428 FE Rebuild
by Lou Vecchioni
Do not generically apply “Chevy practices” to an FE rebuild. Many shops know Chevy motors very well, and apply their knowledge to FEs, which can lead to problems or omissions of critical procedures.
Below is a list of recommendations and special notes compiled from several FE “experts.” You may be familiar with these already, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some of these things are for the shop to note, and some are for simple reference. Most of these are for milder applications like street use. There are more significant mods for heavy duty/race applications.
Oiling system improvements:
- With these modifications, use a Melling PN# M57HV oil pump or similar, with an ARP heavy duty Oil Pump SHAFT or a blueprinted stock pump. Doug at Precision Oil Pumps comes highly recommended.
- Consider using a deeper sump oil pan, or with a stock pan, you can use a windage tray and add an extra quart or even 2 of oil. (Windage tray is not necessarily for race-only use in this case).
- Drill the oil passage from the filter pad to the oil pump out to 7/16”. This takes a long drill bit and needs to be hit from both angles as it is not a straight shot. Be sure to drill it straight and carefully – you can break through. Although rare, we have heard of people who did break through due to core shift variations.
- There is an oil channel alignment issue on all FEs . The #1, #2, and #4 bearing saddles do not align oiling holes with the main bearings. The rest may or may not align. The holes in the saddles can be adjusted to make them align. If you use stock type bearings with the oil hole in the bearings rather than the oil slot, this is probably not an issue. If you are using the "good" Federal Mogul main bearings, which have a slot rather than an oil hole in the bearings, then the modification will be required. Chamfer the oil holes in the saddles to match the holes in the main bearings. Some prefer to alter the BEARING SHELLS for alignment instead of carving on the saddles. Others say this is ALL unnecessary unless there is gross misalignment.
- Insert #90 or #70 Holley jets into the oil gallery in each head underneath the rocker stands. Instead of using Holley jets, some like to tap the top of the holes for brass set screws and drill them out to your chosen restriction (#10 set screw drilled to .070 works).
- See if the rebuilder will tap the oil galley plugs instead of using the stock push-in type.
- Correct fit of main and rod bearings is critical, as in most applications. New cam bearings are recommended.
- You can also improve return flow from the heads and camshaft to the pan by cleaning up rough iron surfaces with some grinding. There is much debate on whether this is worthwhile.
- On most blocks, you may want to remove the cast-in restriction at the far rear end of the block. When you pull the plug in the back surface, you'll notice, inside, a hump on the bottom of the hole. A minute or two with a rotary file or a proper-sized drill bit will clean that up.
- Some recommend enlarging the oil-return holes for better drain-back. The rear drain-back is important as the engine sits at an angle rearward in the car. For more extensive work, you can enlarge those holes and with a ball end die grinder bit carve more clearance where it goes around the head bolt. You can also smooth all the areas the oil needs to flow past and make no places for it to puddle, and even cut a groove in the ledge just ahead of the rear block wall where the oil runs out of the head to keep oil from puddling there and attacking the rear manifold cork or silicone.
- The rocker to shaft clearance should be corrected. Compare it to the spec. The book says .003" to .0055" clearance for standard FE's. It's probably best to shoot for the .003". Many were out of spec from the factory, and will only be worse now. There are some aftermarket oversize rocker shafts for the FE. This would allow you to ream the rockers and stands oversize to get the clearance you want.
- The umbrella type valve seals tend to leak/crumble, the o-ring type work much better. If you use Teflon valve seals (or better yet, Viton positively located seals), you may need to cut the valve guides down for proper fit.
- There is some opinion among Ford FE builders that the oil-return holes heads should be enlarged for better drain-back. (See oiling mods section above)
- Note that the head bolts are surrounded by the FE's deck dowel, which locates the cylinder head. These are not the conventional pin-type dowel and are very easy to damage during rebuilding. New ones may be ordered from Pioneer under PN PF485.
- Install hardened exhaust valve seats, and use bronze valve guides.
- Valve job should include stem height correction. With new seats they should be in really close. Geometry is an issue with an FE because of the shaft rockers; some engines can tolerate some variation but an FE cannot tolerate much.
There's two ways of setting valve stem height. Get the valve seats all the same, or grind the valve stems. Typical process: set up the valve machine once for one (low) seat and than do all the seat pockets to the same depth, using the same seat inserts, they all come out level.
