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Affordable Engine-Building Tools

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In the November issue we showed the absolute bare-bones cheapskate way to build an engine at home with the most rudimentary tools. If you've already built a few engines that way and have stuff like a torque wrench and engine-cleaning brushes, then you're ready for more advanced motor assembly. Whether it's an engine kit you've purchased through the mail or one you've had carved on by your local machine shop, the quality of the final product depends heavily on your ability to check the machining specs and assemble it the right way.

With a huge line of engine tools for many skill levels, Powerhouse makes it affordable to do just that. We flipped through the company's catalog to put together the following overview of tools best suited for those wanting to get their feet wet with precision engine building. We'll tell you the price the part number, and, since few tools come with instructions, how to use this stuff. Once you master these gadgets you'll be more confident with your engine, you'll save bucks by locating machining miscues before they go boom, and you'll look like a pro to all your buddies. As per usual, prices are as of press time and may change by the time you're ready to buy.

Pro Crank Socket
What it Does:
Lets you spin the crank in an assembled engine without using the balancer bolt. It's handy because you can rotate the engine counterclockwise (which would loosen the bolt), and because it keeps you from mangling the crank-snout threads. The Powerhouse sockets also have a knurled nut that allows you to mount a camshaft degree wheel; the design makes it easy to rotate the degree wheel without risk of rotating the engine and ruining your settings.
Powerhouse Part Number:
Small-block, V-6, and four-cylinder Chevy, POW103050; big-block Chevy, POW103055; all Ford, Buick, and Pontiac, POW103060; all Chrysler and Olds V-8s, POW103070
The Price:
$28, except for the small Chevy, which is $26, and the Chrysler/Olds at $30
Extra Stuff You'll Need:
A 1/2-inch drive ratchet or breaker bar, plus a degree wheel to really take advantage of the Pro socket
How to Use It:
Once the balancer and bolt have been removed, just slip the socket over the crank snout, locating it over the key in the crank. Now you can turn the crank with a 1/2-inch breaker bar. A set screw on the socket further affixes it to the crank for extra precision when using the socket to mount a degree wheel.

Rod Guide
What it Does:
Prevents you from gacking the crankpin with the rod bolts while you're installing the rod and piston, and also helps align the rod to the crank during installation. Powerhouse says it also helps in removing rods from the engine, but we had a tough time making it work that way.
Powerhouse Part Number:
POW101295
The Price:
$19.95
Extra Stuff You'll Need:
Long-stroke big-blocks will need extensions (POW101296) for $9.95
How to Use It:
When installing pistons and rods, slip each piston part-way into the cylinder, then reach through the bottom of the crankcase to slide the rod guide over the crankpin and onto the rod bolts. Smack the piston and rod into place, then remove the guide and install the rod cap.

Tapered Ring Compressor
What it Does:
Makes sure you never again have to use one of those cheesy thin-steel adjustable ring compressors that make your fingers bleed every time. Slipping piston/rod/ring assemblies into the block will become easier than you thought possible. We prefer the Powerhouse hard-anodized aluminum compressor to its less expensive composite versions.
Powerhouse Part Number:
There are 49 part numbers for compressors as small as 3.500 inches and as large as 4.830. Don't expect us to list 'em all here-just order the one for the exact bore size of your engine after overbore machining.
The Price:
Ranges from $28-$32 depending on size
Extra Stuff You'll Need:
An extra tapered ring compressor for the bore size of every engine you work on
How to Use It:
Center the compressor over the cylinder and hold it flush with the deck, lube it and the cylinder with engine oil, slip the rod and piston (with rings installed) into the hole, protect the crank with a Powerhouse rod guide, then tap the piston into the block with a hammer handle as shown. Powerhouse also has a Pro Piston Knocker (POW101290, $26) and piston-ring expander pliers (POW105060, $9.95).

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