After my last rant about my pain in the ass 1969 Jeep Wagoneer, I rinsed the sand from my underpants, put on my wrenching clothes and got to work on the damn thing. The most recent round of fixes was aimed at the most annoying problems: massive oil leakage and a carb that delivered too little gas to the motor and too much to the exterior of the intake manifold.
The intake manifold gasket and and carb rebuild, which I assumed would be the tough jobs, went smoothly. The auto trans pan gasket was a stinky mess, but otherwise easy enough. I’ll write up the carb at some point as a Wrenching Tips article, as
I actually remembered to take pictures it’s usefully instructive on the general process.
Despite those successes, it’s the process of re-sealing my oil pump that’s got me throwing an angry monkey shit fit and hating this car all over again.
A little context and background. On paper, the Buick 350 is a perfect midsize truck engine. Slightly undersquare (3.80 bore, 3.85″ stroke), it made 230 gross HP and 350lb-ft at 2400rpm. Though really wide, it’s otherwise more compact and light than other smallblocks, tipping the scales just under 500lbs in all-iron form. Unfortunately, oil pressure is its Achilles heel. It doesn’t make nearly as much pressure as a typical motor: barely measurable at idle and maybe 30lbs cruising around at 2500rpm, brand new.
In an automotive corollary to Rule 34, there’s a forum and specialty manufacturer for every car or engine type out there. TA Performance is the place for Buicks, and they sell a cheap-and-easy $20 oil pump booster plate kit that’s supposed to help bump pressures out of the “OMFG no oil!” range.
Unfortunately, when you yank the cover off of the semi-external oil pump, it loses its prime. In this case (or with any brand new or long-sitting motor), you have to re-pack the oil pump gears with petroleum jelly to give it something thick enough to pull on. Failure to do so leaves your pump sucking air and your motor with no oil.
To date, this was the most frustrating automotive job I’ve had to do. Essentially, gravity issues a great big “F-U” and causes either the oil pump gears or petroleum jelly to fall out onto your face while you try to line everything up and not screw up the gaskets. I got it together and was rewarded with a slight bump in oil pressure…and a new oil leak.
That was last year. Fast forward to recent times, and I’m on a quest to de-leakify my engine. The leaky booster plate and teenie-tiny paper gasket come off. Being clever, I decide to replace the paper gasket with “Right Stuff” sealer. This works badly, as apparently gravity acts on it as well. Much grunting (instead of cursing because my 2.5 year old is helping me) ensues and finally it comes together in a “there, I fixed it” huff.
I get distracted with miscellaneous kid duties, then come back to the garage. The car fires right up and I immediately remember I need to open the back door of the garage to get some ventilation, lest I die of CO poisoning. I take the outside route, and come back in to check on the car…that’s apparently been running for a good minute or so with no oil pressure. Shit; it didn’t prime.
I tear it all down again. The Right Stuff is all over in ways it shouldn’t be, so we’ll go back to the paper gasket this time, with just a tiny monolayer of the stuff to hold it in place and prevent leakage. I pull the driven gear out to get a maximal volume of jelly in there then squoosh it back into place. I think the colder weather is working to my advantage, as everything’s staying in place better this time. Also I used a magnet to hold the gear in place. I wipe up the excess and slap the cover on…only to be pulled away on Dad duty again. Returning 4 hours later, the car once again fires right up (damn good job on the carb rebuild), but still no f***ing oil pressure!
Ok…round three…here we go…pull it apart only to find the original load of jelly still in there…looking either really viscous or completely unperturbed. No other signs of problems. I pack some more in there for good measure, bolt it up and (I’m learning by now) crank it with the ignition disconnected. Still no love.
At this point I contemplate rolling it into the street, setting it on fire and filing an insurance claim. I’m putting that in writing here to prevent myself from actually doing it, as my insurance agent/father-in-law reads the site (Hi Mark!). I also spend much of the next day at work checking the V8 Buick forums for help and browsing for vehicles I’d rather have. See exhibits A, B, C, D and E.
I like challenges, but this is more of a mystery…or really more like some kind of rigged carny game. I got it once, but just can’t seem to make it work again. Tune in tomorrow for when I get to the bottom of things…
Note: sorry for the lack of pictures. The more frustrating and repetitive things got, the less time I had for pictures. Besides, it’d be the same shot of gears packed with Vaseline over and over.