If you own a vehicle with a Small Block Chevy (SBC) engine, it’s important to regularly check for cracks in the cylinder head. Cracks can lead to various problems, including coolant leaks, engine overheating, and reduced performance.

However, checking for cracks in SBC heads can be daunting for those unfamiliar. We’ll discuss how to check for cracks in SBC heads and provide some tips on preventing cracking in the future.

The first step in checking for cracks is to remove the cylinder head from the engine. This can be time-consuming, but properly inspecting the head for cracks is necessary. Once the crown is removed, cleaning it thoroughly and checking for any signs of damage is important. This includes looking for cracks, warping, and other signs of wear and tear.

how to check for cracks in sbc heads

Tools Needed For Valve Spring Installation

Tools Needed For Valve Spring Installation

When installing valve springs, you’ll need a few essential tools to ensure a proper and safe procedure. Here are the tools commonly used for valve spring installation:

Valve spring compressor: A valve spring compressor is a specialized tool designed to safely compress the valve spring, allowing you to remove and install valve springs without damaging the cylinder head or other engine components. Various types of valve spring compressors are available, such as manual compressors or pneumatic/air-operated compressors. Choose one that suits your specific needs and the type of engine you’re working on.

Retainer and keeper removal tool: This tool helps remove the valve spring retainers and keepers that hold the valve springs in place. It typically consists of a claw-like mechanism or a magnet that grips and removes the retainers and keepers.

Valve seal removal tool (if needed): If you need to replace the valve stem seals during the valve spring installation, a valve seal removal tool will be necessary. This tool allows you to remove the old valve safely stem seals without damaging the valve or the seal.

Magnetic pickup tool: A magnetic pickup tool is handy for retrieving small components like valve keepers that may accidentally fall into the engine bay or onto the floor. The magnet at the end of the tool helps attract and retrieve these small metal pieces easily.

Feeler gauges: Feeler gauges are used to measure the valve clearance or lash when adjusting valve lash on certain engines. They consist of a set of thin metal blades of different thicknesses. The appropriate feeler gauge should be used to ensure the correct valve clearance is achieved.

Lubricant: It’s essential to use a suitable lubricant during the valve spring installation. Lubricating the valve stem and components helps reduce friction and ensures smooth operation. A light oil or assembly lube designed for engine components is commonly used.

Safety glasses: Safety glasses or goggles should be worn during the valve spring installation to protect your eyes from any flying debris or small parts that may accidentally dislodge during the process.

How To Check For Cracks In SBC Heads – Step-By-Step Guide

How To Check For Cracks In SBC Heads

If you are working on a Small Block Chevy (SBC) engine, it is important to know how to check for cracks in the cylinder heads. This is crucial in preventing any potential engine failure and ensuring optimal performance.

One way to check for cracks is to use a dye penetrant. First, clean the surface of the head and apply the dye according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Next, wipe away the excess dye and apply the developer. Any cracks will be visible as a bright line under UV light. Another method is to use a pressure tester.

This involves removing the spark plugs and installing a pressure tester in each cylinder. The tester will indicate if there is a loss of pressure. Which could be a sign of a crack in the head. It is also important to visually inspect the head for any signs of damage or wear, such as pitting or corrosion.

If any cracks or damage are found, it is important to address them immediately to prevent further damage to the engine. Here are some guidelines to help you learn How to check for cracks in SBC heads.

1. Removing Valve Springs

Removing Valve Springs

Removing valve springs can be daunting for novice mechanics, but it can accomplishe efficiently and easily with the right tools and techniques. A valve spring compressor is one of the most important tools for removing valve springs.

This tool allows you to compress the spring and remove the retaining keepers, making removing the spring from the valve easier. Ensuring the compressor is the correct size for the valve spring you’re working on is essential.

If the compressor is too small, it won’t be able to compress the spring fully, and if it’s too big, it won’t fit properly, causing potential damage to the valve or spring. Before removing valve springs, it’s crucial to ensure the engine is at the top dead centre (TDC) to avoid potential damage.

2. Inspecting And Measuring Valve Springs

Inspecting and measuring valve springs is critical in ensuring an engine’s proper functioning. Valve springs are an essential component of the valve train, responsible for ensuring the valves close tightly and remain sealed during the combustion process.

Over time, valve springs can weaken, leading to a loss of engine power and potentially catastrophic engine failure. As such, it is vital to inspect and measure valve springs regularly.

