: Frustrated

02-02-10, 04:14 PM
At risk of raising hell again....

Sold a remanufactured engine to a customer. Calls within 20-30 minutes of initial fire-up. Says it's overheating and knocking. I advised the customer to make sure there's no air in the system and to make sure there's adequate oil pressure.

Second phone call. "Burped" the cooling system. Overheating gone, noise still there- oil pressure is fine. Customer revved the engine to let me hear the noise. I know for sure from what I heard that engine passed the 5,000 rpm mark, if not a grand higher.

I paid a Caddy dealer to diagnose the knock. rod bearings, loudest on 7 and 8.

I asked him to double check a few things including flywheel to converter bolts. All tight.

I set up shipping to get the engine back here for repair. I tore it down this afternoon. Here's what I found. All rod bearings (new Clevite bearing) are worn into the copper part. All main bearings are worn and scored- all evenly. Cylinder walls are scored. metal powder in the oil everywhere. Oddly enough, clear silicone (window and door stuff) around the dipstick area on the outside of the block and also around the block heater (Canadian / Northern U.S. option).

Even the three stage intermediate timing gear mount/bushing was worn to $hit.

The customer says the oil pressure was fine. There's no way this engine had oil pressure at all anymore with the bearings worn as far as they were.

Once again I'm not saying that I don't make mistakes but I know that a lack of oil pressure caused those bearings to chew right out, and the resulting metal from the crank and bearings caused the cylinders to scuff/score. There's nothing left from that engine that's useable - maybe the flywheel and balancer, rods with new bushings again (thoroughly cleaned).

Out of not even quite $3000 original sale price, I'm already out about $1100-$1200 in shipping costs and the profits made on that engine may have been $500. The parts are pricy for these engines.

Now while I believe totally that if a mistake is made on my part, I should do whatever necessary to make up for it; I also don't believe that warranty should cover damaged caused by lack of oil pressure.

So the customer has already overheated the engine, revved the hell out of it within the first hour of run time, and possibly not added oil / verified oil pressure during initial start-up / primed the system.

Now for the people on these forums who have a good knowledge of the importance of proper break-in/fire-up procedures, what would you do for this customer? Would you call overheating a freshly built engine cause to void warranty? What about revving it up to a speed not really meant for a fresh engine? I told the customer in the fire-up instructions: after a few minutes of run time (once everything has adequate oil flow) to bring the RPMs up to 1500-2000 for about 15 minutes to bleed the lifters and break the cams/lifters in.

I've had incredible success with engines including those I've shipped out, installed for customers, and installed in my own cars.

I want happy customers and the engines I sell to last, but I put a LOT of work, time, and money into each one and I don't want them destroyed on initial fire-up.

I'd like some comments from fellow members as to what I should do. This is the customer's 4th engine in the car.

02-02-10, 07:59 PM
did you use scotch brite?, ok im just being mean, thought it would be funny though

it is really hard to warrant things to what could be a non qualified person, or they damaged it and just say they didnt.

I guess one thing to consider if they engine ate itself because of low oil pressure, why was there low oil pressure? If it were me and i bought an engine and it had no oil pressure, sent it in for warranty and they said i wrecked it cause it didnt have any oil pressure, well i would have a problem with that. Now if they forgot to add oil, then the opposite applies, but whos to say there was oil in it. I someone sold me an engine with a nonfunctional oil pump, i ran it, noticed no oil pressure, id want a new engine even if that one wasnt hurt.

Not sure, do you test those things before shipping out?

Good luck! Hate to be in that situation

02-02-10, 08:45 PM
Second phone call. "Burped" the cooling system. Overheating gone, noise still there- oil pressure is fine. Customer revved the engine to let me hear the noise. I know for sure from what I heard that engine passed the 5,000 rpm mark, if not a grand higher.
Northstar? It's self purging. How and why would he need to "burp" it? Even if you did not purge it when refilling it (hard to believe), it should have done so itself on the ride home.

It has a rev limiter that should have prevented revving it above 4000 RPM.

