I’ve even got notes about my notes…
There are some things that are just part of the program, like not recalling things as well as you once did as you put on a few years (okay, more than a few…). It seems I just can’t remember it all now. I don’t know if I’m “full” — you know, there ARE physical limits — or if the recall process has been contaminated by an advanced state of deterioration. All I know is that I’m putting more and more stuff into binders and shop notebooks than ever before. Note taking has become as important a part of my engine building program as being able to read in ten-thousandths of an inch. It seems that the more you know and understand about a subject, the more you question what you’ve always done; the more you second-guess yourself. Knowledge opens doors, and the more you learn the more doors open before you and the more choices you face. At one point in my life there was just a series of doors arranged one after another. I’d walk through one and only one more appeared. Now, I open a door and there are 50 parallel doors in a long hallway. Sound and feels like the start of a bad movie, doesn’t it?
In the Bad Old Days, we built engines and they died an early death for one reason or another, and we blamed the quality of the racing parts, the driver, or the stock-based parts we were using; and there was certainly plenty of blame to go around in that regard. But as we continue the journey, another real possibility rears its ugly head: You don’t know what you don’t know — and you don’t know you don’t know it. Hence, the note taking frenzy I find myself engaged in today.
I’ve even got notes about my notes, all written in nearly illegible, broken-old-mechanic-fingers cursive that is (depending on what I’m wallowing in at the time) also nicely smeared with shop fluids. Nothing like pages and pages of data covered with fingerprints, assembly fluid, and Loc-Tite in writing that bears a stronger resemblance to the trail of a spastic chicken out for a long walk than it does to the English language. It’s so bad my engine building partner tells me that I need to type everything because he can’t make it out . . . and I’ve got to tell you, his writing makes mine look like calligraphy. Oh, the irony.
I know what part of it is: improved techniques and the changing amounts of data that I collect now. For example, I record a lot of information pre-teardown and during teardown. I’ve got a whole list of data and measurements that I run through that I didn’t used to collect. I used to assume that data gathering was only necessary if there was a significant change in performance levels, or if I found a problem, but as time went along I started recording more and more pre-teardown information to serve as part of my learning experience.
I pull oil samples. I drag a magnet through the drained oil and along the lower rail of the valve cover now. I run cylinder leak-down and compression tests, check valve lash, and record valve spring pressures. I record the decrease in rod bolt length as I loosen the bolts, I measure spark plug gaps, and note the main cap register fit. Main bores, rod bores, main and rod bearing clearance and crush, pushrods and lifters, ring end gaps, rocker arm bearing condition, cam condition, and cam bearing clearance are all noted and recorded. I also use a really, really bright light and do a slow and thorough inspection of all of my parts just before and during disassembly. For some reason, I can’t see detail like I used to without a really bright light. I kinda resent this phase of my life — I’m at that “what don’t hurt don’t work” phase, and I’m not real happy about that. If you youngsters reading this are laughing right now, don’t. Your day is coming, kid.
I’ve got technical notes, technical pages, technical sections all printed and bound. I’ve even bound up all the owner’s manuals for all my tools and equipment! I’ve got general notes, build notes, software notes, Holley jet charts, and generic SAE and metric bolt and nut specifications. I guess I’m just a true believer, a Kool Aid drinker, a guy who thinks the more you know the faster you go. Not sure if that’s accurate, but you won’t know unless you try.
Every build is recorded on a software program and every part purchased is recorded on a spreadsheet that tells me the manufacturer, the part number, the supplier, the date purchased, and even a few notes that might apply if I had to modify or change the part or parts. I keep product installation guides and make all sorts of notes to myself pertaining to any modifications specific to the build.
Since I can’t remember anything, I write down all my clearances, commonly-used consumable parts for each build, and any running changes I may have made as the build progressed. I’m telling you I’ve got notes for every last little thing.
There’s only one problem. You guys don’t happen to know what I did with the damn notebooks, do you? I know they’re around here someplace…