If you’ve ever been into an engine-building shop before, chances are, you’ve seen this tool. Originally patented in 1930, the Rimac “Big Blue” valvespring tester recently celebrated its 92nd birthday. It has been a ubiquitous sight in engine shops ever since, easily identified by its shape and color. In fact, the very first time your author ever measured a spring, it was on a Rimac tester.
While the design is the same now as it was back then, it’s not due to a lack of innovation, but rather getting it right on the first try. The gold standard when it comes to valvespring testers, there was a point in recent history where Rimac ceased production of the iconic product. Even though the tester was no longer available new, demand for old reliable never stopped. The used market became highly competitive, with pristine examples fetching far more than the original selling price.
However, the Big Blue valvespring tester is back on the market once again, available new for a whole new generation of engine builders to add to their workbenches. The Rimac BB1000, as its officially known (BB standing for “Big Blue” and 1000 denoting the 1,000-pound measuring capacity), is manufactured from a heavy-duty aluminum casting — powdercoated in the trademark blue — that is durable enough to be taken with you to the racetrack and be used every day in a busy shop.
One of the keys to the Rimac’s popularity is the large dial gauge that is front and center on the tester. The 4.25-inch dial face is clearly marked in both pounds and kilograms, has a bright-red adjustable pointer, and the large 3.25-inch spring platform will handle any automotive valvespring you could conceivably want to measure. Spring pressure is only one of the two variables present when properly measuring a valvespring, though.
With a monster 4.125 inches of usable ram travel, the Rimac Big Blue has a built-in inch-scale, quickly and accurately displaying the compressed height of the spring being measured. The base of the ruler is mounted to the scale platform, so that your zero point stays the same, even as the scale compresses. There is also an adjustable ram-stop fitted to the shaft of the ram to allow for easily repeatable spring-height measurements.
Moving beyond just an analog height scale, Rimac has also introduced a dial indicator mount, which fits on the ram, just above the upper spring platform, and mounts a standard 3/8-inch-shank dial indicator. This allows you to precisely measure spring heights down to the thousandth-of-an-inch, allowing for a level of precision that elevates the Rimac into a new category of data.
The adjustable lever arm is designed to provide plenty of mechanical advantage, even on springs approaching the top end of the scale. To ensure that the data provided stays true, even under heavy use, Rimac also offers a variety of calibrated test springs that range from 10 pounds all the way to 640 pounds.
The valvespring tester is an incredibly useful tool to have in the shop, as it plays a key role in ensuring that your newest build has the right amount of spring pressure. It is a key diagnostic tool during teardowns, to determine whether or not it’s time for new valvesprings — they are wear items, after all. By making the tool easy to use, Rimac reduces the chances of you skipping such a critical step in the process “because it’s a hassle.”
As Rimac says, Big Blue is back, and we’re more excited than ever to check spring pressures while working on our projects.