Make sure the valves themselves are all the same length and that the valve lips are all ground the same.
- Rocker Shaft plugs: In the end of the rocker shafts themselves there should be a press in plug (on stock shafts) in each end. They are just a small freeze plug..... 9/16" dia x 1/4" lenght. NAPA part number 55008 also CEP-2192098. Without them,the head will be flooded with oil. The good aftermarket shafts have a screw in plug in the shaft ends and use C clips to replace the cotter pins.
- It is often recommended to use studs for the rocker arms, and note that two of them (one each side) are necked down and need to be located properly.
- Note that FE head gaskets have cooling passages at one end only. These passages go at the rear of the block-never the front. Properly installed head gaskets usually stick out at the outer, front corners of the heads and block. If they're backwards, the gasket won't be visible here.
Roller Cam conversion:
Decide on whether or not to use a roller cam kit. There is lots of talk about non-roller cam failures caused by the new low-zinc oils. Opinions vary widely. For a roller cam conversion, the following was recommended a few years ago. Current products need to be checked.
EXAMPLE: Crane Roller Hydraulic Camshaft
Part Number: 34HR00012
Grind Number: HR-210/294-2-12
Cam Specifications at .050-inch
Lift at Valve: .517/.546-inch intake/exhaust, with 1.76 rocker arms
Lift at Cam lobe: .294/.310-inch intake/exhaust
Advertised Duration: 268.0 degrees intake, 278.0 degrees exhaust
Facts: The Crane Hydraulic Roller Special has an operating range of 2,000 to 5,500 rpm. Valve float happens at 6,500 rpm. This is a good street/strip camshaft with a broad torque curve. Torque comes on strong around 3,500 rpm and continues through 5,500 rpm.
- Also check such companies as Keith Craft for updated roller cam sets.
- The Crane lifters for the hydraulic-roller-cam conversion are the link-type, meaning that no extra machine work or lifter-valley spider is needed for the installation. Just drop them in the holes and you're done.
- The pushrods may need to be custom-ordered both for length and to get the correct style of ends. While many aftermarket pushrods use 3/8 balls at the lifter ends, the Crane hydraulic roller lifters have/had a cup designed for smaller 5/16 ball ends. With the taller-than-stock roller lifters and a mildly decked block, the proper pushrod overall length needs to be determined.
General Camshaft/Valve train:
- Note that the cam plug in the back of the block plug goes in “backwards” with the convex side out. This is different than most other engines, such as small block Chevy.
- Double roller timing chain is recommended, and of course, a steel cam gear instead of the nylon.
- When replacing the timing sprocket, be sure to remove the stock spacer from between the cam and sprocket – the new cams have the spacer built in. Otherwise, your sprocket will be too far forward or the cam will push out the rear plug.
- Non-roller cam recommendation: Comp Cams makes an Extreme Energy series cam that works well, it has steeper lobe ramps which improves breathing but still doesn’t require a higher stall converter. The 260 or so advertised duration cam should be a decent choice which would avoid lumpiness. You may need to degree the cam. (some say ALWAYS). Most cams run best around 4° advanced, and many have this ground into them already. This is not usual, but sometimes you get a cam that doesn’t align up quite right especially if you are using updated or performance timing gears.
- As with most Ford V-8s, don't neglect to install the mechanical-fuel-pump cam after installing the timing set. It lines up with the cam bolt and with a dowel pressed into the end of the cam. Make sure the dowel is long enough to engage the fuel-pump eccentric.
- Some FEs do not have dowel pins to line up the front cover. As a result, it's possible to misalign the cover such that the crank snout is not perfectly centered in the front seal, leading to a leak. To help with alignment, you can temporarily slip some sort of bushing over the crank spacer, or wrap it with masking tape until the cover fits snugly.
- Don’t use Felpro Print-O-Seal intake gaskets. For some reason they tend to fail on an FE. This is restated over and over all over the net, with tons of photos of the blown out gaskets.
- Victor Reinz "Nitro Seal" are most often recommended. Graphite on 2 sides with steel core. Buy a Victor-Reinz part number 95158SG for MR or Victor Nitro Seal 95159SG. Usually available at NAPA, but are getting hard to find.
