Need tips on repairing a cracked engine block? Give one of these a try

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Some suggestions and a question. In the April 2010 Farm Collector, Ron Konen wondered how he might fix his cracked Sattley block. Here are a few things I’ve done or seen done that might work, provided it isn’t cracked through into the cylinder (where the piston works). If it is into the cylinder he might rebore it for a sleeve, but if into the water jacket, try one of these:

• Rust it in. If the crack is fairly new and not gapped open, wet it up with a strong acid (battery acid will do). Two or three treatments over as many days, and then fill it up with water and a can of stop leak.

• For a stock, legitimate, permanent, state-of-the-art (for that day and time) fix, you could borrow from the boilermakers: Lace it. Drill a hole at one end of the crack, tap it, screw in a threaded rod, saw it off, and using the crack as a center line, drill another hole that slightly overlaps the first. Tap that and so on, the length of the crack. Of course the material must be thick enough to get a decent depth of thread, and it’s a lot of time and work and not very pretty to look at.

• You could try solder. Cast iron is hard to solder but with the right flux it can be done. Tin it with 50/50 and use auto body solder and a stick; you can bridge quite a crack. Worth a thought?

• This one may be too close to welding for you, but it’s not welding and I first saw it used in the early 1940s. You will need a DC arc welder and a lot of scrap iron to practice on. It takes a little time to get the hang of it and the adjustments right. Use a bare copper rod, number 6 solid is a good choice (the fellow who showed me this trick used a piece of copper tubing). Just run a bead the length of the crack and as wide as your setup will allow, then take a small hammer and gently peen the bed as it cools. Copper will stick to iron, and that without any flux. I don’t know why.

Now my question, sparked by Bill Vossler’s fine article on Universal tractors. Has anyone besides me ever met any Universal heavy equipment? In the early 1940s I was repairing and sometimes operating a little power shovel said to be a Universal. I don’t remember seeing any name or logo on it, or any paint, either. We had a machine shop and made repair parts for it; I don’t remember anyone ever ordering parts, or any part book or manual.

It was a dipstick shovel, about 1/4-yard buck, 3/4 swing, on tracks. The engine was McCormick-Deering. It was a really good little machine. Probably made about the same time I was, mid-1920s. Have you ever seen one? Who made it? When? What else did the company make?

Editor’s note: You can also try drilling both ends of a crack to stop it from spreading, then fill the crack with epoxy, finish it and paint.

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