02-02-10, 08:48 PM
Jake, You need to place a big red tag on the oil dipstick: "This engine must be filled with X.XX quarts of XXW-XX motor oil before use."

Unless you ship your rebuilds full of oil, this idiot started the engine empty. Some humans need directions in big, red crayon letters.

".................above 4,000 rpm in N or P"

02-02-10, 09:00 PM
OH! This engine was shipped? Are they shipped dry? That would explain a LOT. If that's the case, then Sub is probably right and I would not cover it. I assumed it was picked up and driven away.

02-02-10, 10:53 PM
Yes they're shipped dry with a very liberal amount of assembly lube and EOS. I don't tag these- the add oil instructions is in the initial fire-up/break-in instructions. I guess I expect too much thinking that people automatically would think about at least checking the oil considering I stopped shipping with oil filter mounts and sensors.

This is a REAL problem that needs to be dealt with, unlike a past thread. The
customer was willing to let me send it in for diagnosis.

Nope I never use scotch-brite- never.

Low oil pressure would have occurred because the bearings started to wear. The bearings are toast from lack of oil at start-up.

I think I need to do something for this guy. Send him another and make him at least pay the shipping both ways back here and again back there.

I will without a doubt, sorry to say, send the next
one without warranty but give him my word that it's a good one. And emphasize the correct start-up

Ranger- 97's do not have the 4000 limiter- my 98 doesn't either.

02-02-10, 10:57 PM
He also had the cooler lines/ rad mounted oil cooler. It's also common sense to flush the cooler ESPECIALLY if the previous engine wore out too.

02-03-10, 09:58 AM
It ran without oil/full of metal... nothing you could do about it..... I wouldn't cover a thing, nor would I expect it to be covered if I did that to my new engine.

I dont know anyone (who knows what they're doing) who would fire up a brand new engine without monitoring the oil pressure.

Do you know why he is on engine #4?

02-03-10, 11:23 AM
Do you know why he is on engine #4?
WOW! I missed that. Something ain't right.

02-03-10, 12:28 PM
I've had that issue only a couple times. Once it was obvious that they screwed up once I tore the engine down, no warranty. The other time it was obvious to me but he couldn't grasp what he had done (20W50 race oil, it was 15 degrees out, and he didn't warm the engine up, on top of that small chevy's don't drain very good, he pumped his pan dry). I took some margin out of the parts and reduced the labor. Either way it's no fun for either side to work through. I do know this that you need to stand your ground at some point, I had a friend that was too generous with his warranty on his engines and it bankrupted him.

02-03-10, 01:59 PM
I wouldn't pay for sh!t. It's obvious that the motor was not broken in properly. It's his 4th motor so apparently he is doing something wrong. If anything, I would maybe, maybe let him have another motor for half price but he would have to pay shipping for the burnt motor plus shipping for the new motor. He had to have run that motor with no oil. All that damage you are talking about sounds like it. When it was sent back, did it have oil in it when you tore back into it?

02-03-10, 06:17 PM
Maybe whoever installed engine filled with normal amount of oil but engine never primed? If he did not over fill to prime or have the kent moore tool for back filling at the oil filter port, perhaps he thought that by revving to 5 or 6000RPM that it would pick up and self prime?

02-03-10, 06:53 PM
Maybe whoever installed engine filled with normal amount of oil but engine never primed? If he did not over fill to prime or have the kent moore tool for back filling at the oil filter port, perhaps he thought that by revving to 5 or 6000RPM that it would pick up and self prime?

Yeah, that ^

02-03-10, 09:29 PM
Shouldn't it have self primed without having to over fill?

02-03-10, 10:21 PM
I always prime the engines by leaving the coils disconnected and cranking (with the correct amount of oil and a pre-filled filter) for about a minute or so, of course giving the starter some rest in-between. Then connect the coils and fire it up. I let it idle for approx. 2-3 minutes before raising the revvs above idle. There's plenty enough assembly lube in the engine to last until the system is primed - provided theyre adequately primed.

There is no need to overfill the crankcase- the oil pumps are a gear-rotor design and lift oil from the pan like no tomorrow. I always fill the oil pumps with EOS as well before installation and this helps pick up the oil.

