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Old 01-16-2020, 11:55 PM   #1
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Question Crate engine install

Hey everyone!
I am having trouble finding a shop to install a new crate engine for me.
So, I'm about to just do it myself. Best I can, as long as it takes.
Is there anything you can tell me to be aware of?
I'm looking at getting the GM 350/290 engine.
My truck is a 72 w/ a 350 and a 200R4 in it currently.
I figure I'll remove the grill to avoid wiggling it in and out.
Other than talking a transmission guy into coming over and making sure I set that up correctly, I cannot think of much else.
It's got to be better doing this myself and being able to drive it one day, than looking at it.
I dunno. Any suggestions?

Cracked head in Louisiana
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Old 01-17-2020, 12:28 AM   #2
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Re: Crate engine install

If there's an engine in there now, take lots of pics, bag and tag parts, nuts, bolts, etc.
Taking it apart is the easy bit. Putting it back together is another thing.
A cracked head isn't a reason to get a new engine.
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Old 01-17-2020, 08:03 AM   #3
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Re: Crate engine install

I pull the hood, not the grille. Less work overall.
If you’re replacing an engine for the first time, these trucks are a great place to learn. It doesn’t get much simpler.
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Old 01-17-2020, 08:52 AM   #4
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Re: Crate engine install

You will need help with the hood removal as it is heavy. Removing the grill gains you nothing as the core /radiator support is still there. You need a level smooh surface so the cherry picker will roll on it, a cherry picker, a leveler (best), or a carb lifting plate (ok) or factory lifting tabs and a chain (least desireable). You should have a good floor jack and jack stands. Jack the truck up enough to slide in and out underneath it comfortably but not so high that you run out of lift height on the cherry picker. Put it on jack stands - you will need the floor jack to support the trans. Use a piece of plywood between the floor jack and the trans pan but pull the inspection cover and remove the torque converter bolts from the flex plate first so the jack isn't in your way. If you pull the front tires/wheels off, you gain some room to more easily remove stuff - exhaust etc. Since it is an auto, I would leave the trans in the truck and just pull the engine by itself. Unhook the battery first. Remove carb and fuel line to pump but plug the line coming from the tank to the pump at the pump end so your tank doesn't empy itself. Take the exhaust off, drain and pull the radiator for extra clearnce, remove the trans cooling lines from the radiator and cap them. You can remove the fan, pulleys, and accessories off the motor to give yourself more front clearance. If you have power steering, you can remove the pump and brackets and tie them off in the engine compartment out of the way so you don't have to remove the lines. Remove engine and alternator wiring. Label which starter solenoid terminals go on which terminal. I usually remove the starter just so it doesn't get hung up on the crossmember. Remove ground strap on rear of engine to firewall. Remove oil pressure line from rear of engine block if you have gauges. Check and doulble check that there is nothing left hooked to the engine. Have your Cherry picker hooked up with slight lift pressure, trans supported underneath, remove trans to block bolts, remove enging mount bolts and slowly lift engine an pull it forward slightly and up. You should have fender robes on fenders and something on the core support to protect paint. If you have never pulled and reinstalled an engine yourself you should see if a buddy can help you out some simply for a safety factor. Once the engine is out, you can change over brackets, mounts etc. to new motor before reinstalling it. Does your new engine come with the distributor in it? If not, it's a lot easier to put it in when it is on the ground. Good luck and work safely.
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Last edited by rsavage; 01-17-2020 at 09:03 AM.
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Old 01-17-2020, 12:48 PM   #5
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Re: Crate engine install

I agree the cracked head is not a real good reason to replace engine.
Honestly I want little more power getting on and off highway.
And by taking the engine out I can really get to all the other stuff under the hood that needs some attention. But those are excuses for wanting more power

The engine I am looking at does not come with a new distributor.
I want to say thank you very much for your time and suggestions

I think this will be fun as long as I dont mess it up.
This will be my first time doing this. I have replaced parts and diagnosed issues for awhile now. And I do have some honest good people to help me through things I cannot figure out.

