Rebuild The Engine



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Rebuild Engine

We had a 1986 Chevrolet Nova about 30 years ago. It was a 1986 Nova, built by Chevrolet, but it was identical to the Toyota Corolla. It was a very neat little car a great puddle jumper for running around making short trips. It even got 30 miles to the gallon on local trips. We didn’t take it on the highway very often where there was heavy traffic. You felt a little insecure, the size of the body was not very large. I always wanted a little more car wrapped around me if I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic somewhere.

Returning home from town one day, the little car started having some very bad seizures. It was hardly moving with my foot on the gas pedal clear to the floor. I could barely keep the thing moving, had no idea what was wrong with it. We managed to come limping home with it. When I lifted the hood and started checking it was running hot. I found out the head gasket was blown after doing a compression check. The Internet showed they were fairly good at having a head gasket blow after a hundred thousand miles or so. We had driven that car about 150,000 miles.

I stopped at our local auto parts store and picked up an owner manual for that model car. It had all the information you needed as far as taking an engine completely apart. How to remove it from the car and how to get it back in, all the information was there all you had to do was read it. I read it several times, then a few more. I thought I could get by putting in a new head gasket. That alone was a fair amount of labor. I was doing what you might call trial and error auto maintenance, not recommended. I installed a new head gasket, the car was worse off than before I installed the head gasket. That’s when I realized when the first head gasket blew, water and antifreeze got down into the cylinder walls and the rings were stuck on two of the Pistons. When you have a four-cylinder engine running on two cylinders it just doesn’t work very well.

My body was still in pretty good physical condition at that time and I liked to do my own mechanic work. I thought I will rebuild this engine myself What have I got to lose? If it doesn’t run after I get it back together, just junk it. I had that little car up on huge blocks so I could work under it, no way it was going to fall down on me. I took the hood and radiator off to get started, loosened the engine to get the oil pan and timing gear cover off. I started removing the rod bearings from the connecting rods so I could push the pistons up through the top of the engine. I took the head to a machine shop where they planed it down and ground the valves.

I honed the cylinder walls to get the shine off and ready for the new piston rings. I installed oversize rings on the old pistons. The oil pressure had always been good so did nothing with the crankshaft bearings. I got everything back together in the right order. The head bolts were all torqued to the correct specifications and the oil pan was back on. I installed a new timing chain and aligned my timing marks. I thought I should be good to go, I was wrong. The distributor was a 180° off, glad I discovered that before everything was back together with double check everything.

I took the old Nova/Corolla all apart and put it back together. It ran great afterward! I was quite proud of my accomplishment. It just goes to show, if you set your mind to doing something and keep your head focused on what you’re doing, you can accomplish just about anything.


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