The last engine- I asked what happened to it, before I had sold him the engine. It was purchased from Accurate Engines in Michigan (never, ever deal with these guys- I called them in the past - they install new cam bearings in the Northstar- anyone who knows the Northstar knows they don't have cam bearings!) and he said the block was cracked and leaked coolant. I asked where it was cracked - he said near the water pump crossover. In a later conversation with my customer he asked me to include coolant crossover bolts because he was missing bolts and had to use all-thread rod..... I'm pretty sure the althread rod tightened against the cylinder wall inside the block and cracked the block as a result. I can't say this for sure though. Oh, and he asked Accurate engines for a refund and they said it was an installation error. From what he told me I'd probably have to agree.

Today I scrapped that engine. Not even the cams are re-useable- the cam journals have deep grooves worn in, same with the heads. The piston pins and bushings look fine (amazingly) but they're going in the scrap pile too. The crank is done. The new timing chain tensioners are now full of powdered steel and aluminum. Done. The oil that was left in the bottom of the pan looked like anti-seize, or similar to a very metallic gray/silver paint.

The customer told me the oil pressure warning hasn't come on once. I know for sure, 100%, as worn out as everything is, it would have been on at idle if not at all times already. Either his oil pressure monitoring system (switch and wiring) is not working at all, or he hasn't been telling me everything.

Correct me if I'm wrong, overheating an engine because the system still had an air-lock, would also cook the oil or at least thin it out, preventing proper break-in of brand new bearings... right? Oh- and it is possible to still have an air-lock in a Northstar even though the system is self purging. Not normally though. I did tell him to blow the purge line / heated throttle body line out and make sure they were clear, well that ended the overheating.

If I wanted to follow my warranty rules, overheating would have already voided the warranty, and revving the hell out of it would have also done it. I had to tell him on the phone to let off the throttle. Northstars can handle RPMs pretty well but on a fresh build, everything needs time to seat properly and break-in. I tell everyone to avoid running to 5000 revs for at least the first 3000 miles- after the first oil change, go nuts...

The head gaskets and studs can handle overheating and still be OK afterwards, I've found out, but I don't advise letting them hit severely high temps, at all.

02-03-10, 11:17 PM
The "overfill" fix was a solution to a rare problem: The Northstar oil pump is above the oil level in the pan; the oil pickup ball check valve gets a chip in it. The oil pump loses prime from siphon-back. Overfill puts enough oil in the pan to reach the oil pump level - the flooded oil pump primes and pumps. Rare......................

Jake, in the marine engine business I have learned that your best insurance for a rebuild is a big red crayon on poster paper: most online engine buyers have NO CLUE what they're doing or getting into, and you (we) suffer the result. "Water cooled ??? What's water cooled ??? I want POWER !!!" The community is full of idiots.

02-03-10, 11:53 PM
Wow. 4 engines? What is this guy doing to that car? I say stand your ground on this one Jake. Ignoring all the evidence you found in the motor, what the hell would make someone think that revving a freshly rebuilt engine to redline is a good idea??

02-03-10, 11:54 PM
The community is full of idiots.

Understatement of the century!

02-04-10, 06:07 AM
Jim - the oil pick-up tube does not have a check-valve/ball in it at all. I've heard this mentioned before and I've been looking for this- there's nothing in the pick-up tube, or the pump, anywhere. I believe the system loses it's prime after every shutdown, and being the high-volume gear-rotor design that it is, I'm pretty sure it would pick that prime up within two crankshaft revolutions every time.

most online engine buyers have NO CLUE what they're doing or getting into, and you (we) suffer the result. Yup, you've got that right. Which is why I've decided to either quit selling these entirely or sell ONLY directly to dealerships and members of that INNRS system I've been setting up. These cores: the blocks, the cams, the cranks, heads, none of it's cheap or easy to replace. Just because of some ignorance to my carefully written start-up/break-in procedures there's a $500 core shot to hell, $1300+ in parts, and about $1100 in shipping costs now. I guess I now broke even on this one. And the customer still doesn't have a running car. I'm running out of good L37 intake cams and also running out of good exhaust cams. This was a perfect set.

