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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

Engine Building Tool Guide


It’s true. Crate engine manufacturers have changed the way that many select that next powerplant. There are lots of affordable options out there that make it appealing to choose a crate engine as opposed to building your own mill. On the other hand, there are still plenty of gearheads who just need to freshen up an engine that they already have, or even better scored an engine on the cheap that made way for one of those boring LS swaps. If you are going to build your own engines, or even revive an engine with lots of miles on it these tools are a must have for the shop. I’ve had most of these for many years now and have used them time and time again.

We will start at the bottom. After you get everything mocked up, cleaned up, machined or whatever variation of those things your engine requires the first step is to install the crankshaft into the block. There is a handy tool (p/n 54561755) that goes onto the snout of the crank right after this step occurs. They feature a keyway to positively engage your harmonic balancer key. With a ½” drive ratchet you can turn your crankshaft with ease as you install the rods and pistons. Another essential use for this is attaching your degree wheel when it comes time to check the cam timing. We offer versions for both Small and Big Block Chevy’s.

These crank sockets are great for turning your engine over during assembly and degreeing your camshaft. They even feature a set screw so that you can make sure they are tight on the crank snout.

Moving up to the piston rings, we also have a few things that make the process of fitting and installing them a breeze. Most of the time I prefer to use file fit piston rings so that I can ensure my ring end gaps are right where I want them to be. The first step is putting the rings into the cylinder and using a feeler gauge to see what you are working with. In order to get an accurate measurement, you need to make sure that the rings are square in relationship to the bores. If they aren’t, your gaps are going to appear to be larger than they are.

If piston ring end gap is too tight, you almost always end up with a ring land failure. We have a slick Piston Ring Squaring Tool that makes quick work of getting your piston rings measured up so that you know if, and how much you need to file them. Speaking of filing them, we have that covered as well. Our Piston Ring Filing Tool makes it easy to file fit your rings without the risk of breaking one. I like to clamp it into the vice so that I have a nice, sturdy place to file my rings.

A machined step in the ring squaring tool allows quick and easy installation of the rings into your cylinders. These will work with bore sizes from 4.000” to 4.230”
Here I am using a feeler gauge to check for ring end gap. Most file fit piston design rings are sold oversized so that you have material to file away.

Once you are ready to put the rods and pistons in for good, we can help make that easy as well. Our Adjustable Piston Ring Compressors are a must have in my opinion. After you invest the time in filing the rings and making sure you have a perfect ring gap the last thing you need is a broken ring because the compressor didn’t work well. We offer these in three sizes (4.00”, 4.125” and 4.250”) that should work in just about any hot rod engine application.

Once you have the piston in the cylinder the Proform Piston Install Tool works great to send it the rest of the way home. I don’t like using a hammer handle because you get wood chips all over the piston. This tool won’t do any damage to your pistons either!

Having a tapered, adjustable piston ring compressor makes rod and piston installation a snap. I’ve been using this one for almost 20 years and have assembled many engines with it

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