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Old 05-16-2016, 04:09 PM   #1
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454 Engine Question

We're looking at buying a 1985 Pace Arrow 34', 454 engine with 54K miles on it. It's located 8 hours away and we have a friend going to look at it tomorrow for us before we make the drive. He states it smokes on the right bank only and a mechanic friend told him it's probably valve stem seals since it's blue. I'm 68 years old and have been a Ford man all my life. I know the ford engines pretty well. My question is since it slopes to the rear in the rv does the 454 have a oil drain back port in the rear of the head like the ford engines do and if so it it possible that it's plugged up? Just trying to determine my options before we make the drive. Even if it's valve stem seals I can replace them after I get it back home. I've turned wrenches on ford most of my life but not much on gm's. The price is right and if the condition checks out it would be a good buy. Thanks in advance for any ideas. We sold our 5ver last fall and been looking for sometime for a real nice older rv.
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Old 05-16-2016, 04:59 PM   #2
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I can not tell you what you are asking but I give you kudos for taking on any type of project like this at your age. I am 8 years younger and I would not even consider trying to work on an engine in an old motorhome. Oil and plugs are one thing but pulling heads, etc is another beast.
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Old 05-16-2016, 05:20 PM   #3
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Yes I understand but de-plugging a drain hole is simple. Also changing valve stem seals is pretty straight forward. You pump up the cylinder, pull the valve spring and change the rubber boots. I have the tools to do it. It's mostly a function of time.
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Old 05-16-2016, 05:31 PM   #4
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Disregard the stem seals. If it's not the drain back hole the head needs to come off to replace the seals. That's a mechanic job not me!
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Old 05-16-2016, 06:20 PM   #5
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I personally would not be afraid of that unit. Changing the valve stem seals is not a big deal, and as you said the motor leans back and I bet they are full of the cheap seals that have cracked apart over the years. If you have the tools and the time it is well worth the effort! By the way , i'm no spring chicken at almost 61, but I love working on stuff! Bobby
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Old 05-16-2016, 06:28 PM   #6
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khodgens, lots of Chevy 454 experts on the Workhorse Forum - it is found under RV FORUMS. Ask over there and you'll probably get lots of good info. The Chevy RV chassis became 'Workhorse' in about 1999.
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Old 05-16-2016, 08:24 PM   #7
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Disregard the stem seals. If it's not the drain back hole the head needs to come off to replace the seals. That's a mechanic job not me!
why do you have to pull the heads to replace the seals? I pumped up my gm v-6 cylinders and replaced the seals, springs and rocker arms, all in place. Whats different on the big block?
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Old 05-16-2016, 08:54 PM   #8
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why do you have to pull the heads to replace the seals? I pumped up my gm v-6 cylinders and replaced the seals, springs and rocker arms, all in place. Whats different on the big block?
The heads do not have to come off. The procedure for a big block is exactly the same as the V-6.
Having said that I haven't seen many seal failures on bog blocks. I would remove the rocker covers and check the drain back holes. There are holes front and rear. These can be cleaned out with heavy gauge wire but you are going to push some sludge down into the lifter valley which will eventually end up in the oil pan. I run a shop vac close to the work area while doing this to pull up as much loosened material as possible.
I would suggest you change the oil and filter after completing the job, running the engine about 500 miles and changing the oil and filter again. I'd recommend you do this after bringing the engine up to operating temperature.
The valve lash does have to be adjusted after reinstalling the rocker arms.
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Old 05-17-2016, 06:02 AM   #9
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Really don't think the drain holes are plugged. 454 has big holes and 30 years in the engine rebuild business I have never seen one plugged. Since lead was taken out of gas plugged up drains are rare. Seals are easy to change but stock 454 style seals are a terrible design even when new. If it still smokes after it is warmed up it more likely a ring ,pcv or intake gasket.
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Old 05-17-2016, 07:50 AM   #10
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At least on the smoking side, I would do a Cylinder compression test before buying and the sparkplugs would tell a good story as well.
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Old 05-17-2016, 10:38 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the good advice. That's why I joined here 2 years ago when we bought our 5ver. Since I'm 480 miles away I'm going to ask the owner (owns a body shop and also does his own mechanical work) to pull the valve cover and check the drain holes. If plugged and he can clean out we'll make the drive to see it. If the holes are clear indicating a larger problem then we'll probably not go.
Thanks again for the good advice. I'll report back on what we learn.
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Old 05-18-2016, 11:56 AM   #12
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Good luck with all that, but if the price and overall condition are good for you please keep this in mind: Oil is cheap. Unless you need to stop between fill-ups to add oil, the consumption ain't too high.

It's a 30 year old motorhome, you gonna drive it or restore it?
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Old 05-18-2016, 03:09 PM   #13
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Well we've decided to not pursue the motorhome. A friend inspected it today and the condition was less than advertised, the windshield needs replaced, and the exhaust smoke situation concerns me. Especially being we're 500 miles away. So....the search continues. Thanks to everyone for their input.
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