If somewhere along the lines I would have gotten a call "my oil pressure warning came on" or the lamp started to flicker, or at least if he had verified pressure with a guage I would not be doubting the customer's honesty quite so much. When I unloaded the engine here at the shop I spun the flywheel back and forth and there was an audible "knock" with tons of play in the bottom end. There's no way that oil pressure warning didn't come on at some point- unless it's completely inoperative.

Now does anybody have any clue as to how piston tops would have rather heavy carbon build-up on parts of the piston, and other parts of the piston are almost as clean as when I assembled the engine? I've never seen such un-even carbon build-up. I'm thinking the pistons may have developed hot spots from overheating. Any clue?

GA - maybe I will stand my ground. I've had customers red-line their engines after I do the HG's and bottom end seals- immediately afterward. When I do a HG job I don't warranty the whole engine for 5 years/100,000mi - I warranty that the HG's will seal for that period of time/mileage. If they blow the engine to pieces from high RPM's right after I've had the bottom end apart, that's no longer an issue of mine. Certain things boil down to common sense. Warranty - should I replace an engine if someone forgets to add oil? Say for instance, someone openly admitted to me in the future that they fired their engine up without oil - can anyone really expect that to be covered under warranty? "It has warranty, if it blows, it blows..." That's like getting life insurance and then believing you're invincible...

Hearing that he let it overheat right aways bothered me. But not as much as hearing that engine fly at the rate of around 5000-6000 revs per minute.

02-04-10, 06:29 AM
Now if he told me it didn't have oil pressure right from the get-go this would have been a no-brainer. Replace under warranty. But - engines that have no oil pressure will not properly adjust the hydraulic lifters. I had Cadillac diagnose the noises and the tech I spoke to said rod bearings, possibly a piston pin as well. He would have spotted a noisy valvetrain. So it did have enough oil pressure to properly adjust the valvetrain. This would have been before the bottom end was totally gone.

1. customer starts engine up without adding oil. Warning lamp comes on, stays on, realizes "oh shit I forgot oil" two-three minutes later.
2. customer adds oil. Engine builds pressure to adjust valvetrain, but the damage has already been done. The wear has started.
3. the metal from the chewed up bearings makes its way through the oil system and wears everything out. Engine is toast.

I can't see it any other way. One big missing link is; when did the oil pressure warning lamp come on? Maybe he denies the warning ever came on because that would void warranty? Well "when" it came on plays a big factor with determining "why" it came on. Keeping important info like this under wraps doesn't help- unless it was inoperable. The Caddy tech told me the warning lamp was not on at all- I just don't know how far the wear had progressed at that point.

02-04-10, 02:15 PM
Lets say I'm a customer. I get an engine from you. I know what will/will not void a warranty. Now I run the motor and like you said, without oil. Oh shit! The oild pressure light! Shit let me put oil in it now! I stop the motor, fill it with oil and start it up. Too late, everything is getting worse. I call you. Hell no I'm not gonna tell you that I forgot the oil or the oil pressure light was on. I want a free replacement.

Rarely do some people blame themselves for things going wrong when it will cost them money out of their pocket. Not everyone, but some people. Don't want to offend anyone. But he bought an engine and toasted it. Engines aren't cheap so of course he doesn't want to buy another one. So if he could shift blame to you so he can get a free replacement, he will lie to do it. Free is always better. But here's the thing, it's not free. It's either gonna cost you or him. You didn't make the mistake 97, don't pay for his ignorance. He ran it without oil. Unless the pump was not working I don't see how else it coulda gotten so roasted. But the pump was working because oil made it to the valvetrain. Oil made it there late because there was no oil at first. If oil can make it up there, oil coulda made it throught the rest of the motor. There would be no extensive damage that you describe if oil was present from the begining. He fried it. Don't let it be free for him and cost you.

