Hammering pistons out of a Buick Nailhead—again

The Buick Nailhead has been a thorn in Davin’s foot for months now, causing him pain with every step in the Redline Rebuild process. The crew’s last trip to the machine shop was the most painful, where we learned that the cylinder heads were unusable, and the block required extensive repair work to save. The most economical solution—sourcing parts, in the form of a used block and head—meant now Davin had to take a few steps back to ultimately move ahead.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/06/10/hammering-pistons-out-of-a-buick-nailhead
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Why didn’t they try and take them out from the bottom? Same ridge issue?

Why didn’t he use a ridge reamer…Makes it easy to get pistons out of the block…


Ridge Reamer!!! All that pounding is completely unnecessary. Clearly he is new to the this portion of the classic car hobby. Using a hammer is not always the answer…

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Nice to see this kind of backyard work. Agree with ridge reaming. Would have been nice to see hammer end of the pounding. Sometimes the pistons are stuck and I have bent rods trying to move them. Double hammer could be safety issue without safety glasses.

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This is starting to look like your grandfather’s hammer, you know, the one that had been in the family for 7 generations, although your great-great grandfather had to replace the handle, and your father had to replace the head…

Ridge reamer, really? If the block has a big ridge then it obviously needs to be bored. Which makes the original pistons unusable. A ridge reamer is a manual tool that takes a lot of time and effort and can damage a cylinder if things don’t go right. I would have done exactly what he did.

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The use of a ridge reamer if done correctly will be the avenue to take, Beating pistons out of a block is a backyard technician without proper tools.

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I had an engine with stuck pistons. I poured every type of releasing fluid in inc diesel down the holes. Waited two weeks and got a 4 x 4 suitably modified to fit, then took a sledge hammer to the wood. It took two days of pounding but they eventually released. I oiled up the bores, cleaned the top of the pistons and put the head on. It started and ran fine after that.

First step I was taught was to get a rough idea of how big the ridge is to determine if you need to bore. Ridge reamer saves you from breaking ring lands. Important if you plan to reuse / knurl the pistons.
If you don’t use a ridge reamer, just using a hone might be enough to ease the process.

I could suggest a number of community colleges that offer engine rebuilding classes for the novice such as the guy with the hammer.
Anyone with any experience knows to use a ridge reamer to cut the ridge off the cylinder.
I think they even offer them for sale on Amazon.
NO NEED for the hammer but it makes for exciting videos eh!!

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A “witness mark” with a punch or vibro engraver has always been a first step for me during disassembly- for example where the rods break apart. Always important to get them back the same way- maybe not into this engine but why waste what might be a good piston for another block?

No, a ridge does NOT mean a cylinder bore out is mandatory.
A .004 ridge can stop the rings from allowing the piston to pop
out easily, but new rings can seal and run fine in the slightly
worn Std bore while keeping the std pistons in service. I use a
cyl hone to rid the cyl top of the ridge (mainly because my dad lost
my ridge reamer, and I found a little honing works just fine.).

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I knew how to use a ridge reamer on my first engine (Mopar 360) at age 17…

I think the hammer usage was more for theatrics. He made the comment about a carbon ridge after first piston was out. Yes, with carbon ridge, use the ridge reamer and do not remove any metal. If ridge is due to wear, best to use a rigid home with piston as far down as possible. Less possibility with rigid hone to damage bore. Have seen people trying to cut actual metal ridge with reamer and get some nice chatter marks. Ridge Reamer is for carbon build up only. Don’t forget liberal amounts of lubricant. I have had good success with ATF.

Not so much … ridge reamer will work for worn-bore metal ridge (that’s what it’s FOR …) …
and careful use will not likely do any damage to the cylinder wall. BESIDES, the ridge,
by definition, is ABOVE the top ring so minor chatter marks … or whatever you’re cautioning
against … will NOT be in the part of the bore swept by the rings. (I DO use a hone, only
because someone borrowed my ridge-reamer in 1974 …)