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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello guys I have some questions and can use some pointers. Pleas bear with me as this is my very first time doing anything like this engine clean up wise and I only have experience doing intake swaps and putting brand new engines together and not cleaning up a used one and then putting back together. Sorry for the long post.

I am in the process of trying to clean up my 350 chevy short block and the head gasket surface is next and I already cleaned up the pistons as best as I could. Before I did anything last week when I tore it down to the short block I sprayed some chain lube on the tops of the pistons and cylinder head surface to keep things from rusting.

I cleaned up my pistons one at a time and used Acetone and break cleaner and a bristle brush and clean paper towels to wipe things off as much as I could while cleaning and also microfiber towels.

I tried to keep stuff clean but some of the dirty acetone and brake cleaner got into my piston ring lands from one, when I sprayed it with chain lube the fist time and it sat over the weekend and actually softened up the top layer of gunk on my pistons but left some dark brown residue and a puddle towards the bottom of the cylinders except the one closest to the top.

I kept wiping things up as best as I could and used compressed air to blow things out and even as careful as I was stuff still got down in the piston ring lands.Are they now in danger of causing issues and will be junk now? I turned crankshaft over and wiped down the walls of the cylinders with a clean cloth and then wiped the walls with wd40 to keep them lubed for now. I got some grit still showing up from the cleaning process and got as much as I could blowing it out with air and wiping off the walls.

Is this acceptable while cleaning those off like that? Or did I mess stuff up even worse?

I had seen some different videos on cleaning surfaces and folks using everything from roloc wheels if I got that correct and wire wheels and scratch pads and many saying not to use that stuff and some saying its fine if you watch.

Bottom line I don't plan on using any wire wheels and stuff to clean up the surface of the deck but what is the best and cleanest way by using your hands and a plastic bristle brush and a razor blade? How clean does the head deck surface need to be? Does all the blue left over gasket material have to be gone and totally gasket material free?

I will put towels obviously when I start the cleaning process with a razor blade and brake cleaner on the deck surface but I am afraid cleaning junk will once again get into cylinders while I try to scrape things clean.
My pitons you can see below and wipe clean now and all the oil and un burnt stuff is gone.
Hope guys you can fill me in on what is normal while cleaning and if I am over worrying about certain things.
Thanks and appreciate any help and pointers.
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If you dont have aircompressor. I used to rotate engine with pistons on down side. Use brake clean to warsh out piston top & cylinder. Let it drip on floor covered with cardboard.
 

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Hey Crosley thanks for that tip. I can do that but I do have an air compressor though. I will do that once I get it back on the stand.
Forgot to mention.. While upside down on the engine stand. After the brake warsh, I would flood the WD-40 in there. Rotate the assembly a little to see if any debris was left as the pistons moved up and down. I did quite a few budget engine freshens.
 

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Hey Crosley thanks for that tip. I can do that but I do have an air compressor though. I will do that once I get it back on the stand.
I use a razor blade scraper with WD-40 to get the big stuff off and use a sharpening stone the fine side with WD-40 to get it smooth then clean up with acetone. Has worked well with some quick rering and bearing change bui!ds. Just keep the stone flat, just looking to get a clean uniform finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys for those tips I will certainly put that down and will do that part of spraying it upside down then wd40 the thing. I will be back at it tomorrow and go from there and hopefully have good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well guys here is my progress. I scrubbed with acetone and atf mix and a brass brush but as little as possible and a rag and just wiped away as much as I could and so far this is what I have after almost two hours. Is that pretty close to what is needed or do I have a lot more to go? I can't get rid of all the blue stain on the block and some of the deep scratches are not from me and must have been from a previously head install as I never used anything abrasive on it.

Thanks guys
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Well guys here is my progress. I scrubbed with acetone and atf mix and a brass brush but as little as possible and a rag and just wiped away as much as I could and so far this is what I have after almost two hours. Is that pretty close to what is needed or do I have a lot more to go? I can't get rid of all the blue stain on the block and some of the deep scratches are not from me and must have been from a previously head install as I never used anything abrasive on it.

Thanks guys View attachment 624831 View attachment 624834
Use engine oil to lube the cylinder walls, WD-40 is not a lube.
 

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Good tip about flipping it upside down and flooding with WD-40. The scratches on your deck surface are fine. Won't be an issue. Another tip is to go over the decks with 80g on a piece of exhaust tubing, in two directions, to check for low spots or any warping. I did this on my 5.0 and the scratches were evenly distributed indicating a flat deck.

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It's also a good idea to chase any bolt holes (especially head bolts) with a thread chaser.
Autozone and O'Reilly's tool loaner programs have thread chaser kits for free!
O'Reilly's tool loaner program - thread restorer set

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Also, something that might work in the future to keep debris out of your ring lands is form some clay around the diameter of your pistons, up against the cylinder walls. That'll seal it up and keep everything out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I have a thread chaser set and will be doing that as soon as I am done with the cleaning up the deck surface. I just don't know is how clean is enough. I see Evnitho that your deck surface looks really clean. Nice work on your block by the way. I am half afraid to use any other method to clean them up after so many people say yay or nay on certain things. I want to make sure I don't mess the surface RA finish up and stuff. Is it ok to use a green scotch bright pad that you use for dishes and stuff and if your careful by hand, use it to clean up any left over stuff off the deck to get a clean finish?

