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Starting an engine after rebuild


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Morning all,

Well it seems to have taken an age but I feel that I may *fingers crossed* get the Spit back on the road in the coming weeks :-). I spent this previous weeekend fitting the fuel, ignition and cooling systems back in. I've not turned the car over since the engine was rebuilt. How should I go about starting her up for the first time? I've been told that I should start the engine with no coolant to get it warm to touch, then retorque the cylinder head as to seal the new headgasket properly. If you could let me know the steps and procedures you would take I would be greatful.


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No dont run without coolant. Head should be torqued to spec before start up. Then fill with all correct amounts of fluids (i would recommend an running in oil like Penrite running in oil) including coolant. Then for first start up with a new cam you have to run it for twenty mins at 2,000rpm to bed your new cam in. Before you start, crank the engine with out the ignition coil wire attached to run the oil through the system. Once the oil light goes out in the cabin then reconnect the wire and start and run at 2,000rpm for 20mins and watch your gauges. While in this cam running in period you need to make sure the heater valve is open and get someone to check all the pipes are getting warm. Id also give them a little massage to help not get air pockets stuck. Then after 20mins, turn off pull the plugs and make sure they are not too lean then go for a drive. At the 500miles point you should re torque the head, top up coolant and reset valve clearances if needed. At this point you should also drop out the running in oil and refill with good quality Penrite or VR1 Valvoline and change the filter. Chic Doig recommends Penrite 20/60 for engines that are run hard, motorway, track, Sunday blasts. Its worth it in the long run.

Also another thing to note is there are two types of coolant. Ignore the colours as these mean nothing, you need the type that is for pre 1998 cars as the 1998 onward type will cause premature head gasket failire due to the type of head gasket we use on this engine. This isn't a debate its fact so if you've got the wrong stuff in then change it. Will only cost you a tenner plus time and water.

Hope this helps


p.s. If you dont use the running in oil the engine, it will not bed in correctly and will wear incorrectly and not make as much power as one done correctly.

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Good advie from Chris.
May I add?:-
Have you got camlube on the camlobes and followers (tappets)?  If not, get some on, or rapid lobe/tappet wear will ensue!   Means head off again, sorry!

"Running-in oil" is oil without detergent or anti-wear additives, that you are going to chuck after 500 miles or so. It's designed to be not-very-good, or long-lasting!   Cheaper, not very good oil, is available from places like B&Q.  It's usually re-refined oil, that has been through an engine once already, and sold to a very low price, so no additives.    But it's fine as running in oil!

After starting, and especially when first driving it, choose your place on the roads, and accelerate hard in a suitable gear (no bogging down!) to 4K, say, then take your foot right off the pedal and let the car cruise down to a lower speed. Repeat.
See what I mean about choosing where to do this?  Do it repeatedly, whenever the opportunity presents itself - eg light traffic, not speed limited.    The acceleration maximises the bore pressure and forces the piston rings against the bore, promoting wearing in.  Then coasting on a closed throttle does the opposite, low pressure on the bore to suck oil mist up onto the rings and prevent glazing.


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Id just recommend the Penrite running in oil that way you cant get it wrong and you'll only save a couple of quid by using these other oils. In my Professional opinion its just not worth messing around with. Get it right the first time and leave no margin for error.


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