Engine & Exhaust / Tech Articles

Building Blocks: 10 Often-Overlooked Small (Yet Important!) Parts You Need to Finish Your Engine Assembly

(Image/Wayne Scraba)

For anyone building an engine in a small town, the pain of finding all of the little pieces necessary to assemble the thing can be considerable—and we’re not talking about bearings, lifters, timing chains, gaskets, or anything like that.

We’re talking about those small, mundane (yet nonetheless vitally important!) parts you need to finish the build.

And even if you live in a big metro area, you just know there is no such thing as one-stop shopping for engine nuts, bolts, and fasteners. You can spend the better part of a day tracking down the little stuff and sometimes you will still come up short.

That’s why it’s critically important to spec-out your engine building needs ahead of time. But even if you’re an experienced engine builder, there’s still a chance you might forget some little (yet critical) component, so here are a few often-overlooked pieces that you’ll probably need to complete your engine build.

10 Important Small Parts You Need for Engine Assembly

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1. Expansion (AKA “Freeze” or “Frost”) Plugs

Expansion (freeze) plugs are necessary in any build. No secret. A lot of engine builders prefer brass plugs. The reason is the purpose of the plug: It should be a softer metal than the cylinder block surrounding it. The plug will collapse if ice forms in the block saving it from cracking. Additionally, steel plugs will rust quickly. Not so with brass. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

You’ll most likely need new frost (expansion) plugs. There are plenty of types available, but I typically use brass frost plugs in my builds. I picked up one of these freeze plug kits for my most recent build. It includes all of the water jacket soft plugs, along with a cam plug and a selection of gallery plugs.

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2. Timing Cover & Timing Pointer

Trying to find a timing chain cover that isn’t bent or leaking is problematic, hence the suggestion to buy a new one (such as the Milodon one shown here). There’s a good chance you’ll need a timing pointer. The CVR pointer in the photo is a very nice piece. We talk about it more in the article. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Next up is the timing cover. What’s with that? Simple. Have you ever tried to find a used example today that isn’t damaged (and consequently leaks) or is over-priced? The solution is simple. I picked a Milodon part number 65604 for my rat motor project. Obviously, it is brand-spanking-new and it replicates the original Chevy piece. It’s basic black, but they’re also available in a gold iridate finish.

Something else that regularly goes missing in a build or is damaged and can’t be re-used is the timing pointer (timing tab). There are all sorts of different pointers out there and keep in mind you should select it in conjunction with the harmonic damper diameter. I selected a CVR TP4800. It’s a very nicely finished billet unit with a sharp, easy to see pointer. This example is designed for use with an eight-inch damper.

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3. Dowel Pins

There are a lot of dowel pins in an engine. Our example has dowels for the timing chain cover, cylinder heads, oil pump (not shown), and bellhousing. While it’s possible to re-use these parts, costs for replacement parts are tiny. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

With a new block, you’ll need new timing chain cover dowels. In addition, if you have a well-used block that has been hot tanked a time or two, the dowels just might be nasty. I picked a set of Pioneer timing cover dowels, part number 839059. These are stock replacements and the fit is excellent.

Speaking of dowels: On a fresh build, you’ll also need a set of cylinder head dowels. You’ll only need a few of them, and they’re usually pretty cheap. The big block Chevy part number for the Pioneer dowels I picked is PG-233-10. Like the timing cover dowels, the fit is perfect.

That’s not the end: The bellhousing requires dowel pins too. There are a number of different types available, including conventional length, longer-than-stock examples, and either offset or adjustable dowels used for indexing a bellhousing. For my build, I picked a set of Summit Racing two inch dowels (part number SUM-192000) along with a set of Lakewood adjustable dowels (just in case my bellhousing requires indexing). The Lakewood part number is 15907.

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4. Crankshaft Keys

Crank keys are rather important (again, no secret). As noted below, there are several different configurations available, including the conventional straight examples shown here. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Other items that are also prone to vanishing include crankshaft keys. And again, you’ve got all sorts of options, including Woodruff key configurations and offset keys (with different degrees of offset). For my setup, I picked a set of standard 3/16 inch tall, 0 degree offset keys from Pioneer. The part number is PK-9-A-25.

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5. Oil Filter Adapter

On a big or small block Chevy, you’ll need some form of oil filter adapter. This is a CVR example (again, a very nicely machined and finished component). It is designed to block off the oil filter bypass. Keep reading to learn more about it. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Something else you’ll need with Chevys is an oil filter adapter. There are two different setups for early and late engines. For common early engines like mine, you have to decide if you want the oil filter to bypass when the engine is cold or if you want full oil flow through the filter all the time. The catch here is if you choose to use heavy oil and it’s cold, there’s a good chance you can blow the filter right off. And if you’re lazy about changing the filter, and it becomes plugged it can split the oil filter or most likely blow out the gasket. (It’s a big mess either way.)

