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2.1 Engine Rebuild
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:21 am    Post subject: 2.1 Engine Rebuild Reply with quote

I picked up an old 2.1 from someone doing a Subaru conversion. It was running fine before he pulled it. I'm going to rebuild it over the next few months to replace the running but somewhat tired engine in my '89 Syncro. I'll keep this thread going and post lots of pictures along with my numerous questions.

I'd like to reuse as much as practical from the engine during the rebuild, but I'd also like to be able to expect 50-100K miles of trouble-free driving so I'm not sure if that's practical or not... I've haven't done much engine work, but I have a fair level of mechanical skill from other fields so I'm going to push ahead and see how I do.

I haven't pulled everything apart yet, but my baseline plan is to tear it down. clean it up, and reassemble with new bearings, rings, and seals. From my Samba reading I think I should probably be putting in rebuilt rods as well? I'd like to reuse heads, pistons, crank, etc... but I think I'll know more about that once things are all torn down and clean.

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Here's the first head I pulled. Doesn't look too terrible to my inexperienced eyes. Cylinder bores are smooth and clean. First questions for The Samba: How do I get all these aluminum parts cleaned up and pretty? Should I go ahead and pull the valves at this point? I assume they need to stay matched to their original positions? Is it time to toss the exhaust valves even if they look pretty good?

Thanks!
-Bill
'89 Syncro


Last edited by stormforge on Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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funagon
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rebuilt rods: yes. Don't reuse the rod bolts. You want the "non-stretch" bolts from a 1.9 WBX, or some aftermarket bolts like ARP.

Cylinders look smooth and clean? You'll need to re-hone the cylinders to go with those new rings.

Crank should probably be inspected and polished. At which point I should say it is helpful to have a machine shop that knows VW's, to help you inspect your parts and decide what needs to be done.

I would include a new water pump. And a new oil pump while you're at it. Look for tencentlife's posts on proper clearance on oil pump cover (you may not need a gasket).

Now, what about new lifters and cam?
And are you sure you want to re-use the heads?
I fear there may be limited utility in doing a partial rebuild. 100k miles could give you another decade of driving. Why not do it once and do it right?
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ajdenette
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before you go with the heads get some steel wool and brush up between the valves if there are cracks you want to replace them. I would sugest getting some AMC heads any how and have new valves put in those any how.
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Zero419
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 6:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

there is a lot of corrosion on the head mating surfaces....
Have fun with it, I did.
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks all!

Funagon -- you're getting to the heart of my some of my concerns... I see serious re-builders replace virtually the whole engine except for the case. Obviously this is necessary if they want to offer a warranty to their customers and deliver a really high quality product. They can't take the chance of reusing less than perfect components.

I'm guessing that's not totally necessary and I'd like to reuse as much as I can. I'm happy with a less than perfect engine but I would like to replace things which will have significant reliability risks...

I'll go polish up those heads and look for cracks -- I think I already see one!

Cheers,
-Bill
'89 Syncro
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purplepeopleeater
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bill, I saw some nice AMC heads for a 2.1 on craigslist for $300 bucks Shocked they needed new vavles.

I can try and find it, they where also crack and pit free.
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kshbaja
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once you have to start paying a machinist to clean the heads, inspect, replace valves, etc. it just makes sense to buy new heads. You could be into each refurbished head for $300 whereas another couple hundred bucks each and you have a new AMC head.

I would also recommend replacing the pistons/cylinders. The extra $500 (Mahle) will be long forgotten a few years down the road. Keep in mind the cost of the Mahle P/C set includes a set of rings. The cost to have a machinist clean/measure/hone your current P/Cs is probably going to run $50-100. Throw in $50 for the set of new rings you will need and now the effective cost of the new Mahle set is in the $350 range.

It does make sense to have the crank measured and polished. Also be sure to order a set of refurbed rods with the correct bolts. Van Cafe has these.

I rebuilt my 2.1 a few winters ago. It cost about $2300, with near half that being the heads. I replaced just about everything except the crank and the camshaft.
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funagon
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="kshbaja"]I would also recommend replacing the pistons/cylinders. The extra $500 (Mahle) will be long forgotten a few years down the road. [/quote]

. . . and for about 700 bucks you can get Gowesty 2.2 pistons and cylinders. I put 'em in my engine and they provided a noticeable increase in power.
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the excellent advice. I'm sure you're all spot on, but it sounds like no fun at all. I was hoping to get all dirty polishing valves and honing cylinders! Where's the joy in replacing everything? Smile

Here's a quick clean-up of the gasket surface:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Pretty pitted? Fill with JB weld? Throw it in the mill and take a few thou off around the edge? (that is assuming I don't take everyone's excellent advice and just buy new heads...). How much variation will the rubber coolant jacket gasket tolerate?

