Ford's Forgotten FE Oil Gallery - Can it cause problems?
I was cleaning up my garage the other day and got distracted by some of my old FE blocks. In each block, there is a vertical hole that the lower portion of the distributor shaft fits through. Without the dist installed, the top of the oil pump driveshaft leans against the side of this hole.
There is pressurized oil getting to this area....from the #1 cam bearing. I took a drill bit close to the right size and slipped it in this hole. On one block it was a good fit, and on another, it was noticeably more loose (no, not an FT....not that loose, as they use a larger dist shaft).
We go to all this trouble to get the right bearing clearances, install a HV pump, restrict oil to the heads and a host of other oiling mods, and then possibly lose a lot to the distributor shaft as it never gets checked.
So I'm a bit curious....has anyone ever had trouble with block wear, or distributor shaft wear in this area, or even oil presssure loss?
I'm surprised a replaceable bushing didn't go in there, but I guess the side loading is done by the distributor housing bushings. Seems rather a big gap for oil to escape though.
Here's a pic....the oil feeds the dist shaft hole. Tip of red arrow points to where shaft is lubricated:
The FE is thought to have oil problems it really doesn't in the sense of normal delivery. If you look carefully, the FE's oiling system is not a lot different from the SBC turned end for end to have the pump and filter in front instead of the rear.
The FE's basic problem is that as the big blocks of that era go it has short cylinder to cylinder center; compare it's 4.63 inch centers to those of the Chevy Rat and Chrysler R/RB both on 4.84 inch centers. Ford designed the FE/FT to be made on Y block tooling which drove the cylinder centers to be the same as the Lincoln Y block. This results in a shorter engine and crank. To compensate for the needed bearing area, Ford went to large diameter but narrow rod bearings. After all, the engineering text books of the time said this was acceptable practice, "that the load carrying ability of plane bearings was a function of bearing area", so how you got that area was open to the designer. The unknown and unintended consequence was that the width of the bearing especially as a ratio to the side clearance had a lot to do with the stability of the hydrodynamic wedge of oil that separates the bearing from the journal. Cadillac made the same design choices with the same high RPM reliability issues as the FE. This was also a period where it was though that grooving the main bearing or journal would supply full time pressurized oil to rod bearings and everybody did it, though it turned out to their peril. The problem both in narrow rods and with grooved mains was found as the 1960's progressed to higher RPMs and power outputs was that the oil wedge was squeezed out much more easily than with either a wider bearing or one with no grooving.
Ford found that stiffening up the bottom end with cross bolts, as they started in late 406 production, delayed the problem of failed rod bearings which actually began to appear with the 390 high output engines. The 406 also moved the pressure relief to the end of the main oil galley to insure the system was fully pressurized before any excess pressure was vented, another help. The 427 entered into RPM and power realms where the 406's band-aids were insufficient; at this point came the side oiler another band-aid though a darn good one. Then came the LeMans rods a much beefier rod with cap bolts instead of the traditional bolt and nut attachment of the rod cap another partial solution. Ford ignored the good-ole boy NASCAR engine builders whom had told them for many years that the rod problem was one of keeping oil in the bearing clearance and that the solution they employed was to widen the crank journal and bearing by using modified Chrysler or Pontiac rods. This of course had other engineering problems because it causes the rod not to be centered under the piston which then introduces an out of plane front to rear bending moment on the pin, rod, and journal and wants to kock the piston on the non thrust sides. The solution to the pin was to run the much larger and heavier Chrysler part which then causes a balance problem that needs to be fixed and you can see where one fix causes other problems and pretty soon you're like a dog chasing its tail. Ford finally bellied up to the bar with the NASCAR crank and rod set which widens the journal .19 inch to accept a pair of .08 wider bearings. This proved to be a compromise, not as wide as ideal, but not so wide as to introduce way off center loads thru the piston, pin, rod, and journal. And this Bunkey, is where the FE 427 exited history to be replace by the 429 and the first energy crisis.
So we know from history that stabilizing the FE bottom end and providing an ocean of high pressure oil does help FEs of less than than 427 race motors. Some back yard solutions that are effective is to the up the size of the passages. Such as:
- 9/16s to 5/8s passage from pump to filter.
- 427 filter bracket
- 1/2 to 9/16s feed from filter the main oil galley
- 7/16s to 1/2 main oil galley all the way through, there is often a restrictor in between 4th and 5th bearings after the taps to the lifters to force pressure to the hydraulic lifters, this is eliminated by gun drilling the main galley.
- 9/32nds to 5/16s from the main bearing saddle feeds all the way to the main oil galley. In the case of the #5 feed that means open up that entire set of passages.
- Screw in plugs are nice, but you've got to make sure they don't obstruct any passage diameter when installed.
- I prefer a non-grooved bearing in the lower main. These have become hard to find, a 351W bearing set can be substituted with either the tangs ground off or new tang slots cut in the block, I prefer the latter.
