First of all, you have an easy break-in as you’re running a hydraulic-roller camshaft. If you had a flat-tappet camshaft, you’d need to start the engine and immediately accelerate to 2,200 rpm, and vary the engine speed between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm for 20 minutes straight. This gives the camshaft and lifters a chance to get happy with each other. If you idle the engine from the start, there is a good possibility that you will flatten a cam lobe, as the lifters must rotate right from the first firing, and the only true oiling the lifters and camshaft lobes get is from splash and windage thrown off from the rod journals. Firing the engine and going straight to 2,000 rpm requires that you have everything in order before starting the engine: full of water, oil, correctly timed, and a timing light to set the timing so you don’t burn the paint or coating off your new headers!
Back to your break-in. You’ll want to follow all the previous recommendation of water, fuel, timed, and the ability to time the engine right after firing. After you have run the engine in, checked for leaks, and have everything safely buttoned up, you’re ready for your first drive. If you live in a hilly area, you’re in luck. The best way to break in and seat your piston rings is to apply load to the engine for a short period of time, then unload, and preferable run downhill under compression during deceleration. This will put heat into the rings and pistons. Then turn around and go down the hill at speed with the engine compression braking the vehicle. This draws oil up on the cylinder walls and cools the rings, pistons, and the cylinder walls. Also, the cooling system pulls the heat out of the engine, cooling the component. Continue going up and down the hill five to eight times, applying more load on the engine each time you drive up the hill. Then bring your baby home and let it cool down completely. Check everything for leaks, check all fluids for the correct level, and finish up all the little things you skipped so you could go for your first drive!
When you can’t wait to go drive your new engine again, go give it another round of load then no-load treatment. Do this until you’ve worked your way up to about three-quarter throttle. Also, limit your engine speed to no higher than 4,500-5,000 rpm. After this session, bring it back home and change out the break-in oil, and cut open your oil filter, checking for debris. If everything looks good, top off your engine with your favorite motor oil and enjoy. We’re firm believers that you break the engine in the way you’re going to drive it. Now, we’re not saying that you go out and beat on it, but drive it and enjoy it. If you’ve done your job correctly it will give you many years of service and pleasure.
Q. I have an ’87 Monte Carlo SS with 305 H.O. and 160,000-plus miles on the engine. I live in California and have to take it in for emission testing at a test-only station. I would like to replace the 305 with a crate 350, but I was told if the tech notices the heads aren’t center-bolt heads they would fail me. What are my options for a crate motor that will appear stock and still pass the emission test? I have Edelbrock T.E.S. headers and a Hypertech Power Chip for California cars. Thanks for your help!
Keith J Garcia
March ARB, CA Field Services
A. Unfortunately, some of the test-only smog check stations have really thorough techs. If you are caught, you have to go to another shop and keep spending money until someone will pass it. Not to condone this type of behavior, but your ’87 should be on a no-test list, as the politicians guaranteed us they were going to roll the date of the smog check up as the years go by. They haven’t moved the line in the sand from the ’74 model year. Our early performance cars make up such a small percentage (less than 0.01 percent of the vehicles on the road) that they should leave us all alone. Maybe someday. Let’s see if we can come up with a bundle of performance parts that will get past the smog police.