02-04-10, 03:57 PM

02-04-10, 04:16 PM
Some engine rebuilders, not all, actually "run" the engine for several seconds using propane or, in the case of fuel injected engines, by spinning the engine over without spark plugs. This verifies oil pressure (it's drained after testing) and mechanical condition.

02-04-10, 05:12 PM
I don't do this for a few reasons. I have to bolt up an oil filter mount (I sell them without because there's so many cars that have different mounts with cooler ports or without) install the level sensor so oil doesn't run out (and I prefer to sell without sensors) and fill the crankcase, drain as you said, and also I never finished building that test stand yet. Ignition isn't easy to set up on the Northstar without having the PCM and wiring all attatched.

Basically, if you have all new bearings, all the right clearances inside the engine (bearing to journal clearance, everything bolted up as it should be, there's no chance of not having oil pressure unless it did not have oil or was not properly primed. I don't know the condition of his oil filter mount (the overpressure valve), his cooler lines, his rad mounted cooler, what type of filter he used, what type of oil he used, nothing.

Warranty should stand for something. If one or two bearings were worn out I'd look it over and say "ok - what did we do wrong here and how can we make it up to the guy". But if all the bearings are gone it's simply lack of oil or incorrect bearings. I used a standard crank that had absolutely perfect main and rod journals, measured them and were perfectly on GM specs. Of course everything was washed. I used Clevite tri-metal bearings, checked them with a mic against factory specs and against the old bearings. I used the correct bearings. Everything was prelubed with engine assembly lube and with a good amount. When I got the engine back I double checked again that I used the correct bearings and that the crank wasn't machined at one point.

Now if I had gotten a call - "ok man I have the engine in and my oil pressure warning light won't go out- I'm afraid to run the engine any more- what do I do" - things would be a lot different.

I just got a call from the customer because I sent him an email offering him 2 options - pay 1/2 price and shipping ($2000) for another engine shipped) or a $500 refund for his losses on this one. He's a bit upset. Now he denys that it had ever overheated and that he had never once had the engine above 2000 rpms. He drove the car for a couple of days. Who drives without passing the 2000 rpm mark? I'm not sure I could. I asked him once again if the oil pressure warning has ever come on with this engine in his car and he said no. I told him to get his oil press. switch replaced or fix the wiring because with the amount of bearing clearance in that engine right now there's no way it could have oil pressure anymore

02-04-10, 05:34 PM
99classic - I couldn't have said it better myself. His stories are changing and you hit the nail on the head. Still, I really feel bad for this guy.

Also according to the customer, the knock was there within 15 minutes of having the engine running, according to the customer. If bearings wore out that quickly there's a reason behind it.

02-05-10, 02:40 AM
If now he is just FLAT OUT LYING, then he would get nothing. You said you were on the phone with him and heard the motor turn above 5K. I see no point in letting him take possession of, and potentially destroy, another engine that you have so much labor invested in.

02-05-10, 10:06 AM
Thanks GA. I've given him two options and I hope he's just going to take the $500 refund and call it done. The way he's running rebuilt engines he may as well just use junkyard motors. It's wrong to judge- but I am sort of judging his mechanical competence level by some of the things I saw during tear-down. Clear window and door silicone smeared around a block heater that does not enter a coolant passage in the first place, the same stuff around the oil dipstick, spark plugs that I could loosen by hand and also "burping" a cooling system that is self purging. And you can't blame an engine immediately if the temp guage hits the red zone. There's a lot to a cooling system and it all has to be checked and maintained. Twice he used the word overheat and now denys it altogether. I don't want to accuse anyone of lying but I don't believe the full truth was told.

The cylinders are scored in that old block but if I don't mind having an oil-burning lawn mower, maybe I'll get my uncle to build a N* lawn tractor for me :cool2: He's working on installing a 4.0 Aurora piston in a Briggs and Stratton 12hp block (block is being bored oversize).

02-11-10, 10:36 AM
I would think about possibly changing your warrany policy on engines not intalled in-house.

Possibly only a warranty on the HG's for engines shipped out.

02-11-10, 11:55 AM
just sell them with no warranty. Put yourstandard warenty on if YOU Install or someone approved does. I doubt you will sell many less engines without the warenty.

