How to Prepare Brand New Lifters


Although valve lifters do not often go bad, sometimes they do fail and need replacement. When a lifter does fail, the replacement lifter must be properly prepared and pre-load tested before being put into service. Following the proper procedures to test and prepare a brand-new lifter prior to normal operation is required to validate the warranty by most lifter manufacturers. Proper lifter preparation will not only help prevent lifter or camshaft failure in the first few minutes of operation, it will ensure countless hours of dependable valve lifter performance.

Things You'll Need

  • Cam lubricant
  • Motor oil
  • Engine manufacturer's service manual
  • Complete auto mechanic's tool kit
  • Scribe
  • Apply cam lube to the external surfaces of the lifter as well as the lobes of the camshaft for non-roller cams. Fill the push rod seat of the valve lifter with motor oil. Use a high quality non-synthetic oil to coat all the lifter surfaces when a roller cam is used.

  • Install the rocker arms and set the initial valve lash, following the procedures in the manufacturer's service manual.

  • Rest a scribe on the valve cover gasket surface of the cylinder head. Scribe a mark on the push rod that is seated in the new valve lifter.

  • Remove the rocker assembly from the cylinder head, following instructions in the engine manufacturer's shop manual, but do not remove the push rod.

  • Scribe another mark below the first mark on the pushrod after removing the rocker assembly, using the valve cover gasket surface of the cylinder head as a reference point. The difference between the first and second marks is the pre-load distance.

  • Adjust the pre-load distance, if necessary, by using either longer or shorter pushrods to ensure that the pre-load distance is within the lifter manufacturer's specifications. Repeat the procedure for all new lifters.

  • Reinstall the rocker arms and reset the initial valve lash after the preload test, completing the preparation of the new valve lifter.

  • Prime the engine's oil pump, following the instructions in the engine manufacturer's shop manual. Fill the oil filter with fresh non-synthetic motor oil to ensure proper lubrication on start-up.

  • Complete the reassembly of the engine, following the procedures in the manufacturer's shop manual. Fill the engine with 30-weight engine oil, and the radiator with engine coolant.

  • Fill the carburetor float bowl with gasoline, or prime the injector pump to facilitate fast engine start-up, ensuring that engine oil reaches the new valve lifters as rapidly as possible.

  • Start the engine and reset the valve lash, if necessary, and the ignition timing following the instructions in the manufacturer's shop manual. Perform initial break-in procedures for new lifters following the lifter manufacturer's instructions.

  • Drain the engine oil after the engine cools off. Remove and replace the oil filter, following the instructions in the engine manufacturer's shop manual. Replace the engine oil using the correct weight of non-synthetic motor oil, following the recommendations in the engine manufacturer's shop manual. The lifter has now been prepared for normal operation.

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow the lifter manufacturer's recommendations for lubricating lifter prior to installation in the lifter port.
  • Some cam manufacturers require that new lifters, specified by the cam manufacturer, must be installed in order for the warranty on the cam to be valid.
  • Some vehicle manufacturers require that the valve lifter be immersed in motor oil before installation so that the lifter does not sustain damage during initial engine start-up after lifter replacement.
  • Some lifter manufacturers recommend against the use of synthetic oils for the first 500 miles of operation.


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