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Seized engines

If you’re afflicted with the urge to
restore old vehicles and machines—as I am—you’ve likely checked
out more than a few rusty hulks hiding behind rows of trees or
farmyards. When deciding whether or not its worth the trouble of
dragging a machine home for a restoration, there are a couple of
musts to consider.

First, the vehicle, whatever it is,
must be pretty complete. Hunting down rare parts like chrome trim

pieces can take a lot of time and money. Second, the engine must show
some indication it’s at least rebuildable, unless you’re planning to
build a hot rod or replace the existing powerplant with something
completely different anyway.

The first thing I tend to do when
looking under the hood of a potential project is grab the fan, give
it a turn and see if I can get the crankshaft to rotate a little. If
it does, there is a much better likelihood that the engine can be
brought back to life. If it’s badly seized, then it could just be
nothing more than a lump of scrap iron.

A couple of years ago I had an
International W-6 tractor in my shop with a seized engine. I tried
the usual method of getting a stuck engine to turn, pulling the spark
plugs and spraying liberal amounts of penetrating oil into the

cylinders. Then after a few days, I put a breaker bar on the
crankshaft pulley bolt and leaned into it. But the old W-6 wouldn’t

Finally, I took the head off to find
two of the cylinders full of dirt and sand. Debris had blown in
through the two open valves during the years it sat neglected. After
scooping all the crap out, I soaked the cylinders for weeks with more
penetrating fluid, but it was hopeless. The engine was unusable.

Any time I mentioned that stuck engine,
it seemed everyone I spoke to had their own perfect recipe for a
solution almost guaranteed to loosen things up. People recommended I
use everything from straight diesel fuel to a mix of Coca-Cola and
aviation gas!


This old six-cylinder engine in a 1948 GMC pickup is seized and sitting in my shop. I’ll have to tackle the problem of freeing it up sooner or later.

There are also commercial fluids out
there being marketed for just such a job. And this week a press
release appeared in my email representing just such a product. The
company claimed their fluid was the answer to most seized engine
troubles. The message was from B.R.T. Tech Corp in Dorval, Quebec,
and its product is called Engine Release. The press release says
Engine Release has proven to get pistons loose in over 90 per cent of
attempts. The list price is $19.95 plus shipping.

I called the owner, Serge Harrison, and
asked him about Engine Release. He said he came up with the formula
to solve problems his own machinery company was having with seized
engines in equipment they purchased, most of which had been sitting
unused for long periods before they bought it. Serge added his
company was in the Marine equipment business, so stuck engines are
something he ought to know about.

Engine Release is only available
through the company’s website
He says shipping costs will vary depending on your postal code, as
Canada Post charges more for longer-distance shipments. It could add
another $15 in some cases. But if it works as well as advertised, I’d
pay $35 to bypass a stuck engine problem.

Do you have your own sure-fire method
for freeing a stuck engine, or have you tried Engine Release? If so
let me know what kind of results you’ve had.

By the way, Serge’s website advises
using an impact gun rather than a breaker bar on a stuck crankshaft.
There’s less chance of bending a connecting rod that way, and the
vibrations it creates help break things loose.


About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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