You should pre-oil that engine

February 1, 2011 | By Richard Prince


I haven’t run my 1955 DeSoto Coronado with a hemi V-8 in over 10 years. Now I want to put it on the road. I’ve changed the oil and filter, removed the spark plugs and put Marvel Mystery oil in the cylinders.

But I’m not sure that I want to turn over the engine without pre-oiling it. I know what to do about removing the distributor and spinning the oil pump with a priming shaft and electric drill. Yet I don’t trust my skills to reinsert the distributor at the same rotor setting. Instead, I thought of pressurizing the system by teeing off the oil pressure sending unit, but it’s located next to the distributor behind the intake manifold and it’s impossible to get to. Dare I turn the engine over with the cylinders oiled and the plugs out without pre-lubing? What is the possibility of damaging the bearings by this method?


I think the chances of damaging the bearings are modest but I also think the “cost” of pre-oiling the engine is even more modest. Wrap a piece of masking tape around each spark plug wire, put a corresponding piece of tape on each tower of the distributor cap, and write the cylinder number for each cylinder on the tape. Remove enough wires to be able to move the distributor cap out of the way. Once the cap is off you will see exactly where the contact on the rotor is positioned.

Secure a piece of heavy gauge bailing wire to one of the ignition coil bolts or another convenient bolt near the distributor. Bend the wire so that it’s aligned with the rotor contact. Remove the distributor hold down and pull the distributor out of the engine. Look down the distributor hole with a light and make note of the position of the oil pump drive shaft. Spin the shaft with your drill until oil pressure comes up and then spin it for a couple of more minutes. After pulling the priming shaft out use a long screwdriver to position the oil drive shaft in approximately the same position it was in when you first pulled the distributor out. Then slide the distributor into position, making sure the rotor contact lines up with the wire that you positioned adjacent to it before removing the distributor. You may have to adjust the oil pump drive shaft a few times before the distributor slides into the correct position.