The inspection involves examining the springs for signs of wear, damage, or distortion, which high temperatures, vibration, or excessive stress can cause. Any springs that show signs of wear or damage should replace immediately.

Measuring the springs involves calculating their compression and tension rates, which determine how much force they can exert on the valve train. This information is critical to ensure the valve train operates within the manufacturer’s specifications.

3. Choosing The Right Valve Springs

Choosing The Right Valve Springs

Valve springs are an essential component in any engine’s performance. Choosing the right valve springs is crucial, affecting the engine’s power, efficiency, and overall reliability. The engine’s operating RPM range is the first thing to consider when selecting valve springs.

The right valve springs should be able to handle the engine’s maximum RPM without losing tension or failing. It’s also important to consider the camshaft’s lift and duration, as this can affect the valve spring’s performance.

A high-lift camshaft may require stiffer valve springs to prevent valve float, while a more aggressive duration camshaft may require softer valve springs for better performance.

The spring’s material also plays a role in its performance, with some materials, such as titanium, offering better strength and durability than others. The valve spring’s seat pressure and open pressure should also be factored in, as these determine the force required to open and close the valve.

4. Preparing The Cylinder Head For Installation

Preparing the cylinder head for installation is essential in ensuring your engine’s smooth running and longevity. Before installing the cylinder head, it is crucial to clean it thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or old gasket material that may have accumulated.

The cylinder head should then inspecte for any signs of cracks, warping, or other damage that may compromise performance. Once it has been cleaned and inspected, the next step is to prepare the surfaces for sealing.  This involves using a gasket scraper to remove any remaining gasket material and a wire brush or sandpaper to smooth out rough areas.

It is also important to check the mating surface of the engine block and ensure that there are no burrs or other imperfections that could prevent a proper seal. Finally, the cylinder head should lubricate with engine oil to prevent damage during installation and ensure it works smoothly once in place.

5. Installing Valve Springs

Installing Valve Springs

Installing valve springs is an important aspect of engine building. Valve springs are crucial in maintaining proper valve timing and ensuring the engine operates smoothly. Before beginning the installation process, selecting the proper valve springs for your engine is important.

The correct spring pressure and height must be chosen to achieve optimal performance and prevent engine damage. The installation process can begin once the appropriate valve springs have been selected.

It is important first to remove the old valve springs and clean the valve stem and spring seat. Then, the new valve springs can install using a spring compressor tool. The tool compresses the spring, placing it over the valve stem and onto the spring seat.

Once the valve springs are in place, it is important to check the installed height and spring pressure to ensure they are within the manufacturer’s specifications. Proper installation of valve springs is crucial for the longevity and performance of the engine.

6. Installing Valve Seals And Retainers

When it comes to installing valve seals and retainers, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, ensuring the valve stems are clean and free from debris or buildup is important. This will ensure that the seals and retainers can be installed properly and will form a tight seal.

Once the valve stems are clean, installing the valve seals is next. These small rubber or plastic components fit snugly over the valve stems and help prevent oil from leaking into the combustion chamber.

To install the valve seals, simply slide them over the valve stems and push them down until they are flush with the cylinder head. Once the valve seals are in place, installing the retainers is time. These metal components fit over the valve springs and hold them in place.

7. Checking Installed Height And Spring Pressure

Checking Installed Height And Spring Pressure

When it comes to building an engine, certain key factors need to  considere to ensure that it runs smoothly and efficiently. The installed height and spring pressure are two important factors that must checke during engine building.

Installed height refers to the distance between the retainer and the valve seal when the valve is closed. This measurement is crucial because it affects the valve lift and duration. Incorrectly installed height can lead to valve float or limited valve lift, which can negatively impact the engine’s performance.

Spring pressure, on the other hand, refers to the force applied by the valve springs to the valves. This is important because it determines the maximum rpm the engine can safely run. Insufficient spring pressure can cause valve float, which can lead to damage to the valve train components.

8. Adjusting Valve Lash

When it comes to maintaining a healthy engine, adjusting the valve lash is one of the most important tasks to undertake. Valve lash refers to the amount of clearance between the valve stem and the rocker arm or camshaft lobe.

