Jon Kaase Shares Tips, Tricks, And Hacks For Engine Performance

If you attended the Engine Performance Expo at the beginning of the year, you saw this segment from Jon Kaase of Kaase Racing Engines in which he shares some of the coolest lessons he’s learned along the way throughout his career. If you happened to miss it, or any other segment, the Expo team is releasing each segment from the inaugural Expo in weekly installments, leading up to the second-annual Engine Performance Expo on October 12-14, 2021.

This week’s release — number 28 in the series — has Jon Kaase sharing some crowd-favorite tips, tricks, shop hacks, and homemade tools from his own personal experience. “These tools will either save you time, money, or a lot of grief,” says the renowned engine builder. “This is stuff that has taken me 50 years to figure out. None of it is expensive, and it’s all stuff you can make yourself at home.”

His tips and tricks cover a wide variety of topics, which we won’t give away in their entirety here, but we will tell you what he discusses. The first is a set of vise-grip pliers Kaase has modified to grasp threaded studs with enough force to be able to rotate them, but without damaging the threads. By building them with a variety of thread inserts, everything from fixturing hardware to head studs is covered.

One of the simpler ideas that makes a lot of sense and is easy to accomplish is making cam-bearing-specific mandrels for your universal cam bearing install tool. This eliminates that multi-piece, rubber-banded universal mandrels that is “awesome” to work with.

Next is a little more difficult to manufacture, but definitely within the capabilities of any machinist, and that is a lifter measuring block. Kaase explains that with the tolerances of today’s precision lifters, it might measure .8740 in three spots when measured with a micrometer in two dimensions, but have a high spot that appears in a perfectly-honed lifter bore.

To fix that, he has created a fixture with perfectly sized bores across a range of sizes. By fitting the lifter into the block, an accurate overall measurement of the lifter body is achieved. Conversely, he created a set of oversized pin gauges to check the finished lifter bore sizes more accurately than with a dial bore gauge alone.

Kaase then shares his design for a homemade TDC indicator that fits into a spark plug hole. Another homemade tool is a port wall-thickness gauge using some bent aluminum rod, hose clamps, and an inside dial caliper. Similarly, he shares his simple analog thickness measuring tool that is so simple, it might have you questioning your own intelligence for not thinking of it yourself.

Next out of Kaase’s bag of tricks is one that had your author’s attention (which Kaase addressed directly in the Q&A portion of the segment), and that is a direct-fit head for a cam-bearing driver to replace the universal head with rubber bands that comes in most universal kits. In that vein, Kaase also shows off a cam bearing broach he developed to “smooth out” and high spots in the cam bearings.

Kaase’s pushrod reamer clearancing tools look intimidating as all get out, but are fairly straightforward once you listen to him explain it. His tool for aligning rods in the bore while clearancing the block in a stroker application is simple genius, as is the locking bar for a crankshaft while an engine is on the stand.

While not everyone is making their own valve guides, Kaase talks about doing so like it is no more difficult than making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Different ways of filing rings that might not have ever crossed your mind, fixing damaged thread on bolts and threaded rod, and making your own valve guides are all topics covered (and made to seem exceedingly simple by Kaase). Perhaps one of the best, most motivational pieces of knowledge is Kaase’s opinion on uncoated dyno headers, so make sure to watch that segment as well.

While the whole video above is about an hour and a half, we strongly recommend you carve out the time to watch it in its entirety, and to make sure not to miss even more information like that by registering for the next Engine Performance Expo in October!

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent fifteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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