Wher is his car now? If its at the dealer they should be able to check the oil lamp if it is faulty. But i assume he took the engine out, so the car is in his hands anyway.

If you told me there is no warenty on an engine if i do the install, it wouldnt stop me from buying it. That may not go the same for everyone because that answer is word of mouth. Im sure if i did everything right and there was a problem due o defect, then i wouldnt have to worry about you fixing it.

I wouldnt offer him anything if you are already out money. Did you pay o have t shipped back? You inspected the engine, he killed it. Its his problem. I deal with computers and have shipped lots of dead parts in for RMA. I have people bring me stuff thats dead and i know why the stuff dies. If it was their fault, they get squat from me.

02-14-10, 04:08 AM
Jake, you are far too courteous. Let me explain . . .

My first car was a 1987 Cutlass Cruiser Wagon. Great body, good mechanicals, and the gutless little 2.8L V6 ran like a champ. One morning before school, I started 'er up, drove down the road, and it felt like half the power was gone. It was as if I were dragging a dead rhino behind my car. I called my uncle, who's been a mechanic since birth, and he said maybe I needed new plugs or wires. So I bought new plugs and wires, installed them myself (correctly, which made me ever so proud), and the problem was still there. So I called my uncle again, and he said maybe it was a plugged catalytic converter. So me and a few friends who knew more about cars than I did replaced the cat. Problem remained. Finally, I took the wagon to my uncle's house and it took him about 10 seconds to figure out that one of the three coil packs was dead, and I needed to replace it. The whole time, I'd been running on 4 cylinders! I was angry because I'd spent about $100 replacing all these other parts. My uncle said to me, "Andy, if you'da brought me the car in the first place instead of just telling me the symptoms, this all coulda been avoided." Then he lit a cigarette, walked into his house, and closed the door behind him.

My own laziness is what forced me to shell out so much time and money replacing stuff that didn't need to be replaced at all. If I had brought my car to my uncle in the first place, it would've saved me a bundle (which, in high school, I could have definitely used - my friend had a fake ID and I was developing a taste for Sam Adams).

This guy didn't read the instructions you gave him, and instead figured that you had taken care of everything and all he had to do was touch off and do a few WOTs in Neutral. And you're still giving him the benefit of the doubt, and replacing his engine at a loss to yourself. I assume a majority of your customers are American. You should adopt the American mindset, outlined by Michael Douglas as Gordan Gekko - "Greed is good." I'd say this guy was SOL from the get-go (4 engines in!!) and void that warranty faster than Buchanan started the Civil War. The fact that you're being so accommodating is further proof that you take a lot of pride in your work, but I think I speak for most on this forum (at least, those of us with N*s) when I say we want you to remain in business for a long time - forever, if we ever get that immortality drug that science has been promising us for a decade or so. I know you already know this, but it cannot be said enough: The bottom line is the bottom line. I don't care if we're talking about $US or $CAN, or Canadian Tire money!! Remember: the only person you must look out for is yourself.

PS - I offer this advice as a potential future customer. I'd rather have you stay in business and spend a bit more on a stud kit installation than have to settle for Timeserts or those other things (Norms? I dunno, too much beer). Your stud kit is a marvel - and if you had another innovation cooking, nobody here would be surprised at all.

07-09-10, 10:27 PM
Northstar? It's self purging. How and why would he need to "burp" it? Even if you did not purge it when refilling it (hard to believe), it should have done so itself on the ride home.

It has a rev limiter that should have prevented revving it above 4000 RPM.

How can you even tell how many rpms over a phone? was this person in the car or ouside the car moving the throttle by hand? not good to assume things.

07-09-10, 10:38 PM
This is a fairly old thread already. Leave it alone please; as the title states "Frustrated" - I prefer not to be frustrated. The owner has another engine in his car now and it's working; that I shipped to him at 1/2 price. 'Nuff said. Just the fact that this all of a sudden resurfaced today lets me know roughly who you are Concours. I'm off to check my email now; I'm going to guess I can expect a new one...