressor
ridge reamer
cylinder hone or glaze breaker
engine stand

The use of most of these tools is illustrated in this guide. Many can be rented for a one-time use from a local parts jobber or tool supply house specializing in automotive work.

Occasionally, the use of special tools is called for. See the information on Special Tools and Safety Notice in the front of this guide before substituting another tool.


Procedures and specifications are given in this guide for inspecting, cleaning and assessing the wear limits of most major components. Other procedures such as Magnaflux® and Zyglo® can be used to locate material flaws and stress cracks. Magnaflux® is a magnetic process applicable only to ferrous materials. The Zyglo® process coats the material with a fluorescent dye penetrant and can be used on any material. Checking for suspected surface cracks can be more readily made using spot check dye. The dye is sprayed onto the suspected area, wiped off and the area sprayed with a developer. Cracks will show up brightly.


Aluminum has become extremely popular for use in engines, due to its low weight. Observe the following precautions when handling aluminum parts:

Never hot tank aluminum parts (the caustic hot tank solution will eat the aluminum.
Remove all aluminum parts (identification tag, etc.) from engine parts prior to the tanking.
Always coat threads lightly with engine oil or anti-seize compounds before installation, to prevent seizure.
Never overtorque bolts or spark plugs especially in aluminum threads.

Stripped threads in any component can be repaired using any of several commercial repair kits (Heli-Coil®, Microdot®, Keenserts®, etc.).

When assembling the engine, any parts that will be exposed to frictional contact, the parts must be prelubed to provide lubrication at initial start-up. Any product specifically formulated for this purpose can be used, but engine oil is not recommended as a prelube in most cases.

When semi-permanent (locked, but removable) installation of bolts or nuts is desired, threads should be cleaned and coated with Loctite® or other similar, commercial non-hardening sealant.


See Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Several methods of repairing damaged threads are available. Heli-Coil® (shown here), Keenserts® and Microdot® are among the most widely used. All involve basically the same principle-drilling out stripped threads, tapping the hole and installing a prewound insert-making welding, plugging and oversize fasteners unnecessary.

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Fig. Fig. 1: Damaged bolt hole threads can be replaced with thread repair inserts

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Fig. Fig. 2: Standard thread repair insert (left), and spark plug thread insert

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Fig. Fig. 3: Drill out the damaged threads with the specified drill. Be sure to drill completely through the hole or to the bottom of a blind hole

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Fig. Fig. 4: Using the kit, tap the hole in order to receive the thread insert. Keep the tap well oiled and back it out frequently to avoid clogging the threads.

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Fig. Fig. 5: Screw the threaded insert onto the installer tool until the tang engages the slot. Thread the insert into the hole until it is 1/4 or 1/2 turn below the top surface, then remove the tool and break off the tang using a punch.

Two types of thread repair inserts are usually supplied: a standard type for most Inch Coarse, Inch Fine, Metric Course and Metric Fine thread sizes and a spark lug type to fit most spark plug port sizes. Consult the individual manufacturer's catalog to determine exact applications. Typical thread repair kits will contain a selection of prewound threaded inserts, a tap (corresponding to the outside diameter threads of the insert) and an installation tool. Spark plug inserts usually differ because they require a tap equipped with pilot threads and a combined reamer/tap section. Most manufacturers also supply blister-packed thread repair inserts separately in addition to a master kit containing a variety of taps and inserts plus installation tools.

Before effecting a repair to a threaded hole, remove any snapped, broken or damaged bolts or studs. Penetrating oil can be used to free frozen threads. The offending item can be removed with locking pliers or with a screw or stud extractor. After the hole is clear, the thread can be repaired, as shown in the series of accompanying illustrations and in the kit manufacturer's instructions.

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Fig. Fig. 6: Using proper specifications will prevent the need for most thread repairs. If a specification is not given, this chart of standards may be used to help determine the proper torque.