Choosing the Right Crate Engine: Oiling Systems

crate engines

In our final segment of “Choosing the Right Crate Engine” (Part I, Part II, Part III) we’ll take a short look at the oiling system along with a selection of accessory bits you’ll need to think about.  Obviously, the oil system is critical, but don’t take the little pieces lightly either. Much of the little hardware can add up when it comes to costs.  And that can turn a crate motor “bargain” into precious metal.

Follow along as we look at the final details:

Oiling System:  You can purchase a crate engine with an internal wet sump, an external wet sump or even a dry sump.  One thing you have to keep in mind here is that a wide-open Pro Stock style chassis will accept a big box style pan.  A chassis such as a something found in a stock ’68 Dodge Dart will mandate a far different pan. Engine speed is also an issue.  If the engine you’re planning on purchasing is built for high RPM use, there’s a good chance a dry sump is part of the equation.  On the other hand, a motor home crate engine with a dry sump would be absolute overkill and a complete waste of money.  Remember too that in a street application, a steel pan might be more appropriate than an all aluminum pan.  In a street environment, you have to deal with issues like speed bumps, high approach angle driveways and so on.  Those aren’t issues for a race-only engine.  In this case, plan for an oiling system geared toward the real application of the engine.  Otherwise, you’ll be money and performance short.

Additional Components:  There are plenty of other pieces on a crate engine that you should consider.  For example, is the harmonic damper a SFI certified piece?  If it isn’t, and the class you race in mandates one, then it means additional cost to you.  How about items such as cam drives?  Is the engine equipped with a timing chain, gear drive or a belt drive?  Is a water pump included?  How about little things like spark plug wires, wire dividers, a thermostat housing, a carburetor fuel line and other hardware?  If these components are included in the price, be certain they are items you need for your application.

After giving the crate motor equation some thought, it’s easy to see there are a large number of things you have to consider when doing your shopping. When the time comes to select the engine for your car, be certain you match the engine as well as the engine components to the task at hand.  You’ll be a bunch happier.  And so will your car.

crate engines
If it’s a standard wet sump setup, something you probably won’t see in your crate motor is the oil pump. Before you buy, determine what pump is inside. This is a high-end wet sump oil pump from the folks at Titan. It’s a g-rotor design that is externally adjustable. And yes, it works fabulously, but it’s certainly more costly than a simple jobber pump.
crate engines
Photo Credit: Jeff Johnston’s Billet Fabrication.
Oil pans are another big consideration. The text details some of the ins and outs, but don’t forget a custom style aluminum job like this piece from Jeff Johnston’s Billet Fabrication might be necessary in order to install the crate motor of choice in your chassis.
crate engines
Timing chains inside a crate motor can be jobber items or they can be more sophisticated pieces such as this Crame double roller affair. Note the multiple key ways on the crank. It makes degreeing the cam (or tuning by way of advancing or retarding the cam) easy. Again, you get what you pay for.
crate engine
The ultimate method of cam timing has to be a belt drive. Jesel manufacturers this setup. And it’s top shelf when it comes to quality. You have to ask yourself if you need this sort of cam timing arrangement on your car. If it’s a dedicated race piece, then it’s a huge bonus. On the other hand, it might prove to be overkill for a street driven car (keep in mind the belt runs out in the open as shown here).
crate engines
Taking a step back, we should also point out there are plenty of options when it comes to harmonic dampers (balancers). Top of the line SFI approved jobs such as this piece from ATI will add to the cost, but if you’re racing, they’re absolutely necessary (check your rule book – they’re more than likely mandatory).
crate engines
Something you won’t see very often on a crate motor is the starter. It’s another of those accessory pieces you’ll absolutely need, but it’s often not included in the basic price. The same applies to a water pump along with the associated puleys. Ditto with plug wires, wire sleeves, wire dividers, water necks, fuel lines, and so on. All of these little things add up when it comes to the final tab on your crate motor. Keep them in mind.
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