To Steam or not to Steam that is the question. - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 05:15 PM Thread Starter
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Dave
 
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To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

I'm getting ready to start my 406 build and my buddy that is old school and has built alot of motors is telling me to drill the steam holes into my $2000 Track1 heads. I know the 400's have the holes and i know there are people that have them and people that don't. I'm just trying to figure out if it's something i need to do. I don't know that it matters but it is a 509 block and i'm running a Meizere 55gpm water pump this year. I also live up here in northeastern ohio and it don't get really hot for the most part.

Any help would be great,
Dave

Last edited by black1969; Apr 19th, 11 at 07:14 PM.
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post #2 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 05:22 PM
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Steve
 
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

You don't need steam holes.

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post #3 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 06:03 PM
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John
 
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Wink Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

This is usually one of those 'which is better, Vanilla or Chocolate' discussions ...
Gm didn't spend thousands more retooling their production line(s) to drill those holes for no reason

But, again it depends on the intended use of the engine.
A new GM Bowtie 400 block does not have the holes in the deck - the stock replacement service block (when available) did ...
They are intended for two different purposes - the 'racing' block will see mostly high RPM use and water circulation (or air pockets) should not be an issue. Besides, it will recieve much more attention during the installation and the system will likely be pressure bleed to remove andy trapped air - the 'stock' block will see lots of lower RPM use and will suffer from entrapped air issues at the deck if the system is not properly filled. Head gasket issues will follow shortly after that ...

Soooo -
1st, follow the instructions from your head manufacturer! If they recommend holes for you intended use and duty cycles then do it and don't listen to anyone else - if they say it doesn't matter, start a 'Pole' thread and use the vote outcome ... it won't matter ...(I believe Dart still recommends them for the Iron heads and says 'it doesn't matter' on the Aluminum ...)
2nd - make sure your machinist knows your intended use for the combo he's building and listen to him. If your starting with a block with no holes he may prefere to leave it that way - or not ...
3rd - listen to the "Old's Cool" guys, many of them (us) have fixed issues do to this before

Hopefully Royce, Mark and others who have build reliable 4.125" blocks will chime in with their thoughts.

BTW - I ALWAYS drill them in Marine engines

1968 Convertible
Some trucks
Other V8 things - some of which float
Other V6 things - none of which float
Oh yeah, and 1 "Straight-Six" ...

If a man says something in the garage - and his wife can't hear him - is he still wrong !!!
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post #4 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 06:22 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

I had a 406 years ago when Lunati sold there Super Bracket Kits. It was a 4 bolt block. They took the big cooling holes and tapped them and put plugs in. The plugs had like a 5/8 to 3/4" hole. They used this to reenforce the block around those holes.

I also had the Track One heads and I called Brodix and they said I didnt need the holes so I did not drill them. They might have changed since then because this was about 10 years ago.

I never had any cooling issues with the motor. It was a great motor and is still going in a buddies 55 chevy.

Mike
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post #5 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 06:56 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

509 400 +.030 (406) here

NO holes.....BUT !!!!!!!!!

If you have a high stall converter,low gears (4.XX +),don't drive it a lot on the street in stop and go traffic....NO holes are fine.

If you plan on cruising the hiway,driving in parades,and other slow/stop and go traffic...drill them.

This is my .02

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post #6 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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Dave
 
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

My wife and I take the car to cruise-in's and car shows. I stay local and sometimes take it one the hwy depending on where we go. I don't beat on it but I do drive it like I own it. I built one a fews ago with these same heads that didn't have steam holes with almost the same set-up. The block did have some very small cracks by the head bolts. The machine shop didn't know for sure if it was from not having steam holes or not. So that is why on this build i'm trying to double check everything. My old block held up for almost 11 yrs before i tore it down.
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post #7 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 08:14 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

You'll hear from all kinds of people who don't drill them and say they are fine. Then again most head manufacturers recommend them. I haven't heard a convincing argument for not drilling them. If you swap the heads to a 350 block the holes are covered by the gasket so you're not limiting the heads to a 400. Steam pockets in the head can cause hot spots, leading to preignition and even cracking. Water pump flow won't help. Even a white water river has 'dead' zones near the banks if the shoreline forms a pocket. What's the problem with drilling the holes? And what's the problem with not drilling them?
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post #8 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 08:37 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

Dave if the car spends any time at all on the street you must drill the holes if its a track car then dont drill . I am also old school and i have always drilled them and never had a problem with over heating or gaskets . Build the block right use deck plates for boring plateau finish square and surface the decks align hone the mains and lightlly hone the lifter bores with a worn out BRM ball hone if your using a F/T cam, and you will have a nice 406 . LISTEN TO YOUR FRIEND. ALEX
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post #9 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 10:36 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

Oh dear god, please do a search on this one and sit down with a nice cold drink of choice....