Here's what may or may not be a crack between the valves. It's always so hard to tell with these aluminum castings. Could that just be a casting defect? I don't see any corresponding crack on the top of the head.

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Cheers,
-Bill
'89 Syncro
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funagon
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yup that's a crack. They all develop a crack there. If it's very small it's not harmful, but that's one more strike against your old heads. The small crack can become a big one over time. I've reused old heads with a crack. But I also had the benefit of using the engine before I pulled it out of the van, so I knew how it was running. I think you've never heard this engine run, right? So if you re-use these heads you're doing so without knowing how they will work.

You can fill those pits with JB Weld. But they're not very deep. When you apply the sealant to the gasket, it should fill in that minor pitting too. That doesn't worry me as much as wondering how long the head will last before the crack gets bigger and the valves give up. I'm not making any predictions, mind you, I'm just wondering. If you like the idea of doing a cheap-o rebuild and don't mind pulling the engine out again later, then go ahead. If you want to do it once and drive it for ten years, then AMC heads with new exhaust valves are the way to go.

If you mill some material off the head surface the gasket may not provide an adequate seal, as you have intuited. You may compensate for this by lapping the stock cylinders into the head by the same depth. This will give the water jacket gasket the same ability to seal, and it will also raise the compression ratio in the combustion chamber. Which is a good thing. Unless you overdo it. You don't want to remove too much.

I don't think you're nuts for wanting to do a partial rebuild. I've done some engine work on the cheap myself. But it was when I had a free workspace, spare parts, and enough free time that I wouldn't mind digging into the engine again. Just be honest with yourself about how long you want your work to last.
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ok -- so I'm sold on doing a more thorough sort of engine build. Let's replace everything and make as good an engine as possible like our hero TenCent!

This means tear the existing engine apart, set all the parts aside for cores, and take the case and auxiliary parts to the Jet Washer guy. Anything special I should do to prep the case?

I've been drooling over the GoWesty 2.3l kit and improved heads. If even half their hyperbole is for real that should be a very nice start on a powerful and reliable engine. It seems like they're doing some good things these days and I can provide my own quality control before I put everything together. Are there other good options for building a 2.3?

Besides these upgrades, what should I consider checking, modifying, improving during the build?

Cheers,
-Bill
'89 Syncro
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morymob
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

funagon wrote:
Yup that's a crack. They all develop a crack there. If it's very small it's not harmful, but that's one more strike against your old heads. The small crack can become a big one over time. I've reused old heads with a crack. But I also had the benefit of using the engine before I pulled it out of the van, so I knew how it was running. I think you've never heard this engine run, right? So if you re-use these heads you're doing so without knowing how they will work.

You can fill those pits with JB Weld. But they're not very deep. When you apply the sealant to the gasket, it should fill in that minor pitting too. That doesn't worry me as much as wondering how long the head will last before the crack gets bigger and the valves give up. I'm not making any predictions, mind you, I'm just wondering. If you like the idea of doing a cheap-o rebuild and don't mind pulling the engine out again later, then go ahead. If you want to do it once and drive it for ten years, then AMC heads with new exhaust valves are the way to go.

If you mill some material off the head surface the gasket may not provide an adequate seal, as you have intuited. You may compensate for this by lapping the stock cylinders into the head by the same depth. This will give the water jacket gasket the same ability to seal, and it will also raise the compression ratio in the combustion chamber. Which is a good thing. Unless you overdo it. You don't want to remove too much.

I don't think you're nuts for wanting to do a partial rebuild. I've done some engine work on the cheap myself. But it was when I had a free workspace, spare parts, and enough free time that I wouldn't mind digging into the engine again. Just be honest with yourself about how long you want your work to last.
Be careful about removing material from the cyl seating area in the head- you have piston to head clearance to be concerned about as not much there to start with.
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funagon
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stormforge wrote:

I've been drooling over the GoWesty 2.3l kit and improved heads.


I'm not trying to discourage you from doing anything you want to do. I'm just playing devil's advocate. You can buy Gowesty's 2.2 liter pistons and use them with stock crank and rods for a nice increase in power. Improve breathing with some higher ratio rockers (tencent has written about this mod) and you will have a pleasant increase in WBX power, that costs a couple of thousand less than a 2.3.

Now let's talk about expense.

Gowesty's 2.3 kit costs $2,000. Now you also need cylinder heads, oil pump, water pump, gasket kit, bearings. How's your throttle body? Does it have play or does it seal well? How's your exhaust system holding up? Want to replace the clutch kit while you're in there? You'll also need to budget for machine shop services (resurface flywheel?), any tools you want to buy, coolant, oil, and a little more for any miscellaneous bits that you find wanting during this project.

