Sam gets to work prepping the engine that we are assembling for EMPI’s 2024 Engine Battle.


JBugs Video Blog, VW Tech Tips

Sam gets to work prepping the engine that we are assembling for EMPI’s 2024 Engine Battle. This is the the largest engine Sam has ever built, a 2234cc stroker! So with a pile full of high dollar parts including an EMPI 84mm Flanged Crankshaft, AA 92mm Thick Wall Stroker Pistons & Cylinders and EMPI 5.5” H-Beam Connecting Rods, Sam gets to work prepping the parts, checking clearances and doing all the extra leg work that is recommended whenever building a high performance engine. Sam is definitely out of his wheelhouse and is just going off of years of compiling information and advice from friends. Is Sam a go-to, all knowing engine builder? Absolutely not, so this will be an interesting series. Stay tuned to see what happens when someone gets thrown into an engine battle that is by no means an engine builder!

Video Transcript

All right, guys, I'm down to the wire, literally, on this engine.

I've got to go back East for my brother's wedding here on May 8th. I've got to have this engine and all these parts assembled and running before I head out in basically two weeks. So, I procrastinated a little bit, but now it's time to get down to brass tax. Right now, I'm just going through and pulling apart our pistons and cylinders. This is why we always recommend pulling apart your pistons and cylinders to check the ring gaps and make sure the rings are assembled properly. I was pulling this guy apart, and somewhere in here is the oil scraper, and the ring is supposed to be butted up. Well, they overlapped it, or the green and the red are supposed to butt up, but they overlapped. There we go. So, the green and the red right there were overlapped. That's why we always recommend pulling apart or at least removing the pistons from the cylinders to make certain that all the rings are set properly. This is the second set of pistons and cylinders I've done recently where one of the rings was assembled, and the oil scraper, specifically, where those two edges are supposed to touch, one was overlapped. So, always pull these apart.

The reason why I'm doing all this is twofold. I want to balance all of our pistons to make certain they all weigh the same, and I want to check the ring gaps and set them up for a performance engine, not a racing engine, not a street engine, but a performance engine, so just a little bit looser than stock. Wow, I can see on this even with my glasses that the edge of this ring is not square on that edge, so that definitely needs to be ground down. I'm going to do all these and get all these guys set. We'll get them labeled by cylinder number: one, two, three, four, and we've got everything set out here, pulled apart. I'm just going to go through and do all that little stuff, that attention to detail for something where we're going to put a little bit more power through. You want to take these additional steps to make certain that the engine's going to hold together for a long time.

This is a prime example of why we check the ring gap. Twenty thousandths of an inch and I can't get there. Stock, I want to say, is thirteen thousandths of an inch for an 85.5. anyway. I can't even fit a thirteen thousandths feeler gauge in there. I wonder if I can get any feeler gauges through there. We're going to go four thousandths. Can I get four thousandths in there? Four thousandths fits there. Ten thousandths. Yeah, I think the stock ring gap for a top or for an oil ring at the bottom of the cylinder is ten thousandths. I can't even fit a ten thousandths in there. So, we're going to get this thing ground down and fit cylinder number one.

Last oil ring here is clear of ten thousandths. Our middle ring was right on spec at sixteen thousandths, and both oil rings were at ten thousandths. These are good to go. Set them in here, and these will be ready to go when we actually do our final assembly. Cylinder number one, we're going to come out and weigh it. Got a gram scale set up and zeroed out. Three hundred seventy-two grams. Three hundred seventy-two, and we'll adjust as necessary to make certain that every single one of our pistons weighs the same amount. We're going to keep this going for three more cylinders. Three hundred seventy-one, so this one is one gram lighter than the other two so far. Let's figure out what one gram is. Well, apparently, that's eight grams. How much does a piece of paper weigh? Well, the difference of one gram is less than one piece of paper.

All right, cylinder four. You guys want to take a wild guess? Piston number four, three hundred seventy-one. Let's write that down. Now, keep in mind that's just so I know where these guys are as far as weights. Rings and everything else are set up. Now that I have two pistons that weigh three hundred seventy-one grams and two that weigh three hundred seventy-two grams, I can set those two pistons across from each other on the engine so that the engine is throwing around the same weight on both sides of the engine. So, just because this says cylinder number four doesn't mean it's going to go at cylinder number four, although realistically, it probably will. However, cylinder number three, that was also three hundred seventy-one grams, I'll probably end up putting that at cylinder number two because those two are opposed from each other, and then cylinder number one and cylinder number two will be cylinder number one and cylinder number three. It's a lot of things to keep track of, but again, attention to the detail makes all the difference.

