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Thread: 3100 to 3800 Engine Swap

  1. #91
    Senior Member Ray_McAvoy's Avatar
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    Default Starter & AC updates ...

    I changed the starter over to a new PMGR unit and it does give a bit more room around the AC lines. I also got a nice surprise when I swapped out the old AC compressor I had been using for mock-up purposes for the good one that originally came on the LeSabre engine. Even though they looked nearly identical, there was a slight difference in the position of the ports that worked out in my favor, moving the AC lines out about 1/2" or so away from the engine for a little more clearance that I wasn't expecting earlier.

    Before bolting the good AC compressor back on, I drained the old oil out and replaced it with the same amount of fresh PAG oil. Then I put the lines back on with new sealing washers on the compressor and finished replacing the remaining O-rings I hadn't done earlier. To finish it off, I installed a new accumulator (adding the same amount of oil to that as was drained from the old one). I think I mentioned this earlier, but the new accumulator is meant for a 94/95 Buick Regal 3800 and it's identical to the old A-body 3100 one except for having an added port for the cycling switch.

    With the AC system all together, I hooked it up to a vacuum pump and drew a partial vacuum on the system. It held overnight so it should be leak free & ready to charge. Having the AC working isn't a high priority for this time of year, but I figured now is the best time to get all the parts in place and get it sealed up.

    Ken, I've rebuilt quite a few starters (and alternators) for my older restoration projects. I don't know if these PMGR starters can easily be rebuilt like that or not. I know the CS130 alternators used on a lot of these cars are designed to be replaced (or professionally rebuilt). The LeSabre 3800 had a CS144 alternator and the factory service manual shows how to disassemble/rebuild that style so I took it apart, cleaned out some dust/dirt, and freshened it up with some new brushes. It's actually pretty similar in construction to the old 10SI / 12SI alternators.

    You're right Andy ... the smaller starter is much easier to install in these cars with the engine cradle right underneath. And these starters are definitely a lot lighter weight than the originals and many of the others I'm used to dealing with ... like the 10MT series starters used on a lot of older Chevy V8's (some of which had cast iron instead of aluminum nose cones).



  2. #92
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    You amaze me with your knowledge of official names of the different part families. I just know the alternators as "70's-80's little style", "80's big style", "90's little" and "90's big style". Then starters are "older giant ones", "older ones that aren't so big", and finally "newer small style", haha.
    -Andy

    '86 Eurosport VR coupe
    '86 Eurosport sedan
    '88 Eurosport VR coupe
    '89 Eurosport wagon

  3. #93
    Senior Member Ray_McAvoy's Avatar
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    LOL! I guess that's just something I've picked up over the years of repairing & restoring old vehicles. In the process, I've collected quite a few service/repair manuals, parts books, etc. A lot of them list parts like starters, alternators, carburetors, and such by their model number so that's probably where I picked up most of that info. When it comes to that type of detail, my scope is mostly limited to what GM was using in the 60's & 70's. Although I am slowly learning more and more about the newer GM vehicles, especially after taking on this engine swap project!

  4. #94
    Senior Member Century7667's Avatar
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    Yep, I've done a 10SI alternator of two! That was a long time ago!

    ...but I don't miss v-belts. Not one bit...

    Ken T.

  5. #95
    Senior Member Ray_McAvoy's Avatar
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    Default Slowly getting there ...

    Progress has been a bit on the slow side this week but I'm still working away at finishing up all the loose ends.

    Earlier in the week, I hooked up the battery to make sure the new wiring had battery power & switched ignition power going to all of the correct terminals on the PCM connectors, sensors, and such. And made sure that there wasn't power going to any terminals where it wasn't supposed to be going. Fortunately, that all checked out okay. I was using the old 3100 battery cables for the test but I'll be swapping those out for the heavier gauge U-van ones. I just received those (along with some other parts) from Andy today in the mail.

    I ran into a little bit of a setback with the heater pipes though. I had originally been planning on using the U-van metal pipes along with some molded rubber hoses for that same application. I think everything would have fit okay, but while cleaning up the metal pipes, I noticed that the one going to the intake manifold had some rust/corrosion inside and was getting quite thin in a couple spots. So rather than take a chance on having it start to leak in a year or two I decided to go with plan B.

    Back when I got the other parts from Andy, we weren't entirely sure if the U-van heater pipes were even going to fit this car so he also sent me some metal pipes off an older 3800 and those were nearly new looking inside. The one that goes into the timing cover / water pump fits perfect in this newer 3800 (it's the black one in the pic below). The intake manifolds changed over the years though so the pipe that goes into the intake won't fit. To get around that, I ended up making my own out of some 1/2" copper water pipe. It has an OD of 5/8" which is perfect for this application.



    To form the hose retention bead, I simply cut a short piece off a straight fitting that's meant to join two pipes together. And to form the support bracket, I cut a section of pipe down the side, opened it up, and flattened it out so I'd have a flat piece of copper to work with. Making this bracket out of copper allowed me to solder it directly to the pipe.

    The end that goes into the intake started off as a regular 1/2" pipe to 1/2" NPT adapter. I took it to a local machine shop and had them turn the outside down to the same OD as the original pipe (removing most of the threads in the process) and cut an O-ring groove.



