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"POS Cobra" Restoration Journal

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Journal Update, 04/08/2011
Motor has to come out again. Metal debris in the oil pan...
After getting the car home and washed, the first thing to do was get it up in the air and try to find the oil leak. Just like at the track, there was a spattering of oil on the bottom of the motor, K-member, hoses, oil filter and in other spots. While I did find one oil leak at the rear drain plug, I was not able to locate the leak at the front of the motor and there was another leak coming from the rear main seal area of the motor.
To help with my search, I took 30 or so pictures of the bottom of the motor, hoping that maybe I would see something on my computer monitor that I did not see while lying on my back. Plus, I could send the pictures to Buddy for him to look at.

I called Buddy on Tuesday to discuss the oil leak dilemma. During our brainstorming, several clues came to light.
First, the oil pan was overfull. This was due to me putting in the engine oil while the motor was on the engine dolly, which is level. So when the motor was installed at the designed angle, the pan had too much oil in the rear sump, which could lead to the crank splashing in the oil as it rotates.
Second, while working on the clutch issues when putting in the motor, I left the engine hanging on the hoist overnight. I put my rolling mechanics seat under the motor to protect the pan in case the hoist lost pressure. Well, it did and the seat did its job, however, the motor ended up hanging nose-down and there was a puddle of oil under the harmonic balancer. However, I could not determine where the oil came from as all the surfaces were dry.
Third, no other items had changed about the bottom-end of the motor and I never had a leak like this before.
So, what we determined was that over-filling the motor caused the oil to work its way into the crankshaft and eventually worked its way out the balancer bolt threads and that the proper oil level would correct my problem. Also, the crank hitting the oil could be affecting my high RPM power.
Satisfied with this hypothesis, I went ahead and cleaned off the bottom of the car to remove all the oil and dirt that had accumulated. This would also make it easy to test the hypothesis, as all I needed to do was drain the oil and put in the correct amount of new oil and start it up.
Sounds easy, well it did not turn out that way.

When I pulled the drain plugs Wednesday, I was greeted with a large amount of metal debris on the drain plugs magnet. We had metal shavings, bits of wire, and a ball bearing.

I called Buddy (who was on his way to the airport to go to the Grand-Am race in Alabama) and I sent him a picture of the debris via SMS to his phone. After examine the picture, he called me back and thought that the wire looked like a spiral-lock used to hold in the piston pin. He, like me, had no idea where the ball bearing came from. He instructed me to pull the motor and bring it up to his shop in Sanford after 1pm on Sunday, as his return flight arrived that morning.

I pulled the motor and put it on the dolly to get it ready for transport. I decided to pull the spark plugs to look for any signs of problems or damage. Plugs 1 through 5 were great. They all had a nice tan finish from the race gas. Number 6 was a different story. Completely black from fuel. It looked like it had rarely fired at all. No heat discoloration on the threads of the plugs. To dig deeper, I pulled the drivers-side valve cover and discovered why the plug was not firing and why I was down on power. Both the intake and exhaust rocker arms were off the valves and pushrods.

I first unbolted the rocker arms to inspect them. Both had damage on the bottom but the exhaust rocker had the most. Both pushrods were damaged and neither could be removed from the guide plate.

The intake came off next and my oil pan debris source became apparent. Both hydraulic roller lifters on number 6 were destroyed and their internal parts were missing.
I called Buddy (who was in the rental car in-transit to the hotel) and told him the news. The lifters were not only the source of the wire, but have a check-ball inside also, which accounts for the ball bearing I found in the pan.  I commenced with a full tear down to retrieved all the lifter parts and inspect the camshaft for damage.

The camshaft showed no signs of damage on the lobes and other than the parts directly affected on number 6, there were no signs of any other damage. I had progressed as far as I could with the motor on the dolly, so I reattached the hoist and put the motor on the engine stand to remove the oil pan.
After getting the oil pan off, I found several chunks of the lifter right away. A good cleaning and blasting with compressed air got all the parts out except for the 'other' check-ball, which I could hear, but not shake out due to all the baffling in the oil pan.
Finally, after about a 30 minute battle, the check ball came out and it appears all the lifter parts are accounted for. (except for one small spring)

What caused the failure? I have not run it by Buddy, but I think the pushrods tip broke off, causing the remaining tube to beat the underside of the rocker, then the pushrod jumped onto the edge of the lifter body, fracturing it and causing the lifter to blow apart. This caused the rocker to knock its adjoining rocker off its pushrod, and with no rocker on the pushrod, the oil pressure in the second lifter caused it to fail.

It should not take me long to fix this problem and I should easily make my next race at Daytona on May 7th and 8th.

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Last Modified: April 9th, 2011.