Dad always says, “Any mechanical job isn’t hard, if you just have the right tools.”
Engine building is all about having the correct tools for assembly and precise measurement. Remember the “measure twice, cut once” adage? With help from Proform Tools and L&R Engines in Santa Fe Springs, California, following are some of the most-used and most-needed tools to help bring engine builds up to the jewel quality level. These tools will make engine building easier and quicker, avoiding injury to both those new parts and yourself.
67606 – LS crank turning socket, list price: $49.02
Planning to get the last little bit of performance out of an LS engine? That will require degreeing the cam. Or maybe you need to turn the crank to find Top Dead Center? Remember the line about needing the right tool? A pipe wrench won’t work! This stainless-steel crank-turning socket is specifically engineered for the LS series. It attaches to the oil-pump lug splines on the end of the crank of the LS series. The tool has a knurled end and a ½-inch opening for a breaker bar or ratchet wrench, and degree wheels are easily attached for all timing checks or adjustments.
A pneumatic valve spring compressor can cut serious time from cylinder-head disassembly and assembly routines. This compressor arm slides for adjustment and uses a locking pin for quick setup. No more muscling to compress those high-rev valves springs. The Proform compressor builds 350 pounds of force with 125 psi to compress the spring, and will operate on a minimum of 100 psi. It works on most V6 & V8 heads.
With recent price drops, this piston-ring filer is for both the engine professional engine and garage-based builders. A precise ring end gap is critical to proper ring seal. If you’re still filing piston rings by hand, this cool tool will bring you into the 21st century with accuracy and speed. It’s designed to handle piston rings from 1.5 to 7 inches in diameter. A large-face dial indicator shows precisely how much material is removed by the 120-grit grinding wheel. The electric motor is powered by a rechargeable 12-volt ni-cad battery that will last about 50 rings on a five hour charge. It comes with a 110 volt AC Adapter and two grinding wheels. The sturdy base can be bolted to a work bench for a solid platform. So simple to use: just loosen the clamp to install the piston ring, use the eccentric cam to perfectly square the ring face to the grinding wheel and tighten the clamp to secure the ring. Zero the dial indicator, and then use the lever to move the ring toward the wheel. Final de-burring clean-up of the ring can be performed with a jeweler’s file or 600- to 1200-grit sandpaper.
67652 – Piston ring squaring tool, list price: $21.99
Measuring piston ring end gaps in the cylinder bore can be a tedious chore. But it has to be done, especially for power-adder motors that build tremendous cylinder pressures. Using an old piston or block of wood to push and square the piston rings in the cylinder bore to measure piston ring end gaps is not the preferred procedure. Proform’s patented squaring tool will get your piston rings aligned in the bore the first time. Just simply press the piston ring down in the bore and the tabs on the tool stops the ring evenly for a perfect depth every time. Then it’s just a matter of measuring the ring end gap with a feeler gauge. Constructed of stainless steel and compatible with 4-inch up to 4.310-inch bores.
66772 – Piston vise, list price: $793.28
Top engine builders don’t just install off-the-shelf pistons. Lightening the pistons allow for a faster revving motor. Balancing them will result in less vibration and will make more power with less wear in the engine. Builders may modify the top surface of the piston for additional valve clearance, smooth the valve pockets, or lighten the underside webbing of the piston for balancing. And pros don’t use a bench vise for these operations. The Proform multiple-angle piston vice is constructed from billet aluminum and features corrosion-resistant anodizing. It can be set up quickly and allows for consistent repeatability. The vice allows the piston to rotate front to back, and it will handle up to 4.5-inch diameter pistons. It can also be bolted to a mill for automated machine work.
At some point you’re going to need a heavy duty harmonic balancer puller. Remember, it’s a press-fit operation, so a hammer and or crowbar won’t work. The Proform kit will remove and install harmonic balancers on all domestic engines. It also doubles as universal puller for steering wheel, pulleys and such. Equipped with roller thrust bearings, this heavy-duty tool comes with 7/16 x 20, 5/8 x 18, and 3/4 x 16 adapters in addition to removal hardware. Maximum recommended torque is 150 ft-lbs.