    I knew ahead of time that the root of that O-ring groove was going to get pretty close to the ID of that pipe fitting. So before taking it to the shop, I drilled the inside of the fitting out to remove the internal pipe stop, allowing the pipe to be pushed all the way into the fitting. I also made a little homemade retainer (the black painted piece) that will utilize the factory bolt hole in the intake manifold to hold the assembly into place much like the retainer tab that was brazed onto the van heater pipe. After taking these pics, I painted the whole thing with some black engine enamel so it looks a bit more like the factory pipe.

  6. #96
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    That pipe looks great! As well as being copper it won't corrode away. Your quality work is very impressive!

    I had to do similar on my LG3 build. Instead of machining the fitting for an o-ring (like the original pipe) I threaded the manifold so I could screw in the adapter. This was possible on my setup because the pipe assembly was small enough to rotate and screw in. It's not nearly as complex as yours, but it did the job!



    I don't have a picture of the brazed assembly, that I can find!

    Can't wait to see your car together and running. It should be quick with the SeriesII engine. I beleive they were 200 HP from the factory.

    Sincerely,
    David

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    You know, I never thought about the possibility of threading the hole on the manifold for a pipe fitting until I saw the pic of your turned-down fitting. And then I saw David's pics.

    Would it have worked out to just tap the hole, screw in a regular hose nipple, and then run a heater hose right to it? You already fabricated that fantastic looking tube and it doesn't matter now, but I'm curious.
    -Andy

    '86 Eurosport VR coupe
    '86 Eurosport sedan
    '88 Eurosport VR coupe
    '89 Eurosport wagon

  8. #98
    Senior Member Ray_McAvoy's Avatar
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    Thanks guys!

    The idea of threading the hole for a hose nipple (or a short elbow assembly like David's) and running the heater hose right off that was one of the first things that crossed my mind. But after taking a close look at the path the hose would end up taking, I decided to make the pipe assembly instead. The path takes it fairly close under the belt tensioner and across the face of the tensioner bracket (which also serves as a PS pump bracket). So running a hose through that area would have required adding some extra protection to keep it from chafing against the raised reinforcement ribs cast into the tensioner bracket and making some sort of bracket/clamp to hold the hose back away from the belt.

    Quote Originally Posted by turbokinetic
    Can't wait to see your car together and running. It should be quick with the SeriesII engine. I beleive they were 200 HP from the factory.
    This one is actually a Series I L27 ... around 170 HP I think. In any case it should definitely be an improvement over that old 3100.

    I don't think I mentioned the whole story before, but this 94 Cutlass Cruiser wagon was actually one of my junkyard finds a few years ago and the reason it was there is because the 3100 was running terrible. The body & interior were still in good condition for a car of this age/mileage in this part of the country. Mom's old 92 Cutlass Cruiser was getting pretty rusty (and the 3300 in that was getting a little tired too) so I fixed up this 94 for her as a replacement. I swapped on a better tailgate, blasted off some surface rust, and re-painted the doors/fenders/tailgate. I also replaced the gas tank, sending unit, fuel pump, rear brake lines, brakes, tires, and such. But when it came to the engine, we had pretty much decided on doing some sort of replacement/swap right from the start. I knew finding a suitable donor car was going to take some time so I did a little testing/troubleshooting on the 3100 to see if it could be "patched up" to get by for a while. A compression test showed #1 & #3 were really low and pulling the valve cover revealed a couple of broken intake pushrods! I replaced them with some used intake pushrods out of a siezed up 3100 in one of my parts cars (former owner ran that one low on oil). That made a huge improvement but the engine was still quite lazy ... especially when climbing hills. It did at least manage to get by for a couple years until I came across the wrecked LeSabre.

  9. #99
    Senior Member Ray_McAvoy's Avatar
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    Default It Runs!

    I finished installing most of the remaining parts yesterday and started it up for the first time today. There were a couple of minor problems I had to work out, but once I got those fixed it fired right up on the first try.

    I'll start off with this pic showing the home-made copper heater pipe installed along with the molded hoses.

    Everything fit good although it was a bit on the tight side reaching down down in there to position & tighten the clamps on the heater core.

    The first minor problem I ran into was the belt hitting the steel section of PS pressure hose that comes out of the pump. That was easily fixed by carefully re-bending the line ... only had to move it about 1/2". The hose assembly is meant for an A-body 3300 and I believe those engines have the PS pump down a little bit lower than the 3800 due to their lower deck height. A hose assembly meant for an earlier A-body 3.8L probably would have been a better fit. But I had chosen not to use one of those because after looking at the PS hose routing on my 88's 3.8L it looked as though it might have interfered with the van heater pipes I had been planning on using. Obviously, that wouldn't be an issue anymore with the heater pipes that I'm using now, but slightly re-bending the steel line was a lot easier than swapping out the whole PS pressure hose assembly at this time.

