Do You Soak Flat Tappet Lifters?

Flat tappet lifters, a staple of older engines, often raise a vital question: to soak or not to soak?

This simple decision can impact engine longevity and performance.

Keep reading to learn more about this mechanical problem and make the best choice for your engine.

Why Soak Flat Tappet Lifters

engine tappet set industry part

Soaking flat tappet lifters is all about ensuring proper lubrication. It helps prevent wear and tear during those critical first moments of operation.

In short, it promotes longevity and superior performance.

Lubrication Importance

Flat tappet lifters rely on a thin film of oil to prevent metal-to-metal contact between the lifter and camshaft.

If the oil film is insufficient, the lifter can wear rapidly, leading to engine damage.

Soaking the lifters in oil before installation helps to ensure that they are thoroughly lubricated and ready to perform optimally.

Preventive Measure Against Wear

Like a sponge soaking up water, soaking flat tappet lifters in oil helps them get the lubrication they need.

This prevents tiny air bubbles that could make them work less effectively, leading to wear and tear.

Simply put, soaking is a small step that can make a big difference in the life and health of your engine's parts.

You might also like: How to Remove a Camshaft Without Removing an Engine

How to Soak Flat Tappet Lifters

valve tappet isolated on white background

Flat tappet lifters do a lot of work behind the scenes for your engine's valve train, making sure your camshaft's motion gets to the pushrods and valves.

Pre-soaking them in oil is a move many engine builders swear by.

Here's your easy-to-follow guide to get it right:

1. Choosing the Right Oil

Your first step is to choose the right oil. Go for high-quality engine oil with special additives like ZDDP and molybdenum.

These are specifically designed to protect flat tappet lifters against wear.

These additives form a protective layer between the lifter and camshaft, extending the lifter's lifespan.

2. Prepare Your Workspace

Clear a flat surface, and cover it with clean towels or absorbent pads.

Get a container that can comfortably hold all the lifters without stacking them on top of each other.

3. Place the Lifters in the Container

Tappet. Glass. This part of the car.

Arrange the lifters in the container, ensuring they are spaced apart.

Proper spacing prevents the lifters from touching each other, which can hinder optimal soaking.

4. Pour the Oil

Gradually pour the chosen oil over the lifters until they're completely submerged.

Make sure the oil evenly covers every lifter, including the bottom and sides.

5. Soaking Duration

A solid 24-hour soak is generally recommended, allowing the oil to seep in and fill the lifters' internal nooks and crannies.

Remember to gently stir the lifters from time to time while soaking to ensure the oil coats all surfaces inside.

But don't overdo it. Over-soaking can cause oil shortage during engine start, potentially leading to early lifter failure and camshaft wear.

6. Agitate Occasionally

During the soaking period, gently move the lifters around a few times.
This ensures the oil coats all internal surfaces, maximizing the soaking benefits.

7. Follow the Manufacturer's Instructions

It's recommended to follow the lifter manufacturer's guidelines for soaking duration to avoid issues like oil starvation at engine startup.

8. Install the Lifters

After soaking, remove the lifters from the oil, allowing excess oil to drain off. Follow your engine's installation process for the best performance.

Be sure to read: How Long Does It Take To Replace Lifters?

Common Mistakes When Soaking Flat Tappet Lifters

To ensure that your flat tappet lifters are properly lubricated, make sure to take note of these two of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Using the Wrong Oil

Oil for flat tappet lifters isolated on white background

A common misstep when soaking flat tappet lifters is using the wrong type of oil.

Picking the right oil ensures your lifters are well lubricated and ready to go.

Using the wrong oil could spell trouble, leading to quick wear and even failure of the lifters.

To avoid these issues, always use the oil recommended by the lifter manufacturer.

You can typically find this information in the product manual or on the manufacturer's website.

Insufficient Soaking Time

Another frequent error in soaking flat tappet lifters is cutting the soaking time short.

Giving your lifters enough time to soak is essential as it helps them fully expand and fill up with oil, a must for their optimal functioning.

The soaking time can vary based on the manufacturer's advice and the specific lifters you're using.

Under-soaked lifters might not work as they should and could even harm your engine.

So, be sure to let your lifters soak thoroughly before installing them.

Alternatives to Soaking Flat Tappet Lifters

soaking flat tappet lifters - engine tappet set industry part

Soaking flat tappet lifters in oil is a well-known practice, but it's not the only option.

Here are a few methods that can also be used:

Pre-Lubrication Methods

You can skip soaking lifters by pre-lubing them before installing them. Use engine assembly lube for this; it's made to lubricate engine parts at startup.

Apply it directly to lifters, camshaft, and bearings.

Or, use a priming tool to pump oil through the engine before starting it. This lubricates everything, reducing the risk of damage to lifters and other parts.

Using High Zinc Oils

Using high zinc oils is another way to avoid soaking lifters. These oils have more zinc and phosphorus, which shield engine parts from wear.

These additives are vital for flat tappet lifters, as they stop metal-to-metal contact and lessen damage risk.

Remember, not all oils are the same. Some lack enough zinc and phosphorus for lifter protection.

Choose an oil meant for flat tappet lifters, and ensure its zinc and phosphorus levels match the manufacturer's requirements.

Wrapping Up

The decision to soak flat tappet lifters is influenced by your engine-building preferences and the manufacturer's recommendations, impacting both performance and longevity.

We trust these insights will help engine builders make confident choices regarding soaking flat tappet lifters in oil.

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