I hear bad things about not getting the transmission kick down cable just right and messing the whole thing up. So far that is my main worry.
With cell phone pics and of course this site with so much knowledge recorded here I think I can get the rest of it.

Oh and I meant taking off the grill, radiator and support.
But I'm happy you guys say taking off just the radiator and hood will be good enough!!

And!! I get to buy a few new tools!
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Old 01-17-2020, 01:06 PM   #6
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Re: Crate engine install

When I replace a old used engine I always go the extra mile and replace the engine mounts, distributor,cap and rotor(if dist doesn't come with them), spark plug wires,water pump( if new engine doesn't come with one),starter,all of the hoses big and small,antifreeze,new fuel filter( close to tank),fuel pump and belts.
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Old 01-17-2020, 03:30 PM   #7
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Re: Crate engine install

Make sure that when you separate the transmission from the engine you don't let the torque convertor slide forward. If you do, you'll need to reseat it carefully.

The only thing I would add to what RSavage posted is to go slowly when you start lifting the engine. Lift a little bit, then check to make sure everything is clear and nothing is still attached, then lift a little more an repeat.
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Old 01-17-2020, 03:31 PM   #8
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Re: Crate engine install

Label wires with zip ties etc to help remember
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Old 01-17-2020, 03:35 PM   #9
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Re: Crate engine install

When I'm pulling an engine and trans with a cherry picker I like to jack up the rear end. Makes clearing the radiator and core support a whole lot easier.
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Old 01-17-2020, 03:49 PM   #10
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Re: Crate engine install

If you have a large enough lift and a helper, I would pull the transmission with it. To me lining up the transmission and the motor mounts at the same time putting it back in is a pain. The transmission is easy to mate with them both on the ground. You can partially dress the engine before it goes in. So. Drain oil and coolant. Remove hood and radiator. Disconnect exhaust from manifold to pipe. (Set p/s pump aside and a/c compressor if it has one). remove driveshaft and put another yoke in (borrow one if you don't have one). Disconnect shifter linkage. (I like to remove the torque converter bolts and push it back now but not required-just easier) Remove bolts from engine mounts and trans mount. Disconnect wiring and heater hoses. Unless I forgot something it will all come out then. Take out, swap parts over on the ground. Put it back in.
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Old 01-17-2020, 04:07 PM   #11
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Re: Crate engine install

You can leave the hood on. Watch this video of my truck.

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Old 01-17-2020, 10:56 PM   #12
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Re: Crate engine install

This is all good advice. I just got my 72 up and running last month after a year of occasional work on swapping in a crate engine. I went with the 350/260 version as I believe this basic 350 is way too low on compression to warrant losing torque down low just to get 30 horses for a second or two at WOT. This is a truck, not a Chevy II.

Anyway, as for lessons learned. Even though this is probably the fifth time I've swapped SBCs, this was the first time I've done it in a truck. I left the transmission in place. The good news, there is enough room to get to most things. Bad news is this was the most difficult swap I've done. I removed the hood (scribe the hinge outline on the hood before removal) and had a leveler, so handling the engine was pretty easy to do by myself. I also removed and replaced the inner fenders because of rust at the bottom. Access to the radiator support bushings is also much better at this point so you may as well do that too.

Cleanup took hours and hours over the course of weeks. North Alabama may not be quite as bad as Louisiana, but late spring, summer and early fall are challenging when it comes to temperature and humidity and you're degreasing, washing, scraping, sanding, and painting. This project convinced me. I now have air conditioning in my shop.

From there it was uphill all the way. This will be a good time to upgrade things, but the more you replace, the more chance there will be complications. For example, I went with an aftermarket intake manifold. Been there and done that with zero issues. This time, nope. To clear the valve covers--grinder. To fit a new choke, all new parts after much research. To fit the throttle cable bracket, more grinding. To align the upper alternator support arm, more grinding. Aluminum water pump--wouldn't clear the double groove pulley, more grinding. (Eventually found it leaked, and ended up trashing it.) Decide if you want to keep the OEM plug routing. If so, it's much easier to do when the engine is out.

