7 Life Lessons Learned While Rebuilding Stude’s Engine

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Sure you need to have the “how-to” for rebuilding an engine, but just as importantly you’ve got to know how to navigate the project. A little à la “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” here’s some realizations and life lessons I’ve come upon during the process of my first engine rebuild.

7. P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E.

My original end date for this project was February, and I thought I was giving myself leeway. Here we are ending May…and I still couldn’t get her complete for Edelbrock’s Car Show that I was aiming for.

6. Everything must be done with “precision.”

This became one of my favorite words when I learnt how to use micrometers, but really is true throughout the engine building process – from keeping track of which parts belong to what cylinder to making sure the correct clearances are maintained. Sloppy Joe’s will get a poor running engine.

5. You’ve got to be willing to take risks.

I’m game to take risks when the payoff is enticing enough, but not the sort that just does it for the heck of it. For me, tearing into my beloved Studebaker felt scary…risky. I feared I’d screw something up or she’d never get back together – but now on the other side of Operation Stude I’ve learned a ton and can’t wait to experience the improvements!

4. Clean, clean, clean, and then clean some more.

If you order a crate engine and start from scratch you get to pass by this one…but I’m pretty sure I’ll never do that. Every single little thing outside and inside this engine (and within the engine bay) has had to be cleaned – just when I think I’ve cleaned that last thing, something else pops up. But, as Ethan likes to say, “That’s the price of cool.”

3. Doing it right the first time is always the best game plan.

The more I do in the garage, the further this gets nailed into my brain. Each time I think of cutting corners, I realize the effect it will have on the end result…and put the work in to do it right.

2. Be willing to admit you need help.

When I first started, this was easy for me to do…I didn’t know anything. Now that I’ve got some knowledge under my belt I sometimes like to think that I’ve got it figured out…but I’m far from it. I have the luxury of working in the same garage as Ethan, my mechanic husband, so usually an answer is just a holler away.

1. A good job is much harder than an okay job. A great job is exponentially more difficult than “good”.

Operation Stude could have been completed much faster than I’ve taken, but it wouldn’t have resulted in something I was proud of. You could dismantle and put back an engine in a day if you wanted to, but to get to where Stude’s engine is now has taken much more effort than that. Way more difficult, but in the long run so worth it!

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3 Responses

  1. JP Kalishek

    re: 4. Clean, clean, clean, and then clean some more.
    Go to any really good engine builder, especially race engines, and their assembly rooms are cleaner than most folks’ kitchens.
    Some are clean as a doctors operating room.
    A guy I knew had a high powered AC system and high quality filters in the venting with any air coming in filtered.

    • Kristin Cline

      JP, I’ve been in a couple of those surgical-like engine building rooms…and I fret to think about the fact that my garage is no where near that!

      • JP Kalishek

        well, I have seen the same guy do an in-frame rings and bearings rebuild in the pits at a dirt track, so I’d bet you got your place cleaner than that (~_^)

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