I still got stains on my deck as you can see and from what I have seen in searches that my deck is still not clean enough.

Thanks for all the tips guys and appreciate your help and can't thank you enough. I will do that clay trick as well. Would have never thought of that.
 

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I have a thread chaser set and will be doing that as soon as I am done with the cleaning up the deck surface. I just don't know is how clean is enough. I see Evnitho that your deck surface looks really clean. Nice work on your block by the way. I am half afraid to use any other method to clean them up after so many people say yay or nay on certain things. I want to make sure I don't mess the surface RA finish up and stuff. Is it ok to use a green scotch bright pad that you use for dishes and stuff and if your careful by hand, use it to clean up any left over stuff off the deck to get a clean finish?

I still got stains on my deck as you can see and from what I have seen in searches that my deck is still not clean enough.

Thanks for all the tips guys and appreciate your help and can't thank you enough. I will do that clay trick as well. Would have never thought of that.
Yes on green pad.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well guys I hate to bother you folks again but I spent two hours today on the other side and I have used everything and I just can't seem to get any further then this and I can't seem to get it clean. I wipe and wipe with paper towels and also rags with brake cleaner and it still comes up dirty and brown. I also can't get the stains off this thing and have it looking silver and totally clean like I have seen others have.

Hate to ask but am I getting close or I am still too far away to what is acceptable for being clean enough for a new head gasket?
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Did you go over it with 80g on exhaust tubing like I said? It doesn't look too bad. You want the surface clean with no raised portions (left over gasket material, etc). Smooth to the touch with no bumps. The HG needs to sit flat on the surface. It'd be nice to remove all stains but that's not necessary. Remember, HG's are gonna have sealing rings around the cylinders and water ports that are higher than the gasket itself, which will compress once the head is torqued therefore providing a good seal around cylinders and ports. You can see a few stains on my head surface. Doesn't affect anything.

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Evintho no I have not done anything like that yet. I know you did it but I have read stories that you should not use any sandpaper on the deck surface as it can mess up the roughness finish on it and make the head gasket to not seal. Heck if I had mine looking like yours I would be satisfied but I can get an exhaust tube that is not a big deal.

I can not feel anything with my fingers as far as material goes and the razor blade is not scraping no more stuff off the deck surface. I am used to intake swaps and and new stuff and this one is got me ripping my hair out as I feel its nowhere close to what it needs to be and I see guys on youtube taking a red scotch bright pad by hand and it cleans right up but my green one which is a dish washing one, is not cleaning up anything and taking nothing off.

Am I using a wrong type of scratch pad here?
 

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Evintho no I have not done anything like that yet. I know you did it but I have read stories that you should not use any sandpaper on the deck surface as it can mess up the roughness finish on it and make the head gasket to not seal. Heck if I had mine looking like yours I would be satisfied but I can get an exhaust tube that is not a big deal.

I can not feel anything with my fingers as far as material goes and the razor blade is not scraping no more stuff off the deck surface. I am used to intake swaps and and new stuff and this one is got me ripping my hair out as I feel its nowhere close to what it needs to be and I see guys on youtube taking a red scotch bright pad by hand and it cleans right up but my green one which is a dish washing one, is not cleaning up anything and taking nothing off.

Am I using a wrong type of scratch pad here?
As evintho said if you feel no raised spots you should be able to install your head gaskets now. And yes the red pads are a courser material.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I have a straight edge and will be checking straightness that way before attempting the pipe and sandpaper method. i would worry bout getting dust particles in the cylinders and no I don't plan on taking out my locating pins. All the years my Father has done engine works has never taken them out and has done his methods of cleaning up surfaces and he never once had a head gasket problem.

I am going to get some red pads and try to do one find clean and then check straightness and then move on to other areas to work on. Thanks guys your are all appreciated and a life saver and are helping me learn new things. Good day all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well guys I don 't know if this is good enough or not but I can't get anymore stuff to come off with a razor blade or carb cleaner or brake clean etc. Used a scotch brite pad of the red and it helped a little but not much left. When I rub my finger over the deck it feels smooth and I can't get nothing to scrape off period. I can't get it nice and silver like others seem to do but all I have left is the threads to chase and that part will be done. Straight edge check as well and then try to fix if possible. Then on to the intake valley and cleaning it out as best as possible and removing cam and lifters and timing cover and stuff then on to freeze plugs. What do you think if anyone wants to comment?

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I really think you're fine on the headgaskets. Just slap 'em on there. You're removing the cam and lifters? How far do you want to go on this engine? Any idea how many miles are on it? Typically, if there's upwards of 200k on it I pull the heads and have them decked and a complete valve job done. I check the rod bearings and if they are worn or gouged, I replace them. I'll leave the rings 'cause at 200k the cylinders are probably out of round and they'd require a bore and new pistons. Rod bearings are cheap as is a new oil pump (heart of the motor) and new timing chain and gears. Replace the freeze plugs and of course all new gaskets, clean and paint. That's a seal-n-shine. Really no reason to pull cam and lifters. Cam is a bear to get back in with the rotating assembly still in there and not gouge the cam bearings.
 
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