All right, another area of prep is our crankshaft and the connecting rods. I've got all of our connecting rods; they are just snugged in place on the crankshaft. Bearings are in place, bearings are oiled, and I just want to make certain that all the rods move smoothly. Now, I actually ended up swapping cylinders number... this is cylinder number three, this is cylinder number four. I ended up swapping these two rods around because this rod was just a little bit tighter on this journal, and this one was a little bit looser on this journal, so I swapped these two rods around. These guys both move smoothly, and those guys both now move smoothly. Now that I've got all these guys pre-fit to the crankshaft, they're all stamped, or they're all marked with a number. Now I know that 073 goes to cylinder number two, rod 002 goes to four, and so on and so forth. So, I've got all this stuff pre-fit and checked.

Now that I've got all that checked, I'm going to take all of our wrist pins and make certain that our wrist pins fit smoothly into our connecting rods. Then I'm going to do the same thing: make certain that our wrist pins fit all of our pistons smoothly. For those that are concerned about all of my dirt and debris that might be on my hands, well, this is the shipping bag that that cylinder came in. This is all the debris that is on these cylinders while they're being made, shipped, stored, etc. All this stuff that's currently on the rods, the crank, the flywheel, the pistons, the cylinders, the rings, the wrist pins, the clips, all these parts are going to be completely washed, rinsed, and oiled again before reassembly with clean fingers, clean gloves, clean hands throughout all that steps. Right now, while we're just test fitting things, there's going to be minute amounts of dirt and debris and oil. But again, we're going to clean all this stuff before final assembly.

We've got all of our wrist pins. Let me grab a little bit of oil. Where's my knife at? Hold on. Nice and smooth. Nice and smooth. Nice and smooth. Get some oil down there. There we go. So, number three is a little snug, but overall, not bad. Oh, that's very good on number three. So, I'm going to mark this number three and hope that it doesn't run off. But everything else fits, everything else very well.

All right, let's go through our wrist pins and the bags. One seventeen, one seventeen, one seventeen, one eighteen, one seventeen. So, all of our wrist pins and clips are all the same. Now let's just match these up to, let's see, I'll do one in one. Let's pick cylinder one, wrist pin one. Wrist pin one fits cylinder one beautifully. Let's go number two with wrist pin number three because I'm going to probably put cylinder two on number three because it weighs the same as cylinder one. That is good. Cylinder number three is going to do with wrist pin number two. And that slides through well. And wrist pin number four, cylinder four, number four, wrist pin four, cylinder four, everything fits well.

Figured I'd do a little quick tip on removing rods. You can't actually hammer on the rods. So, instead of hammering on the rods, and these don't have studs, we thread in our bolts and then we lightly tap the bolts to remove the end cap. There we go. Because these actually have shuffle pins, they have a nice tight fit. Note the two bearing tangs line up, and you know that they line up because both ends are marked. We'll keep doing one of these, and then we're going to go over and make sure that these are all balanced. Even though, according to the number chart, they've actually been matched and weighed and everything else, we're going to double-check. I don't know how clear you can see that, but that is the filings from the piston rings. That's how much material we pulled off to get those things to fit correctly. That's attention to detail. Kind of. I'm trying.

Next step is to get to work on these connecting rods. So, according to the rod information in this set, all these rods weigh five hundred sixty-eight grams each. Let's see how close that is to correct. Well, I say six thirty-seven, six thirty-eight, six thirty-eight, six thirty-eight, six thirty-seven. So, this is 002. Let me grab my pencil or my pen. Six thirty-seven, six thirty-seven, six thirty-seven, six thirty-seven, all right, six thirty-seven. Oh, you know what? I do have the bearings in place. Six thirty-six, six thirty-seven. All right. Six thirty-seven, six thirty-seven, six thirty-eight, six thirty-seven. So, everything is equal. We're just going to mark that as a check.

Now, this is kind of a little setup I put together with my son's Legos. I've got this thing set up to be a little bit more equal. Two twenty-eight, two hundred twenty-eight, two twenty-eight, eight, two hundred twenty-eight. All right. Now I'm going to flip my scales around. Two fifteen, four eighty-six, four eighty-six, four eighty-six. Is this rudimentary? Yes. Is it effective? Also yes. Four eighty-six. So, all four of our rods have the same end weight on the big end. Now that we've got the connecting rod bearings in place, they have the same pin end weight, two hundred twenty-eight grams, and they all weigh six hundred thirty-seven grams, if I'm not mistaken. So, all of our connecting rods all have matching weights on the big ends, matching weights on the pin ends, and matching overall weights. Now, granted, that is with the connecting rod bearings installed, but these are all a matched set with our rod bolts in place, so that's why we have a higher weight than our original chart: five sixty-eight versus six thirty-seven.

