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20 “Must-Have” Engine Building Tools

Engine building is no picnic, but the right tools and instruments can certainly make it a bit easier. Whether you’re a highly-experienced professional or a first-time “do-it-yourselfer,” Powerhouse Products has compiled a list of “must-haves” that you or anyone would need before deciding to build an engine. Not only do these tools make engine building easier, they also shave off some time from the assembly process. And in the long run, these tools just might save you some money, too.pro model torque wrench

  1. Torque Wrench –  Regardless of your level of expertise, you’ll need this tool if you plan on even being near an engine. You’ll definitely want one like this Pro Model Torque Wrench (shown above) from Powerhouse Products. Adjustable from 25-250 lbs/ft this 1/2″ drive, micrometer-type torque wrench has a positive spring-loaded locking mechanism to prevent setting changes.
  1. Dial Indicator If you’re going to build an engine, this is one of the most imperative measuring tools you’ll need. Most importantly, dial indicators are used on both the camshaft and crankshaft to check endplay, or the run-out of the crank to assure its concentricity. Later, you’ll need one to check piston-to-valve clearance. Powerhouse Products offers several unique indicators and universal bases to hold them.
  1. Micrometers These measurement tools are necessary when you’re putting anything together – especially an engine. You’ll need both inside and outside micrometer sets, in order to check and make sure everything fits perfectly in the engine BEFORE installation. These micrometer kits are available in a variety of sizes to help you in this process.
  1. Cam Bearing Installation Kit. Powerhouse Products offers the best kit available (#POW101025) to cleanly and accurately install or remove cam bearings from any engine block. With a range of 1.125″ to 2.690″, it can handle a variety of engine applications. Its five expanding mandrels are neoprene covered to protect the inner surface of the bearings and prevent grooving. A centering cone, extension rod & case are included, and replacement components are readily available.
  1. Rod Bolt Stretch Gauge When you move into the rotating assembly, every connecting rod manufacturer recommends you have one of these. Accuracy is a must when checking rod bolt stretch during the torque procedure. Fully aware of its importance, Powerhouse Products offers a lightweight version of this engine-building necessity.
  1. Crankshaft Socket Given there is no standard socket designed to fit a large circle with a key in it, you’ll certainly need one of these to turn the engine over during assembly. Available in both Sportsman and Pro versions, these sockets ensure that you can turn the crankshaft over while also holding the degree wheel later in the process.
  1. Piston Ring Filer – In order to set the ideal amount of piston ring end-gap for optimal performance, you’re going to need to file down those piston rings. With both standard and electric rings filers, Powerhouse Products has the best in carbide wheel piston ring filers, designed for ease of use and optimal filing efficiency.
  1. Tapered Ring Compressor – Having a tapered ring compressor is the absolute best and easiest way to install a piston into the cylinder bore. They gently squeeze the rings and funnel the piston into the bore without ring damage or breakage. And with the hard anodized tapered ring compressors from Powerhouse, you get a piece that is designed to work even on blocks with studs, and they include a finger registration groove for convenience.
  1. Camshaft Installation Handles If you’re tired of pinched fingers and knicked cam bearings during the camshaft installation process, you should probably check out the Universal Camshaft Installation Handle. The hex-designed handle provides excellent grip and includes all necessary hardware.
  1. Camshaft Degree Kit One of the most critical processes in engine building is degreeing the camshaft. The more accurately you do it, the better off you’ll be. To ensure maximum precision during this process, Powerhouse Products developed two innovative Camshaft Degree Kits – one for when the heads are OFF (#POW101580) and the other for optional use later when the heads are installed (#POW101680). These kits feature every component you’ll need for degreeing, including degree wheel, pointer, Top Dead Center stops and much more.
  1. Universal Cam – Another measurement tool you’ll want when you’re checking your camshaft is a Universal Cam Checker. This precision-machined, anodized aluminum unit features a cam lobe dial indicator that slides into the lifter bore for a quick check on lobe lift. It quickly adjusts to fit lifter bores ranging from .750″ to 1.050″ in diameter, and includes two tips for use with flat tappet or roller cams.
  1. 3-Hole Deck Bridge When assembling the rotating assembly, you’ll definitely need a Standard 3-Hole Deck Bridge to check piston dome height as well as deck clearance (or even piston rock if you have two dial indicators). Powerhouse Products also has two and three-hole Pro Magnetic Deck Bridges that use super strong magnet to hold the bridge to the deck surface.
  1. Universal Harmonic Balancer Installer Kit  With eight interchangeable adapters, this universal kit fits virtually any engine. It uses a thrust bearing to gently push the harmonic balancer onto the crank snout on even the tightest of press-fit applications. And in case you ever need to uninstall it, Powerhouse also has a Pro Harmonic Balancer Puller/Installer.
  1. Dial Calipers – Once you have the bottom end of the engine assembled, you’ll need to start measuring the length and diameter of your valve train components – a perfect task for Stainless Steel Dial Calipers. This instrument allows you to measure just about any inside, outside or depth dimension to within .001″. The screwed-on rack, smooth thumb rollers and .000-.100″ revolution dial make these calipers simple to use.
  1. V-Style Head Holders Okay, now you’re ready to do some cylinder head work. But how do you plan on holding them while…say, putting in valve springs? These ultra sturdy head holders are available in lightweight aluminum or stainless steel. With a pair of these, you can now put the head into any position and rotate as necessary.
  1. Spring Tester – A highly critical process in engine assembly is the inspection of your valve springs. You want to ensure proper spring load and height when installing the springs.
  1. Valve Spring Height Micrometer – This is the quickest, easiest and most accurate way to measure the installed height of a valve spring. Install our valve spring height micrometer like you would a valve spring, then expand the tool until it has seated the valve, locks and retainer. This simulated seat pressure allows ultra precise readings to within .001″. Powerhouse now offers a Beehive model for the latest valve spring technology.
  1. Valve Seal Installer – This handy little tool turns what could be a timely, difficult process into a quick and easy step in cylinder head installation. The durable CNC-machined aluminum Valve Seal Installer makes quick and easy work of installing PC seals. It is designed to prevent seal distortion or gouging during assembly, and works with .500″ and .531″ PC seals.
  1. Valve Spring Compressor – This easy-to-use Heavy-Duty Manual Valve Spring Compressor can handle even the biggest valve springs being used today. Constructed of welded steel, this tool features a box-tubing frame and an over-center type clamping device that can compress any valve spring. The compressor’s arm slides up-and-down for adjustment and utilizes a locking pin for speed and ease of use.
  1. Checking Springs – A set of low tension Checking Springs from Powerhouse Products can be installed by hand in place of your valve springs to simplify measuring piston-to-valve clearance, rocker arm ratio, cam degreeing, etc. Each set contains eight springs (enough for one cylinder head).

While there are several other tools that can help you with engine building precision and efficiency, these 20 items certainly make a great “engine builder starter kit.” So when you decide it’s time for you to build a performance engine, make sure you keep some of them – or all of them – in mind.