66481 – Cylinder head holder, list price: $122.25
Cleaning cylinder heads, changing valves or performing major porting work is quite the chore without a secure, adjustable method of holding the heads in position. These aluminum cylinder-head stands are sturdy enough so the engine builder can concentrate on the job at hand. They will hold the work at just the right angle for those delicate operations. The top of these holders are dipped in rubber to keep the heads from sliding as you work them.
Need to install heavier valve springs for that new high-lift cam? This LS valve spring compressor (LS1/LS2/LS6) is compact and easy to use with normal hand tools. It takes up almost no space in the toolbox. It will cut valve spring removal and replacement time to around one hour, because it compresses two valve springs at the same time. This on-head tool bolts down using the rocker arm holes, then a wrench is used to compress the springs below the keepers. Remember to use compressed air in the spark-plug hole to prevent the valve from falling in.
Stop using that 2X4 block of wood or old hammer handle to knock your pistons back into their bore during engine assembly. Instead, this piston installation tool has a nylon-composite construction that will not mar or scratch new and expensive aluminum slugs during installation. It’s affordable and weighs in at less than two pounds. With its easy-to-grip handle and steel-shot filled chamber, it’s the perfect tool to pound in pistons without a worry of damage.
For solid-lifter applications, Proform offers a tool so one hand do the job of two. Position the adjusting handle wrench over the rocker arm lock-down and drop the appropriate T-handle wrench down through the hole in the wrench. Then make the lash adjustment with a feeler gauge, according to the camshaft manufacturer’s specs. Part #66781 is 5/8-inch wrench with 3/16-inch and 7/32 T-wrenches; Part #66778 is a 1/2-inch wrench with 3/16-inch and 1/8-inch T-wrenches; Part #66779 contains a 7/16-inch wrench with a 1/8-inch T-wrench; and Part # 66780 includes a 9/16-inch wrench with 3/16-inch and 7/32-inch T-wrenches.
67438 Outside Micrometer Set, list price: $263.06
Measuring clearances for bearings, pistons, rings and other engine components takes precision instruments. This heavy-duty outside micrometer set is available for all popular measurement chores. Each micrometer feature quick-lock levers, ratchet stops, carbide measuring tips, calibration accessories, and adjuster wrenches. The kits comes with a wooden storage box and features six total micrometers, from one to six inches.
Used with a 3/8 drill motor, this Proform oil-pump primer is designed with a bushing for smooth operation while pressurizing engine’s oiling system. It works by taking the place of the distributor drive, priming the oil pump directly through the distributor hole. Just attach to the drill chuck, insert the tool in to the distributor opening and make sure the collar is flush with the manifold. Spin the primer tool with the electric drill and in a few seconds there should oil pressure. Works on Chevy engines, both V8 and V6 90 degree engines.
66792 Top Dead Center locator, list price: $9.99
If you’re dropping in that new distributor or degreeing the cam, you’ll need to know when the number one cylinder’s piston is at Top Dead Center without removing the cylinder head. This simple locator from screws into the spark-plug hole of the cylinder head. The center portion can be screwed in and out to act as a positive stop for the piston, while turning the engine over by the crank. It works with the engine in or out of the car.
66898 Cam Handle, list price: $47.72
Installing a hot, new cam can be a pain because of its awkward length. You don’t want to nick the cam or the new bearings because of an unsteady installation. The Proform universal handle will add a comfortable, secure grip to the front of the cam to ease the installation. Included are five adapters for most domestic V6 and V8 engines, including the LS1 series.
Again, thanks to the crew at L&R Engines for sharing their shop’s facilities. Proform offers many more engine-building tools, including measuring equipment, valve-spring testers and carburetor tools. Check out the entire list at www.proformtools.com.