A couple more ideas: for an 2.3 or larger WBX I would add oil cooling jets to squirt the bottom of the pistons. Perhaps more importantly I'd add an external oil cooler such as tencent's Mocal thermostatic sandwich adapter setup.

You could easily spend $4,000-plus to build a 2.3 liter WBX this way. That could be a fun project where you learn a lot about engines. It could also be a money pit that never runs right. So, for $4,000 you might want to consider getting in touch with tencentlife here on the samba, or get in touch with Rocky Jennings. Either one has the experience to build a nice bored and stroked WBX. (Or if you like Gowesty, their built 2.3 liter costs $4,495.) But if it's the experience you want then don't listen to me, have at it!

You asked what you should check, modify, or improve if you build your own engine? Engine building is a big topic and I cannot (and am not qualified) to write a dissertation on it here. But here are some WBX topics that spring to mind:

- Your engine case should be checked by someone knowledgable in Vanagons before you install those expensive custom parts in it. You're looking for cracks or other defects, including bearing surfaces that might be out of round. These cases are usually good, but if I was spending a lot of money on custom engine stuff, I'd want a second set of eyes to look at the case.

- If the engine was rebuild once before the bearing surfaces may have been enlarged to align them or make them round. In this case you would need to order bearings that are larger than stock size. Sometimes you don't know this until you install your bearings with plastigauge for measurement, and discover they leave too much play in the crankshaft!

- use plastiguage for a careful trial fit.

- Please note: Gowesty has to create clearance for the rods on their larger stroked engines, by filing a notch or space into the case where the rod will hit the case. I don't know if this is needed on the 2.3, but it's something to keep in mind. You may be doing custom work on your case. (There are nice people at Gowesty, but as far as I know they don't offer engine building lessons along with their kit. It is assumed that if you're buying it, you know what to do with it.)

- Read here on the samba, everything you ever wanted to know about setting endplay on the crank, oil pump clearance, installing heads, building engines, etc. Posts written by tencentlife are especially useful. He not only knows about these things but takes the time to write nicely.

- I like these books: Bentley manual, haynes manual, Tom Wilson's "How to Rebuild Your Volkswagen air-Cooled Engine." You're not building an air cooled, but there's good detail in that book on evaluating and assembling a VW flat-four.
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the good advice. I'm in no hurry (the engine that's in the van is good so far) and low cost isn't the major concern. I'm looking for a fun project to do with my 13 year old which will also give us a good engine upgrade for the future. I have some gear-head friends who can come to the rescue if I get into trouble.

I'm going to keep pulling this thing apart and get it cleaned up while I do some more reading and research. I already sent the injectors to Witchhunter (fast turn and nice work by the way) so here's a pretty picture to keep the thread interesting. The so-so paint job is my fault:

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Cheers,
-Bill
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i would email rocky jennings
http://www.Rockyjennings.com
he is in the classifieds.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

to get all these aluminum parts cleaned up and pretty, get them dry ice or soda blasted - much better than beads, shells, etc.
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been working slowly on this... I've decided to do the deluxe rebuild. I'm going to go with the GW 2.2 kit -- new pistons, bored cylinders, fresh rods, camshaft, bearings & crank. I'll add a CB performance pump, extra oil temp and pressure sensors, and maybe some piston squirters.

I made myself a simple little puller for the wrist pins which worked well:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Threaded rod, some 3/4" schedule-40 PVC pipe, and an assortment of fender washers. Cut the end of the pipe to fit into the recess on the side of the piston and make sure you tackle the pins in the right order.

I was probably stupid and I removed all the head bolts. They actually came out reasonably easily with a little patience and a lot of PB. One or two of them made me feel a little uncomfortable about how hard I had to torque them but the case is fine. The bolts look good -- should I reuse them? Is there an easy way to test them?

Cheers,
-Bill
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syncrosimon
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really love picture by picture rebuild threads, good luck to you sir!
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stormforge
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got all the pistons out. They cleaned up pretty nice but I won't reuse them. There are strange little steel bandaids (reinforcements?) on the insides. They don't really look like they're well supported enough to be adding much strength. Anyone know what their purpose is? Are they weights?

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Cheers,
-Bill
'89 Syncro
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The steel bands are designed to control expansion of the piston. I don't know if VW was using hypereutectic alloys in WBX pistons, but the idea of the band is to control thermal expansion which otherwise would not occur evenly due to thicker cross-section at the piston pin area.
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