- Many recommend to discard the front and rear gaskets and to run a ¼ inch bead of grey silicone, or better yet, “The Right Stuff” at front and back rails and let set. Then add a thin bead around water passages and at all corners before setting the intake.
- Setting the heavy stock intake is a bear, and it helps to thread a headless bolt into 2 of the intake bolt holes on one head, then slide the intake in place using thee as a guide.
- It is also repeatedly recommended to re-torque the intake bolts to specs several times, cold and at operating temperature.
Engine Block, Pistons, Rods and Bearings:
- Coolant passages need to be free of rust and other contaminates. Tanking the block alone may not be enough to clean out the passages for better cooling.
- Pistons: stock height pistons with valve reliefs and stock 10.5:1 compression ratio. You really don’t need forged pistons. Cast or hypereutectic pistons will work fine for street engines. Forged actually are less thermally stable and require larger ring gaps to accommodate the expansion rate, but if you want stronger, go with forged. On a good, modern set of pistons they should all be sized the same within .0001". Most shops will measure all the pistons to confirm size consistency, and then bore and hone all the holes the same, rather than try to bore and hone each hole for a certain size, but some will size each piston to its cylinder and bore it exactly to fit.
- Rings: recommend moly compression rings.
- You'd probably want to install new rod bolts, which means the journals need to be trued. If new pistons and rod bolts are going to be used, plan to balance the assembly.
- When installing the main bearings, note the placement of the oil-feed hole with the groove/hole in the front most journal.
- If using stock rods, note the fillet radius on the crank. The bevel needs to stay in step with the cut for the rod and main cheeks. The bevel of the rods always goes toward the crank, and flat sides together. Bevel/fillet/side clearances are important on an FE, and many modern machinists don't know this.
Crankshaft ends, seals, flexplate and harmonic balancer:
- The 428 is externally balanced, which makes it different than the 332, 352, 360, 390 and 427 engines, which are internally balanced at their crankshaft counterweights. The 428 needs its flexplate (or flywheel) in place and properly installed for correct dynamic balancing. The harmonic balancer is neutrally balanced
- If a new balancer is to be used with original pulley, make sure the balancer has the proper number of mounting holes. Original 1966 balancer and pulley have three holes.
- Before the harmonic balancer goes on, don’t forget spacer. Ideally the harmonic balancer should be a press fit on the crank.
- Main seals, fore and aft, mandate extra care. The front main seal should get a thin film of silicone sealer around its outside perimeter before installation. This ensures a good fit between the seal and the timing chain cover. Rear main seals need good lubrication before crankshaft installation.
- Rear Main Seal is the strange split seal with side rails and many FEs leak because they aren’t installed optimally. The rope seals are things of the past; use a neoprene lip seal. Ensure the little pin in main cap that held the rope style seal in place is removed and seal the little hole left by it. Fit the neoprene seal with the lip facing in to sump and fit it staggered/offset in the block/cap by about 1/4" in direction of engine rotation. Use good RTV on the side rails. They have to be fully inserted and make sure they are trimmed flush to the bearing cap (this one of those FE specific things). . Lube the seal well or it will burn on first start.
You may want to first mock up the rear cap, seal, and vertical side seals, then trim the side seals for a perfect fit (measure strips and block depths to ensure strips are in all the way). Use just a very slight amount of RTV behind the neoprene seals and offset the ends during installation. The block and the grooves in the main cap both get a thin coat of RTV where the end seals seat, then press in the end seals after the cap is installed and before the RTV gets tacky.
Breaking in the Engine
Oil weight/viscosity depends on what clearances the bearings are up at. Your rebuilder's recommendation is what you should follow.
Break in the motor using high zinc content motor oil. For sure, add a pint of GM EOS (Engine Oil Supplement). Also use either Rotella-T motor oil, or Valvoline racing motor oil. These both have the higher zinc content.
Break in the cam by running the engine at 2000 rpm for 20 minutes. Then, change the oil, fill it back up with the same stuff (high zinc with GM EOS) and then change it again at 500 miles.
There have been different ideas on how to break a motor in; drive it soft for those 500 miles or let it rip. Most lean toward driving it aggressively, varying rpm as much as you can for the first 100 miles for sure. This will help seat the rings in the best manner. If you plan on running synthetic oil, don’t do so for 2 or 3 thousand miles.