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Yesterday I bought a project 76 C10. Engine starts and runs well. No knocking or clanking. In fact I drove the car home for about 5 miles until the brakes gave out, after which I had to tow it the rest of the way. Anyway, today I pulled some plugs, popped the valve covers, changed the oil. I would like to get your guys' opinion (based on the information I have here) as to what you think the state of the engine is.

Here is what, more or less, the 3 plugs that I pulled look like:

Automotive tire Safety glove Glove Gas Auto part


Automotive tire Suspension Gas Machine Plumbing


Automotive tire Plastic bottle Gas Automotive wheel system Electric blue


And here is what it looks like under the covers.
Automotive tire Motor vehicle Gas Automotive fuel system Auto part


Motor vehicle Automotive tire Automotive exterior Gas Auto part


Motor vehicle Light Hood Automotive lighting Automotive tire


Wood Gas Automotive exterior Automotive lighting Hardwood


It's obvious there are some rust issues, but do you think it's salvageable? Like I said, runs fine and doesn't smoke.
 

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There is a fair amount of carbon buildup on those rockers and, I suspect, everywhere else. Is there something I can add to my new oil that will help clean that up a little? And as for brakes, yes, I am finishing all that up today.
Oil gets dirty from blow by gasses and condensation.

The best thing you can do to clean up a engine is to do 3000mile oil changes and replace the pcv valve at 12k. Check your lines for internal blockage, cracks, or soft areas and replace /blow out the blockage if needed.

I leave the pan bolt off till it stops dripping then pour 1/4 quart down each valve cover. This gets that extra bit out and allows a bit of fresh oil to sit in the rockers.


The 17 year old me had a 78 pontiac with a 6.6 that sat for years. I pulled the valve covers and had a outline of oil cake. Seriously took a butter knife and spoon cleaning out those rockers before doing tge same with the oil pan. Then I washed the insides of the oil pan and rockes with gasoline removing the old oil then wiping them down dry.

500 mile oil change, 1000, 3000, then at 6000 pulled the valve covers and it was nice and clean. I got stupid lucky. But the thing never smoked or used oil. Gas on the other hand...


I push 3000 mile oil changes despite whats on the side of that container. A synthetic
blend with a wix or ac delco filter will run you around $25 for 5 quarts. I buy my filters and pvc valves online and the oil locally or online depending on the price at the time. Amazon ships oil for a respectable price. Soda on the other hand(I dont drink or smoke my only vice is soda) they charge 3+ times what a store does for some strange reason.

Just do regular oil /pcv changes and the engine will become clean soon enough. You can take it a step further with a catch can that you empty at 3000 miles. A catch can and a bit of carb cleaner will have a aluminum intake looking like new inside in a short amount if time. A carburated engine will clean the inside on its own just washing that intake with gas fumes.
On port injected Pcv intakes a bit of carb cleaner(on the rag not the intake) and a few extra dry rags cleans them right up.

If your real trick you can modify your dipstick so it has a section welded to it making a Y. Then you just open a brass ball valve and have the catch can oil go down a hose and right down the dipstick into the oil pan. No drips or messing with cups.
Just make sure you close the ball valve before starting the engine.

For gaskets I use felpro reuseable (blue) gaskets with inserts in most cases. No leaks here on many diffrent engines. A quality valve cover also helps. If you have a thin thing that requires spreader tabs most of the time you can make that work. But a quality cast aluminum cover will give much better sealing often for around the same cost.
 

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There is a fair amount of carbon buildup on those rockers and, I suspect, everywhere else. Is there something I can add to my new oil that will help clean that up a little? And as for brakes, yes, I am finishing all that up today.
I don’t think that engine looks all that dirty inside especially given its age and the relative qualities of oils from that era. I rather think this is fine enough to button up with fresh oil and filter. I’m not a fan of internal cleaners nor just using synthetic oil in an unrebuilt older SBC my experience which is mostly from watching others put motor cleaners into an engine is the loosened gunk causes bigger problems than it solves.

Between the color on the spark plugs and really the lack of huge amounts of gunk on the inside this looks to me like a daily working engine with a carburetor that was reasonably cared for. I’d put a fresh filter on it, fill the crankcase with 10W30 or 15W40 of Shell Rotella, Chevron Delo or Mobile Delvac and call it good. If anything deeper is needed I’d start at a new timing set and front end gaskets and seal. Speaking of seals the old SBC two piece rear seal engine was a notorious rear seal leaker, something to look at while you can get to it.

Bogie
 
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