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283 Small Block Chevy Dormant Engine - Waking The Dead

How-To Start A Dormant Engine Without Damaging It In The Process.

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One of the more common questions we get at Super Chevy is "How do I start an engine that has been sitting?" With money getting tight these days, buying an older engine or resurrecting one that you've been storing is becoming more and more common.

The biggest damaging factor is going to be iron oxide, more commonly known as rust. Rust forms when the oxygen in water reacts with iron, forming that red stuff we as muscle car fanatics fight constantly.

Luckily, one thing that prevents rust from forming on metal is oil, which flows through almost all the important areas of an engine. So, if the engine has been sitting indoors for under two years its pretty safe to say there won't be much rust formed in the cylinders. Anything over that time we would recommend tearing it down just to be safe.

We have two motors in our stable that fit into these categories. The first engine is Danger Mouse, a long-term dyno mule that we tried multiple power recipes on. It's been stored at Speed-O-Motive (West Covina, California) in a controlled environment since the last story. We will be bringing the Danger Mouse series back soon, so we wanted to fire it up and make sure its still ready for action. DM will be our short-term storage example. We also have a sidebar if you want a little more info on the life of this mouse motor.

The second engine we have is a bored-out 283 that was rebuilt back in the late '70s, then stuffed under a bench and forgotten. The guy we got it from said it has never been fired up, but until we crack it open we wont know if he was shooting straight or not. This will be our long-term example and the procedures will reflect that.

We had Edson Gutierrez at Speed-O-Motive do all the wrenching for us and he even put Danger Mouse on the dyno to see what it makes. We found some bad stuff going on in the 283, so that one will need some machine work before it can be safely fired up.

By the end of this story, you should be able to follow the steps to safely start just about any engine- unless it was left out in the elements unprotected, that is.


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Daniel Lutz
Daniel Lutz

I just bought a 65 chevelle malibu 4 door with a 283 the motor i am guessing was not rebuilt to long ago acording to the amount of dirt i power washed off of it the motor.The   motor runs strong but i can not find where the little pool's of oil an water are comeing from that are laying on the intake manifold the oil level is fine an so is the water level do you guy's have any idea. My dad   had these car's  when i was growing up so i know a little about them 

P.S I do not run it hard i do open the 4 barrel up sometime's but i don't just hold it there/// little burst's. 

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