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I was trying not to make this too much opinion. I am eager to learn to work on an engine, but I thought maybe I could buy a plastic engine model kit, Revell or some other brand.

Is building a small model engine like that remotely close to working on a real engine? By that I mean learning the parts and how it works. I know it's a lot cleaner, etc. Or is it a waste of time?

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    How do you simulate that rusty bolt that you can only reach by contorting yourself under the car with a ratchet that can obtain only 6 degrees of swing? :) – PeteCon Sep 1 '16 at 19:58
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    @PeteCon now that is called realism don't forget to back your knuckles on something ;) – Cc Dd Nov 14 '16 at 5:03
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I think so. Hella to the "yes!" There's truly nothing better than Revell's "Visible V8" model. That's what I had when I was a kid. (Please ignore the moth storm, smell of linament, and the dust cloud.)

My own kid bought the modern version (with a very subtle pressure from his father) and he learned a bunch. The modern version isn't quite the same as the vintage one I did four decades ago, but in some ways it's better. The original only came with assembly instructions. The modern version comes with posters and charts that actually explain real-life operation.

This kit is now quite expensive, but careful shopping and observance of "eBay" type venues might land you a deal. (Grandpa sometimes pays full boat, and grandson [grandaughter?] has no interest outside of Xbox.) A shame in my opinon, but another story.

Although it doesn't teach how to work on an engine, it does a fine job of showing in an active visual context the timing, process, strokes of the "Otto" cycle, and the general arrangement of parts. Granted, it's representing 4-5 decade (acutally six or more, I've been deducting years now according to my AARP plan) old engine technology, but the strokes haven't changed ("suck, squeeze, bang, blow") and ...

a fundamental understanding of the parts, timing, strokes, camshafts, distributor, crankshaft, etc. is the best foundation for any attempt at working on an internal combustion engine.

I can teach you how to use wrenches and sockets and screwdrivers safely in the first two weeks of my class. A knowledge that says "I own this" about the Otto cycle takes many many hours of study and experience.

SO... Check out the neo-ancient Revell Visible V8. If you need help, let me know--I am very good at sniffing the glue. ERRRR, I mean helping educate.

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  • Thanks. My belief is the same on fundamentals. Plus I really enjoy understanding why things work the way they do. – johnny Sep 1 '16 at 15:27
  • I have thought about a different model. I don't now which one yet. The Revell one isn't bad. – johnny Sep 1 '16 at 18:09
  • Definitely, used a model engine like that teaching my kid when he was 9 or 10. We took that thing apart and put it together over and over along with '78 Honda CB350 motor I got that was seized. – DucatiKiller Sep 1 '16 at 18:50
  • I thought this Haynes V8 also looked pretty nice: amazon.com/dp/B00GJYE0S4/… – Robert S. Barnes Nov 14 '16 at 8:28
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    @RobertS.Barnes "Features ignition and engine sounds and light up spark plugs" ... pretty much defines my youth. And maybe a signifigant part of my supposed adulthood. – SteveRacer Nov 15 '16 at 3:02
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Is building a small model engine like that remotely close to working on a real engine?

It depends on what vintage real engine you expect to transfer this knowledge to.

The model engine may have

  • Carburetor instead of fuel injection.
  • Distributor instead of electronic ignition.
  • Belt driven fan instead of electric fan.
  • Fixed valve timing.
  • Fewer valves per cylinder.
  • No turbocharger.
  • A lot more space around it than a modern engine.
  • No OBD-II port ;-)

Personally, I think you'd pick up more useful skills by taking an old 4-stroke lawnmower engine apart and then getting it working. It's equally unlike a modern car engine but you'll learn some useful skills. But that's just my opinion.

  • What useful skill would I learn? Just a general thought you can pass along would be good. I have access to smaller engines. – johnny Sep 1 '16 at 21:16
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    This is an excellent answer, and something I left out when I got glassy-eyed waxing nostalgic on the Revell V8. Useful skills learned are: Learning to use tools properly, dealing with filthy rusted components (and how to clean them), how to take it apart without breaking things, @johnny the order things come apart, and how to organize removed parts and fasteners in such a manner as to allow easy reassembly - with nothing left over. That last one you master just before your death, in my opinion. Those basic invaluable skills translate from a lawnmower to the space shuttle. – SteveRacer Sep 2 '16 at 2:24
  • @johhny: SteveRacer pretty much nailed it, I'd add: How to free up a rusted nut&bolt, when to use penetrating oil, when to use heat, when to use brute force. Gaining a feel for just how hard you can turn a bolt or a nut before it shears the bolt, strips the threads or rounds off the nut. How a misfiring cylinder sounds, what a dirty spark plug should look like after cleaning, what parts get so hot you need to keep your hands clear of them by instinct. and so on endlessly. – RedGrittyBrick Sep 2 '16 at 9:20
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Some of these simulators are getting pretty good too. I agree the Revell kits are great used to have one myself and grabbing a small engine and going for it is also really good. usually you can find a cheap used 4 stroke carbureted engine on craigslist for pretty cheap.

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