Tech / Tech Articles

Ask Away! with Jeff Smith: Examining Budget-Friendly Options for Pre-Lubing a New Engine

I just bought an LS3 crate engine and the instructions that Chevrolet includes with the engine recommend pre-lubing the engine with a Kent Moore tool J45299. I looked that tool up and it’s a 2-quart plastic bottle, a small hand pump, and a few assorted fittings and they want $340 for it! That seems like a big expense for something I will only use once. Do you have any suggestions?

K.T.

Jeff Smith: We ran into this situation ourselves with a 404-cubic-inch stroker LS that we built a few years back and realized the challenge of pre-lubing an engine with a crank-driven oil pump. We looked on the Summit Racing website and came up with an alternative. A Sealed Power pressure luber looks like a propane tank that uses shop air to push four quarts of oil capacity through the engine.

For those on a tight budget, we came up with a homemade tool that can be built inexpensively and can be reused as often as necessary. We began with a 2 ½ gallon plastic bucket from the hardware store. We dug up an old small block Chevy oil pump (they never really wear out!) that we bolted to the bucket lid reinforced with 1/8-inch thick aluminum sheet.

We tapped the pump’s outlet for a -6 AN line, but you could use high-pressure rubber hose. We used braided AN line because we had some laying around and it will easily handle the 60-70 psi of oil pressure. Rubber hose with regular push-on hose barbs will not stand up to that kind of pressure. The only custom fitting you will need is an adapter to plug into the oil galley – we used an Earl’s 16mm to -6 ANFord Mod motors use an M12 x 1.50 to -6An adapter while late model HEMI engines use a typical 1/8 x 27 pipe threaded adapter. For the LS, you could also adapt a brass fitting into a spare oil galley plug.

Next we bought a 15mm x 1.75 metric bolt to replace the drain plug. We drilled it to accept a pipe thread adapter to create a return line back to the bucket. We cut the 5/8-inch oil pump pickup tube with a hack saw, cleaned up the burrs, and added a short length of 5/8-inch heater hose and two clamps to submerge the pickup in the oil. Then we attached a ½-inch drill motor to an SBC oil pump driveshaft to spin the pump. Because the oil pump output is much greater than the return, we ended up putting 7 quarts of oil into the bucket so we could keep the pump running.

With all the connections in place, it only takes a few seconds for the engine to make oil pressure. However, that doesn’t mean that the oil has moved throughout the entire engine. We prefer to continue to run the pressure luber until we see oil exit all 16 pushrods. Sometimes that may take 15 minutes and on one occasion, we never got oil from two of our pushrods even after turning the engine over multiple times.

I think this is the best way to pre-lube engines, but certainly just pushing four quarts of oil into the engine is enough to lube the mains, rods, and push oil up to the lifters right before you start the engine. That will certainly make the oil pump’s job much easier on initial startup and protect the bearings. If you build your own pre-luber, it could easily be completed for less than $50 if you are resourceful. We cover our luber with in a giant plastic bag to keep it clean and have used it several times on LS engines. Here’s the complete story in Power & Performance News.

Because most engine wear occurs on startup, it is absolutely critical that a new engine have fresh oil on the bearings before it is started for the first time. Don’t just spin the engine with the spark plugs removed hoping the pump will build pressure. Building this luber might seem like a hassle, but if you are spending good money for a fresh LS engine – it makes sense to make every effort to start it properly.

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4 Comments

  1. Jeff Smith, I need to swap out a 96 5.7L GMC truck motor with a bad rod. I have a donor 5.7L motor from a 92 Caprice Police car that I was considering using. (short-block only) I’m having the heads done from the 96. I think the compression ration on the truck is 9.4:1 & the car 9.6:1. If I swap out the heads and all the intake, I was wondering if you knew if the tops of the pistons are the same? Or are the vortec pistons different? Thank you

    • They are the same style and should work ok, one thing to keep in mind though is to make sure the caprice engine is a one piece seal block as well. Because the engine takes a different oil pan, and to make sure you have the same spot for the oil cooler lines. Both engines I believe had reverse dome 4 valve relief pistons. I know for sure the vortec does.

  2. Perhaps a usefull suggestion: the OEM tool for Mercedes-Benz commercial truck engines looks a lot like a 2 gallon garden pump sprayer.
    It seems to me that such a garden tool could be a great starting point to built your own pressure luber.

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