Short answer;
(1) drill them if you own a taxicab in Arizona that will spend hours idling at less than 1800rpm.
(2) don't drill them if (1) does not apply..... Which is the only reason GM did it to begin with.

Remember this, GM did it for larger passenger cars and trucks which the 400 came in, to cover all bases. Dart, and every single aftermarket block manufacturer, including GM, that still produces a siamesed blocks does not put holes in the blocks. A high flow pump and a car that spends most its time above 1800rpm will not need them. My 500+ horse 406 spent 99% of it's life on the street and ran 180 all day long, and every single guy I know that runs or ran a 400 based gm block has never drilled steam holes.

Bottom line.. if your gonna lose sleep have them drilled (but have them drilled, I have heard many stories of incorrectly drilling them at home). But ya dont need 'em

Sean

1968 rs, with an old school, antiquated "junkyard, never even had the valve covers off" 354" SB2.2 pump gas motor........

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post #10 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 19th, 11, 11:37 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

i 2nd sean on this one too---i had my 406 with track 1 and run forever without any holes
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post #11 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 20th, 11, 02:00 AM
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Brad
 
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

I had them drilled. My theory was its a 400 the heads have steam holes...
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post #12 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 21st, 11, 10:03 AM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

The engineers at GM thought the steam holes were needed on Granny's 1975 Caprice Wagon with a SB-400 which had 8:1 compression. I contend, that once you add HP (which is the same as adding heat), the holes are even more needed.

You could have steam pockets though your coolant gauge (temp) says everything is fine.

Not only GM, but engineers of aftermarket heads recommend drilling the holes.

Here's a bulliten from Dart:

http://www.dartheads.com/products/ai...itfile_id/101/

...that says:

"In applications where a 400 engine block is used, you must drill six 9/64” steam holes in the
cylinder heads,.."

From Edelbrock here:

http://www.edelbrock.com/automotive_...6000/60899.pdf

...it says:

"NOTE: YOU MUST DRILL “STEAM HOLES” IN CYLINDER HEADS
FOR 400 ENGINES"

From AFR here:

http://www.airflowresearch.com/sbc_faq.php#400blocks

...they say that:

"Steam holes are recommended for all 400 block applications..."

If you bought a new GM 400 block, part number 12480159 for example, it comes with instructions that explicitely say to drill holes with any cylinder heads used.

Ask yourself, what's the downside to drilling the holes? Now ask what's the downside to not drilling them?

Last edited by Straight-line-69; Apr 21st, 11 at 10:15 AM.
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post #13 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 21st, 11, 07:07 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

Solid roller 406...No holes here 210 Pro-Filers!
If the engine is kept at a pretty decent rpm via gears etc. the steam pockets are cleared out no need on a street/strip car!

By profleetline at 2011-04-14

By profleetline at 2010-11-19

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post #14 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 21st, 11, 09:36 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

I believe it's dicey to recommend to others to NOT drill the holes for a street driven rig. It's also unconvincing to say "no holes, no problems". How in the world would these folks know if he had steam pockets in the block or not? Because nothing's cracked yet? Not much of an endorsement.

In addition to the docs posted above that recommend steam holes, here are a half dozen more (I could post a hundred):

From John Lingenfelter: http://books.google.com/books?id=GUC...0heads&f=false

From David Vizard: http://books.google.com/books?id=G2k...0heads&f=false

http://www.carcraft.com/techarticles...ock/index.html

http://www.gmperformanceparts.com/_r...Happenings.pdf (see page 4)

http://books.google.com/books?id=Aat...0heads&f=false

http://www.chevyhiperformance.com/te.../dyno_run.html

Perhaps the "no holes, no problems" crowd could post docs that disagree with the above and we could compare.
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post #15 of 39 (permalink) Old Apr 21st, 11, 10:14 PM
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Re: To Steam or not to Steam that is the question.

Haha, so as you can see OP we are all pretty much in agreement on this.....

Straightline, you are certainly adamant about your opinion on this. Do you have or know of any firsthand experience of issues related to not drilling the steam holes? I'd love to hear about it. I have numerous firsthand experiences of cases that no steam holes didn't cause problems. How do I know? Not one cooling issue on any of them. All performance builds, from 450 horse or so to about 600 (after that everyone I know goes with an aftermarket block).
All the references you list are easily explained in my opinion, CYA on the manufacturers behalf, in case the purchaser uses the part in an environment that would cause an issue, same reason GM did it.

I know a good number of performance engine builders that say the same thing, if the car sees use above 1800 rpm typically the holes are not needed. Dart and many others produce siamesed blocks, none of which have steam holes.

As I always point out when someone asks about this, go ahead and drill them if you will lose sleep over it. Im not saying your opinion or rationale is not correct, but I can agree to disagree, can you?

Sean

1968 rs, with an old school, antiquated "junkyard, never even had the valve covers off" 354" SB2.2 pump gas motor........

"I aint never seen talking win me nothin'" -Marshawn Lynch
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