Over time, this clearance can decrease due to wear and tear, causing the valves to not fully close or open, which can lead to decreased engine performance, increased fuel consumption, and potential engine damage. Adjusting valve lash involves setting the clearance to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications, which can vary depending on the engine type and model.

This process can be challenging and requires specialized tools and knowledge. However, it is important to note that valve lash adjustment is not a one-time fix; it should checke and readjusted regularly to ensure optimal engine performance.

Neglecting to adjust the valve lash can lead to costly engine repairs and decreased lifespan. Therefore, following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and having a trained mechanic perform valve lash adjustments when necessary is crucial.

9.Testing And Tuning The Engine

Testing And Tuning The Engine

Regarding engines, testing and tuning are critical components to ensuring optimal performance and longevity. Testing involves analyzing the engine’s components and performance under various conditions to identify potential issues or improvement areas.

This can include dynamometer testing, which measures an engine’s output power, torque, and fuel efficiency, as well as diagnostic testing to identify any faults or malfunctions.

Once any issues have been identified, tuning the engine involves adjusting the various components to optimize performance. This can include adjusting the fuel-to-air ratio, ignition timing, and other settings to achieve better horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency.

Tuning can also involve upgrades or modifications to the engine, such as a new exhaust system or air intake, to improve performance even further.

While testing and tuning are critical for race cars and high-performance vehicles, they are also important for everyday drivers. Regular maintenance and tuning can help extend an engine’s life and ensure it runs at peak performance.

Troubleshooting Valve Spring Issues

Valve spring issues can be the bane of an engine’s existence. Troubleshooting these issues is key to ensuring that your engine runs smoothly and efficiently. The first step in troubleshooting valve spring problems is understanding what causes them.

Valve springs can become worn or damaged over time, leading to valve float. Which can cause engine misfires and other problems. Additionally, valve springs can fail due to improper installation or inadequate clearance.

When troubleshooting valve spring issues, it is important to inspect the springs for any signs of damage or wear. This can include cracks, broken coils, or a loss of tension. If you notice any of these issues, replacing the valve springs as soon as possible is important to prevent further damage to your engine.

Other potential causes of valve spring problems include improper valve lash settings, worn valve guides, or damaged rocker arms. These issues can cause similar symptoms to valve spring problems, so it is important to inspect all components of your engine to determine the root cause.


Checking for cracks in SBC heads is essential in ensuring your engine’s overall health and longevity. It is crucial to perform a thorough inspection regularly to catch any potential issues early on.

By following the steps outlined in this guide and using the appropriate tools, you can identify and address any cracks in your SBC heads promptly and effectively. As always, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a professional mechanic for any significant repairs or replacements.

With proper maintenance and care, you can keep your engine running smoothly and avoid costly repairs down the line. We hope you now understand How to check for cracks in SBC heads.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.What Are The Common Signs Of Cracks In SBC Heads, And How Can You Identify Them?

Ans: The common signs of cracks in SBC (Small Block Chevy) heads include:

  1. Coolant leakage: If you notice coolant leaking from the engine, it may be a sign of a cracked head. This is because coolant can seep through the cracks and out of the engine.
  2. Overheating: An engine that overheats frequently may have a cracked head. This is because the crack can cause the engine to lose coolant and overheat.

2.What Tools And Equipment Are Needed To Inspect SBC Heads For Cracks Properly?

Ans: You need the following tools and equipment to inspect SBC (Small Block Chevy) heads for cracks.

  1. Magnaflux machine: It is a non-destructive testing machine that uses magnetic fields to detect surface and subsurface cracks in the metal.
  2. Dye penetrant: It is a liquid that can penetrate the cracks and defects in the metal surface.
  3. UV light: It is used to examine the head after it has been treated.

3.Are Any Specific Areas Of SBC Heads More Prone To Cracking?

Ans: Yes, specific areas of SBC (Small Block Chevy) heads are more prone to cracking.

4.Can You Use A Visual Inspection Alone To Determine If SBC Heads Have Cracks, Or Should Other Methods Be Used?

Ans: Visual inspection alone cannot determine if SBC (Small Block Chevy) heads have cracks.

5.What Tools Are Necessary For Installing Valve Springs On SBC Heads?

Ans: Tools necessary for installing valve springs on SBC (Small Block Chevy) heads include a valve spring compressor, a set of valve spring shims (if necessary), a socket wrench or breaker bar to remove the rocker’s arms, and a set of feeler gauges.