For me, I don’t use heavy oil, I use Wix race filters that are changed regularly and I won’t be starting the thing in cold temps.

Want to learn more about oil filters? You’ll probably like this article: Oil Down: A Look Inside Several Popular Oil Filter Models

Full flow filtered oiling all the time made sense for my situation. And one of the coolest oil filter adapters out there is the CVR part number OFA65, which features a hard-anodized billet aluminum piece that seals to the block by way of an O-ring. And it’s a simple bolt-in install.

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6. Cam Button

If you have a roller cam, you’ll need some means of preventing fore and aft cam movement. An easy fix is this Crane Cams roller cam button. Additionally, a camshaft bolt locking plate is simply good insurance. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

In many Chevy engines with a roller cam, a cam button is necessary in order to stop the camshaft from moving fore and aft. That’s common knowledge, and of course, I needed one. To go with it, I also picked up a cam locking plate from Crane. It simply stops the cam bolts from loosening and is pretty cheap insurance.

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7. Distributor Clamp & Stud

There are a lot of different distributor clamps out there. Some are pretty cool, but one you can’t beat for Chevy applications is this piece from Moroso. I combined it with an ARP stud. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

I needed a distributor clamp too. For this application, I picked an old faithful (I’ve used them for years because they’re super heavy duty, built from steel, and never move when you lock them down): Moroso part number MOR-26200. Although Moroso includes a stud, nut, and washer, I opted for an ARP stud kit, part number ARP-430-170.

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8. Damper Bolt

This is the special half inch square drive damper bolt ARP offers for big block Chevys. As noted in the article, the bolt allows you to spin the engine over with a breaker bar and an extension, no socket necessary. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

I needed a damper bolt of some sort and after perusing the Summit Racing catalog, I selected a special square drive bolt from ARP (part number 135-2503) for the build. What makes it special is the fact the ID on the bolt head is machined so that you can insert a common half inch drive extension into the bolt and then turn the engine over by hand with a breaker bar. Very cool.

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9. Fasteners, Fasteners, Fasteners

Getting the right collection of fasteners for an engine build isn’t exactly easy. Here’s a look at a small sampling of the pieces needed to put together a big block Chevy. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Some of the final pieces of my engine assembly puzzle were fasteners. There are a lot of them. I primarily chose premium fasteners from ARP. Included in the mix is a set of ARP head bolts for the Brodix heads I’m using (ARP part number 135-3601).

Two things to point out: First, you must use the appropriate head bolt for your cylinder head. There are differences. That’s why there are so many part numbers. Secondly, you’ve got to decide on the type of head configuration you want on the bolt. It can be a conventional hex or a 12 point. I picked a conventional hex for the head bolts (for various reasons).

There were a number of other fasteners needed for the build and here I primarily went with ARP stainless steel hardware. This time, I selected 12-point bolts, largely because of their “wrenchability” in tight spaces. 12-points work very well when header or intake clearance is tight.

(There are obviously other fasteners required such as rocker studs, valve cover bolts, oil pan bolts, flywheel to crank bolts, carb studs, and so on, but I already had these in hand.)

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10. Spark Plug Indexing Washers

If you index spark plugs (I do), then you need these soft copper washers from Moroso. The kit has multiple thicknesses which allows you to point the plug gap in the direction appropriate for your engine combination. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

The final pieces in my puzzle included spark plug indexing washers. I have a good collection of spark plugs on hand from past racing efforts, so I was covered there. My supply of indexing washers was depleted, so I ordered a set of flat copper indexing washers, Moroso part number 71910. Included in the mix are 30 washers with three thicknesses that allow for easy plug indexing in the chamber.

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As you can see, there are more than a few small parts you need to assemble an engine. For some cases, I may have only skimmed the surface.

But one thing is certain: getting all these parts ahead of time sure as heck beats driving all over the place looking for pieces to finish a half-built engine.

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3 Comments

  1. Great recommendations.

    Don’t forget the appropriate oil pump drive shaft (especially on Ford Windsor engines) and, fuel pump push rod (for those of us still using mechanical pumps) or block off plate (if using an electric pump).

  2. Martin Godfrey says:

    I need a up to catalog could you send me one. Martin W Godfrey 535 NE KELLAM AVE TOPEKA KS. 66616

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