The engine for my 1987 Corvette convertible was brought to the machine shop to be repaired last summer. I am just getting around to installing the engine now, a year later. This past year was a busy one for me not allowing me to get in the shop as much as I would have liked. Since the engine has been sitting in the engine stand in my shop for an extended period of time, the engine would need to be primed or pre-oiled before starting it. This would prevent unnecessary damage to the rotating parts requiring lubrication and may have dried up.
I gave a local wrecking yard a call in the morning, so I could come and pickup later in the afternoon an old distributor from a small block Chevy engine. I told them that it did not need to be complete and all I really wanted was the main housing. In the afternoon I pick it up and paid $20 for it.
Back at the shop, I started to dismantle the old distributer. The main shaft bushings seemed fine and did not have any play in them. Everything required to make the small block Chevy distributer work in the car as part of the engines ignition system was removed. These parts where eventually thrown out in the garbage. I removed the shaft from the main aluminum distributor housing. This would make the shaft easy to mount in the metal lathe allowing me to remove the lower camshaft gear.
A few years ago, I purchased an old Logan metal lathe. The price was right and it would allow me to fabricate a few more parts like this engine pre-oiler I am building. Some day, I will replace it with something better, but for now it is perfect for this sort of project. A metal lathe in the shop is as valuable as the Mig welder, grinder, metal cutting band saw, and cutting torch or plasma cutter. By having a good variety of equipment in the shop, I find that fabricating small items like the small block Chevy engine pre-oiler is becoming much easier.
After a few minutes in the lathe, the lower camshaft gear was removed. If you do not have a metal lathe at home, the gear can be carefully removed with a hand held grinder.
I took a look at the top end of the aluminum housing were the lower part of the distributor cap would match up to. This part of the housing had a large diameter and I would never screw a distributor cap onto this housing again. So, I fitted the distributor aluminum housing in the metal lathe, and reduced the diameter of the upper part of the small block Chevy distributor housing. This modification would allow for easy storage of the pre-oiler later.
Everything was quickly cleaned up and the shaft was re-inserted to the aluminum distributor housing. With all of the parts removed from the top of the small block Chevy distributor, the shaft will move up and down in the housing. A 0.625 inch shaft collar was used as a spacer and second shaft collar with a 0.5 inch inner diameter was used to fasten the shaft in place. I only used the set screw on the 0.5 inch shaft collar. If the set screw is used on the lower collar which is only a spacer, binding may occur on the rotating shaft. Before final assembly, I lubricated all of the rotating parts.
In the small block Chevy engine the distributer turns in a clockwise direction. To keep everything visual, I used a marker to indicate this on the top of the engine pre-oiler.
Now I was ready to use my newly made small block Chevy engine pre-oiler. I installed it in my 1987 Corvette engine and attached my 0.5 inch variable speed drill to the top of the pre-oiler. Making sure the drill turned in a clockwise direction, I powered up the drill slowly. At first the drill will turn freely without any load. Once the oil starts to move through the engine, the load on the drill will increase, making the drill harder to hold onto. With the valve covers off the engine, after about three minutes, oil will start moving through the push rods and onto the rockers. I continued running the drill till oil started to drip down onto the top of the heads.
If you do not have a small block Chevrolet / SBC engine, you can use the same technique and procedure to build your own engine pre-oiler for any Ford, Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, or other North American or European engine.
Below is a short video of how I built my small block Chevy engine pre-oiler.