- This engine doesn't seem to benefit much from cross drilling, nor does it seem harmful, so if you got it run it, if you don't leave it alone.
- Most of the block main oil delivery holes don't line up with those of the bearing, I prefer to file fit the bearing hole to the block rather than modify the block for two reasons, one; the bearing doesn't need pressure oil delivered behind it, and two; the main saddles are sometimes rather thin by the oil passage, especially after making them larger, and making the saddle fit the bearing hole sometimes promotes crack formation in the saddle.
- Rod oiling the piston with an indexed stream always grinds on my brain. The rod bearing needs all the help it can get so squirting a stream on the piston is a loss to the bearing. On the other hand, unless you're running 1960 HiPo 352 heads, or Edlebrock or Blue Thunder heads the combustion chamber for most FE heads is a real detonation prone design and a way of controlling that is to cool the underside of the piston with an oil spray from the v groove in the rod an its bearing. I think the best solution is no groove and a can of octane improver with every fill up if you can't afford improved heads.
Last edited by oldbogie; 10-25-2010 at 02:04 PM.
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The Flyin Wop (05-09-2013)
boy thats a ton of good info there bogie, interesting I have had a couple FE's a 68 360 and a 75 390.
the 390,,,Back in the day as a young kid of 17 I did a head swap on my 390, seemed to go OK, I was clueless however and before to long a symphony of clicking and ticking was coming from the left valve cover. After pulling the valve cover I noticed that there was no oil coming up to the the rocker shaft/rockers but did not know why, the other side was OK nicely lubed. Anyhow that motor/truck was short lived. I would on occasion pull the cover and dump some oil onto the rail and be very happy with the operation for about 50 miles, then the noise would start again, oh well as a kid on a wing and prayer I just kept driving it.
I must have somehow blocked that oil passage up to the rocker rail with the new head gasket or maybe had a different/wrong head on there.
Thanks for the memories argess lol, it was not until I looked at your oil passage picture nearly 30 years later that I can finally assume what went wrong with my ill fated teenage FE.
Whats with the oil passage directional change near the top of the rocker rail feeder, then there is what appear to be bolts next to the oil passages?
Those bolts just indicate the rocker stand necked down bolts that the oil travels along on it's way to the rocker shafts.
Old Bogie is a wealth of info. I know about the oil mods, but all that info on narrow rod bearings compared to their diameter is new to me. Thank-you for the detailed write-up OB.
Naturally, the reason I was asking is I've never come to a positive conclusion about oil pressure in these engines. Mine is fine except for at a hot idle. Freshly rebuilt with many of the oiling mods and it's the same as the last two FEs I did.
Every so often I talk about this over various forums that concern the FE, and although some people have the same oil pressure I do, many have completely different pressures.
Unfortunately, it's not always clear on these factors:
1/ Actual oil temp.....idle pressure is quite a bit higher at 190F than 210F for example
2/ Idle speed....with performance cams, some people have high idle, whihc gives higher pressure
3/ Bearing clearances.....Mine are all 0.0025", but stock clearances are usually less
4/ Oil Viscosity and type (dino or syn)....I get quite a bit more idle oil pressure with 20W50 Castrol than with 15W50 Mobil 1
5/ Type of oil filter......I use a System 1 which passes oil easily. Some paper filters are very restrictive
6/ solid lifters or hyd and if solid, are lifter galleries plugged off? Mine are.
7/ Are there restrictors to the heads? I use them.
....and there's probably more factors. One of which is using 1/2 or 3/4 groove main bearings as OB mentioned I'm using regualr Clevite 77 bearings where the upper and lower shells are identical.
It had recently occured to me that maybe my Mallory dist shaft is slighlty smaller than a Ford unit, either from new or worn down, so I made this post. Or the block could be worn in that area as well.
Overall, my oil pressure is fine. It peaks when the relief valve opens at 85 psi, and idles at 210F between 11 and 14 depending which oil I use, and runs between 40 and 45 at 2000 rpm also dependant on which oil I use. Others have claimed 25 psi at hot idle with the same viscosity oil.
All sort of a mystery to me, but I've learned to live with it with regards to I'm not tearing the engine down. On the other hand, I'm still curious, so I try to explore these things a bit.
I might do a little engine work....might put a new oil pump in as the one I'm using may be suspect for a number of reasons. If I'm doing that, I might swap out the lower main bearing halves. And if I feel really strongly, I might spin the oil pump with a drill...with the pan off....and just to see what's going on, but it will be messy.
Sidenote: On my oil pump, it's a Melling M57HV (high volume) pump. It was new in the last engine, but I broke a piston, so some debris may have scarred it. I did inpsect it, along with another, so perhaps I got the gears in the wrong housing. Also, when I first tried to prime the engine with oil, the pump wouldn't prime by cranking with the plugs out. That was a first time for that. So I used a drill, and even then it took a little time.
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