    The second minor problem was a leaky water pump gasket that quickly became evident as I was filling the radiator and could hear it dripping out onto the garage floor. Back when I installed the new water pump I used the gasket that came in the Fel-Pro timing cover gasket kit. That gasket was made of thin plastic with a little raised bead stamped along the middle. Evidently the type of plastic they used was a little too stiff because that gasket didn't seal at all ... there was coolant oozing out everywhere around the WP even without any pressure on the system.

    Luckily, the A-body engine mounts make access to the water pump considerably easier than it was in the LeSabre so it didn't take long to remove and replace the gasket. This time around I used the gasket that came with the new water pump (a paper type gasket) with a thin coating of Permatex #2 on both sides. It might not be as easy to clean off for future repair work, but it doesn't leak!

    After getting those little problems fixed, I hooked up the battery, turned the key, and it started right up. Runs nice and smooth, no unusual noises, no "check engine" trouble codes, or anything. I haven't road tested it yet but I did take it out for a little test drive around the yard. I'll put the front fenders & bumper back on and bleed the brakes some more (pedal is still a little spongy) before taking it out on the road.

    Finally, here's a pic of the nearly finished project:

    Moving the air cleaner housing back to take the strain off the connector tube ended up working out good in terms of radiator hose clearance as well. The U-van upper radiator hose is a perfect fit around the re-located air cleaner and it probably would have hit with it in the stock 3100 location.

    Still on the to-do list are some odds and ends like mounting the cruise actuator & cable along with charging up the AC system. The cruise still won't be functional until I run a few wires under the dash from the switch to the PCM and run the vacuum release hose from the brake pedal switch, through a grommet in the firewall, and attach it to the actuator. I had thought about drilling the hole in the firewall for that hose/grommet back when the engine was out but the location (as used on older A-bodies) is in behind the strut tower a bit, meaning that the hole will have to be drilled from the inside.

    One of the future upgrades I have planned for this car is swapping the regular instrument cluster for the full gauge version. That'll involve re-pinning the cluster connectors since the full gauge cluster I found is out of a 93 (I don't think they were even offering them anymore for 94). So I'm thinking sometime next spring/summer I'll pull the whole dash out. That should give better access to the wiring to re-pin the cluster and add those cruise wires. Should also make it easier to drill the hole for the vacuum hose. And I'll see if I can do something to reinforce the dash mounting along the base of the windshield ... it's a bit loose there because the plastic is cracked around most of the mounting screws.

  10. #100
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray_McAvoy View Post
    .....it fired right up on the first try...... Runs nice and smooth, no unusual noises, no "check engine" trouble codes, or anything...
    CONGRATULATIONS! That's wonderful. Can't wait to see some test-drive videos! I bet it runs well, considering the power-to-weight ratio!

    Sincerely,
    David

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    If it runs as good as it looks (which I'm sure it does), that's something to be real proud of!
    -Andy

    '86 Eurosport VR coupe
    '86 Eurosport sedan
    '88 Eurosport VR coupe
    '89 Eurosport wagon

  12. #102
    Senior Member Ray_McAvoy's Avatar
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    Default First test drive ...

    Thanks guys! The info I've received here has really helped out a lot. David's throttle/cruise cable modification how-to and the van parts from Andy were especially helpful in getting this swap done.

    Yesterday I finished bolting all the front end parts (fenders, bumper, etc) back on. And speaking of bumpers, I've noticed that many of these Cutlass Cieras/Cruisers (91 & older I believe) have an aluminum reinforcement bar inside the front bumper while others (92-up) are steel. Out of curiosity, I weighed a couple of them ... about 13 lbs for the aluminum one and 27 lbs for the steel one. I'm not sure how much weight this engine swap has added but I happened to have a spare aluminum bumper bar so I figured the 14 lb difference was worth swapping to help offset at least a little bit of the added engine weight. The bumper bar I used came off an 89 (I think 85-91 are all the same) and it was a direct bolt-on for this 94.

    I took it out for it's first test drive today and it runs/drives really smooth! I didn't do any full-throttle runs or push it very hard yet but the added power is definitely noticible just driving around town ... it doesn't lug down like the old 3100 when climbing hills. The steering is noticibly improved with the FE3 rack as well.

    One thing I still need to check is the accuracy of the speedometer. It seems like it's reading a bit on the high side and I had a feeling it might due to the tire size difference. From what I understand, correcting it (if necessary) will involve changing a constant that's programmed into the PCM's calibration chip. Anyone familiar with programming the chips used in these #16183247 PCM's?

  13. #103
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray_McAvoy View Post
    Anyone familiar with programming the chips used in these #16183247 PCM's?
    I've programmed a bunch of different ones. But, would have to look at that one to make sure The 1995 ones were strange in some ways. If you can get the numbers off the chip its self, I can tell you for sure.

    David

  14. #104
    Senior Member Century7667's Avatar
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    Congratulations Ray! That engine looks sweet in the a-body engine bay. I know exactly what that engine can do in my father's '95 LeSabre, I can only imagine what it will do in that light a-body.

    BTW, I can still hear my father cursing about that engine mount and the water pump. That's evil the way they mounted that thing.

    Ken T.

  15. #105
    Senior Member babyivan's Avatar
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    Impressive!

    My previous 94 regal had the same engine, loved it!

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