Now I can start building the bottom end, and then once I have the bottom end built, I can start mocking up the pistons and cylinders, checking our deck height, setting our compression ratio, and then going to be the fun part of setting up the push rod length because this is a stroker, and we are using 1.4:1 rockers. I've got a lot of work and figuring there to get our correct push rod length to set up our rocker geometry. But nobody said that building a high-performance engine was easy, and this is just the kind of the small details that you need to do to make certain that all that time and effort, and most importantly, money, is time well spent.

Now that I've got all of our connecting rods and pistons and rings bagged and tagged, I've also got my number two and my number three pistons, as far as setting the ring gap, I've got them now flip-flopped and marked as cylinders number two and cylinders number three. They are bagged with their appropriate connecting rod by my test fit on the crank. I've got that all set. Now I've got our specialized flanged crank bearing set oiled and set in place so that I can set the end plate.

Now I've got our flanged crank, and these are specialized bearings that we don't offer, unfortunately, but we've got our flanged crank bearings that we custom ordered for this flanged crank. We're going to set our oil bearings in place. I can hear it and I can feel it, but I want to make certain that we've got five thousandths of an inch of play. That one's good to go. If you guys are catching this, you can see the oil slightly seep out of that bearing. Our feeler gauge fits. I can do this without falling. And no more play. So, the specialized flanged crank bearings are good to go out of the box. At least in our case. If you're spending the money and doing this for your own engine, definitely double-check, but these are actually, as far as I know, like Chevy bearings, possibly, that are modified. They go through and cut out the oiling holes to fit this crank. So, we've got that bearing fit. That's good to know.

And one cool thing about these is all the bearings are split bearings, except for our snout bearing. And because they are split, they don't have an alignment dowel, and you actually have to have your engine case machined for these tanged bearings. So, because all these bearings are split bearings, we actually had to send our engine case out to, we sent it out to Brothers Machine Shop out in California, and they cut the case for our flanged bearing and for these bearing tangs because we can no longer run dowel pins to keep our bearings set.

Right now, I've actually got the case over at Don's Bus Box here in Phoenix having him open the case up for our thick wall 92 mm pistons and cylinders. So, as soon as it gets back from Don, I'll be able to start building the bottom end. I just wanted to do some more pre-fitment just to make certain that once I do get that case back, I can start cleaning it, prepping it for our crankshaft. I will have to heat up our camshaft gear and our distributor drive gear to slide those on. Additionally, you can sometimes freeze the crank. I've never had really good luck doing that. I don't know if my freezer is just not cold enough, or I just never left it in there long enough, but I just prefer heating up the gears. It's so much easier. That's what Volkswagen instructs you to do, so that's what I do.

At this point, short of our double thrust cam bearings, which I can probably do that off the bench. Let me test fit those. I'm going to do that on a piece of glass, and I'm going to do that over there. So, we've got our thrust bearing for our cam. These bearings from the factory only have one thrust bearing, and the other one was just a standard bearing without these lips. Because my case is not here, I don't want to actually machine these, or I don't want to sand these down to fit them just yet because there are tangs here, and I want to make certain that either the case is machined for the tangs on both sides because typically it's only machined on the 3/4 side and not on the 1/2 side of the engine case for a bearing tang. Again, Volkswagen only ran one of these bearings, so I want to make certain that I am sanding off the right side on both sides. That way I don't have our bearing shifted. So, once we get our engine case back from Don's, I'll then go through, and I'll sand these down. What I'll end up doing is taking a piece of, this is just 500-grit wet sandpaper, and then I'm going to just lightly sand it down, clean it, test fit it, sand it down, clean it, test fit it.

Once I've got about three to five thousandths of play between these bearings and the cam, basically just like I did on the flanged crank bearing to check that, once we have that same three to five thousandths, I'm going to go for five thousandths, being a performance engine. It's been advised to me by a good friend of mine that you want to set things on the looser end on a performance engine. You want to have that much more room for error with the higher performance, the higher RPMs, the higher heat, the higher load that you're going to have on a high-performance engine. So, we'll typically run those a little bit looser towards the looser end of spectrums anyway in any of your measurements. So, I'll set these at five thousandths of play, but right now they don't fit.

But again, I've got to wait for the engine case for that, so just waiting on a call from Don's, and then we'll be able to start working on the bottom end. Then I'll be able to finish these bearings, and then I'll be able to start working on the bottom end. Stay tuned.

I'm still recording. Hi. Hurry up and wait at this point, and then hurry up and hurry up because time's running out.

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