All About the Chevy 350 Engine

Few engines can match the Chevy small-block V8 when it comes to dependability. For decades, it's been a reliable workhorse that refuses to die no matter what kind of abuse you throw at it. The Chevy 350 in particular sets the standard for automotive quality. If you need a Chevy engine that will go the distance, the Chevy 350 is always a prudent purchase.

The Chevy 350 in a Nutshell

The Chevy 350 debuted in 1967 as an upgrade to the Camaro's stock engine. The 350 continued to be standard equipment in a slew of Chevy models up until 2000 or so. It boasts a four-inch bore, a cast-iron block with four-bolt main caps, iron cylinder heads and aluminum pistons. Thanks to hydraulic flat-tappet camshafts and nodular iron crankshafts, 350s are some of the most reliable engines in existence. OEM crate 350s can cost as little as $2,000.

Common 350s and Their Applications

One of the most popular 350s is the L48 version rolled out in 1969 that produces 300 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. It can be found under the hoods of many Chevy models including the Impala, the El Camino, the Chevelle and the Nova. The LM1 variant introduced in 1979 was equally successful, powering everything from the Caprice to the Malibu. The final L31 iteration was the stock motor in many models from 1996 to 2002.

Signs that Your Engine Should Be Replaced

While many problem engines can be rebuilt, doing so isn't always the best option. If the cost of rebuilding a motor measured in money and time outweighs the cost of a new engine, buying a crate model is an easy decision. A rebuild that involves boring out the cylinders is going to require many new parts and quite a few hours of labor. Dropping in a reasonably priced crate engine with no miles on it is a cost-effective solution.

Why Crate Engines are the Way to Go

While you could buy a remanufactured Chevy 350 engine for your car or truck, a brand-new crate model is a better bet for a few reasons. For one thing, crate engines are pristine machines that have never been used before. This means that you don't have to worry about how hard they've been pushed or how well they've been maintained. Furthermore, crate engines often represent a better value than rebuilds since they're so affordable.

What to Look for in a Crate Engine

When scouting around for a Chevy 350 crate engine, identifying the right model for your vehicle is clutch. If you want to make the replacement job easy, stick with stock motors. Whatever engine you decide on, picking an OEM unit bearing the Chevy stamp of approval is a must. Always buy your crate engines from a vendor with a solid reputation that also sells complementary components like fuel pumps and starters.

Replacing the Part

Before you even think of ordering a Chevy 350 crate engine, you should prepare for the replacement process by getting your tools in order. Obviously, a good engine winch is a must. Beyond that, a few high-quality hand tools are all you'll need. Ratchets and breaker bars will do just fine for the most part. You'll need at least one 3/8-inch ratchet and a good 1/2-inch torque wrench at a minimum to loosen old nuts that are rusty.

Once you've gathered your tools, you'll have to disconnect everything that's attached to the motor itself. Now is a good time to remove the hood. Begin with the basics by disconnecting the battery. Next, remove every electrical cable that connects the engine to the frame and body of the vehicle. Unfasten the upper and lower hoses that lead to the radiator. Disconnect the accessory or serpentine belt and remove both the starter and the alternator. Finally, disconnect the throttle linkage and the exhaust manifolds.

At this point, the only things holding your engine in place are the motor mounts and the bolts securing the transmission. Remove the bolts that hold the block to the frame. You'll want to replace the old mounts with new hardware when installing your crate engine later. Loosen the bolts that secure your engine to the transmission. If you have an automatic transmission, the engine's flywheel is attached to a torque converter. You'll need to turn your crankshaft by hand to access all of the bolts.

Removing the engine itself is a relatively simple process that requires a lot of elbow grease and a little finesse. You'll need to pass chains under the block in the appropriate places and attach them to an engine winch. Always refer to the owner's manual that came with your winch and follow its recommendations to the letter. Start by lifting the block up a little bit to take the weight off of the mounts. Push the engine forwards while lifting to disengage the transmission.

Lowering the new crate engine into place is pretty much the reverse of the removal process. Be sure to thoroughly review the installation instructions that came with your engine a few times before you begin. Start by installing the new engine mounts. It's advisable to have at least one assistant on hand to help you position the engine correctly as you lower it. You'll need to line up the output shaft with the transmission as you guide the block onto the mounts.

Last but not least, you'll need to reattach all of the hoses, steel lines, cables and belts that you removed earlier. Come up with a task checklist that you can refer to as you proceed. Start by bolting the transmission to the engine. Once you've tackled the bigger jobs, you can move on to reattaching smaller peripherals like the power steering pump, the alternator and the radiator hoses. The final step is to double-check your work and replace fluids like oil and engine coolant.

That Crucial First Start

It should go without saying that you can't simply fire up your new crate engine for the first time and head straight to the local drag strip. You should allow the engine to idle for at least 30 minutes so that the piston rings can seat properly. If you don't allow the engine to acclimate itself to the expansion and contraction that comes with high temperatures, you can cause serious damage to sensitive components.

The Break-In Procedure

Before you log any serious mileage on a new crate engine, you need to "break it in" properly. Once you've confirmed that the coolant system doesn't have any air trapped in it, take your vehicle for a 30-mile test drive. Execute a few mild accelerations while keeping the engine under 3,000 RPM. Then, perform a few hard accelerations while keeping the engine under 5,000 RPM. Finally, return to your garage, change the oil and re-check the coolant.

Finding the Right 350 for You

The great thing about Chevy 350 crate engines is that there are so many to choose from. A reputable crate engine vendor can take the guesswork out of the equation and make sure that you get a quality motor. At GMPartsGurus.com, we stock the finest Chevy 350 crate engines you'll find anywhere on the web at prices that must be seen to be believed. The next time you need to tackle a Chevy 350 engine replacement, we're the OEM Chevy parts dealer to call.