As was said, don't let the torque converter slip out of the front pump. I did and thought I'd never get it back in. Took two afternoons of frustration to get it to seat back in so I could bolt up the engine. If you've not done this part before, get some help from someone who's done it. You can ruin your transmission quite easily. If you have to do it alone, make sure there is at least 1/4 inch between the flexplate and converter as you're mating the engine and tranny. If there is no clearance, stop. The converter has slipped out of the front pump and will have to be reseated back in place.

Worst part for me was getting the engine mounts bolted to the pedestals. Like my dad used to say "The fool that designed this should have to be the one to fix every one of them." Maybe you'll have better luck, but I found getting the bolts through the pedestals and into the mounts almost mission impossible. I finally got it by disconnecting the tranny from the crossmember, loosening the mounts on the motor, and using two jacks and the engine hoist to support the engine/transmission. From there I was able to get movement in every direction and finally get the holes perfectly aligned to get the bolts started. I'm told there is a way to convert to the more common cross-pin design mount and if I ever have to do this again I'm going to research that.

Fortunately, I was in no particular hurry and it sounds like you aren't either. With that understood, go for it. It's not rocket science and when you're done and have a new motor you'll know your truck much better.

Good luck!
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Old 01-20-2020, 10:25 AM   #13
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Re: Crate engine install

For a pickup that weighs in excess of 4000 lbs, I would suggest almost any other engine that is sold out there except GM's 290 hp 350. It has a big camshaft, but very low compression, 8.5:1. This cam bleeds off cylinder pressure, which kills off low rpm torque. This is made worse by the lack of static compression. This engine would be great if it had 9.5:1 compression.

I just replaced the engine in my 67 GMC, and the previous posters here have great advice. If you have a buddy helping you, then someone working under the truck (on proper jack stands) to disconnect exhaust, pull starter, disconnect shifter linkage, unbolt trans bellhousing and torque converter bolts, etc. While someone is up top. Drain fluids first. Clean up the any mess that comes from it before working on anything else.

My engine replacement wasn't so easy since I slammed my truck. The engine hoist legs wouldn't go under the frame and lower A arms, so I had to jack the truck up a bit in order to use the engine hoist. If you can't borrow an engine hoist from a friend, then just rent one from any one of the rental yards. Unless you want this to be an excuse to add to your tool collection.

Have fun, take your time.
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Old 01-21-2020, 12:24 AM   #14
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Re: Crate engine install

I know from research on this site that choosing an engine and asking about one is all but wore out.
But I really could use some advice.
You say that the 350/290 is not a good choice?!
I would of thought GM could provide decent quality.
Would you guys, suggest something in the $3K ballpark?
I'd like to stay with regular pump gas. Although I will be using ethanol free gas.
I have access to the shop I work at with overhead cranes and all kinds of tools. With a couple of friends to help me along.
I understand that choosing the right powerhouse is personal because of the way each one of us drives.
I like to play with my vehicles, from stop light to stop light.
Not so much top end high speeds. Although I will be doing some highway driving.
I had a 351 Windsor as a teen that scooted along so much better than the original engine in my truck does. Or did before it started pouring coolant out the tail pipe.

If anyone would like to throw out some suggestions on a 350 engine. I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for the help so far!
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:30 AM   #15
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Re: Crate engine install

I'll put a disclaimer out here first that I'm not an expert and mostly self taught and have used a lot of info on this site. I would have loved to put an LS in my truck and the prices have since come down a little and probably will put one in in the future. But after figuring the costs with the tranny, gauges, fuel tank and pump and fans, exhaust etc, etc I decided to go with the 350/290 SBC Gen 1. I was able to bolt everything up to this motor and I am able to do all the work on it myself. I bought the crate motor off Ebay through Radley and it has been great. Not every truck is meant to smoke the tires at every light or tow a trailer etc. I use mine as a daily driver and it is atleast as quick off the line as any modern car/truck. It has no problem on the freeway or highways flowing with traffic. It feels faster than my Silverado with a 4.8L. The install is pretty straight forward.
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Old 01-21-2020, 10:42 PM   #16
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Thumbs up Re: Crate engine install

That is exactly what I wanted to hear.
I am hoping it goes equally as easy for me.

Thanks!
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