Some approaches to engine pre-lubrication

September 1, 2011 | By Richard Prince


I have several questions relating to my 1964 Buick Wildcat 401 cid engine.

The 1964 car and three backup 401 engines with their respective automatic transmissions are stored indoors on wood dollies. But after a period of inactivity during storage what should be

done to pre-lubricate critical parts without removal of the distributor, if possible? Can I use the oil pressure sensor’s engine orifice, or remove the valley pan, or loosen the valve train rocker arms in order to assess valve spring function? Also, would valve stem lube with WD-40 be advisable, initially? Something tells me that I should err on the side of safety, as metal-to-metal contact, especially under load from compression, combustion, and valve spring pressure, cannot be a good thing. The cylinders have been treated with 4 ounces of 5W-30 Sunoco oil. The crankcase has 10W-30 oil along with 1/4 can of STP anti-seize. I envision the potential for cam lobe damage and am not satisfied that all bearings may possess residual oil. The 1964 engine is all original and has 135,000 miles and it leaks no oil.


The only two ways to really ensure that oil reaches all of the critical places it needs to be before you start up the engine is either disassemble it and lubricate all critical surfaces during reassembly, or remove the distributor and use an electric drill attached to a suitable tool to spin the oil pump.

You indicate that you don’t want to remove the distributor but don’t say why. Removing it is not particularly difficult and as long as you carefully mark its position before removal and make sure it goes back in the same position, you won’t have any timing problems, assuming, of course, that it’s in the correct position to begin with.

Spinning the pump until oil pressure is high and turning the engine over slowly by hand will help ensure that oil reaches all bearings and other important areas.

If I can’t talk you into spinning the oil pump then there are a few things you can do to diminish the chances of having a problem. You can take off the valley pan and pour oil on the cam and lifters.

You mention that the cylinders were “treated with 4 ounces of 5W-30 Sunoco oil” and I’m not sure what that means. Did you put 4 ounces into each cylinder or 4 ounces into all of them? Did you do that when the car was put into storage years ago or more recently?

If the cylinders weren’t oiled recently you would be wise to remove each spark plug and oil them again. Turn the engine over by hand for as many revolutions as you feasibly can to help distribute the oil around the engine. Then disable the ignition system and crank the engine over with the starter motor until the oil pressure comes up. This will allow the engine to instantly have oil pressure when you do start it up again.