DIY Head Work: Slow and Steady

Hey ALL! It’s good to be back to post about the progress on the u13 empress. She is so demanding….  *put stupid looking emicon here*

With respect to the work that needs to be done to fit the crower cams, I’ve gone ahead and done some machine work with my trusty rotary tool. You can get the Dremel Rotary Tool ( at any hardware store. It comes with fixed speed and variable speed variants and a plenum of different attachments giving you a very versatile tool. With working on the cast aluminum head, I’ve chosen some metal working bits that require high revolutions, 18 THOUSAND revolutions as specified but the Dremel Manual.

I used a series of high speed cutters

Grinding Stones w/ Silicon Carbide

And Polishers

The work with the head is relatively simple. I needed to shave a portion of the head surrounding the valve spring and valve spring bucket, allowing the cam lobe enough room to rotate.

Now I’m not exactly teaching the best way to do this as I still have the valve springs, retainers, and even valves in the head. I’ll explain why I don’t have them removed later. The work that needs to be done is rather delicate and requires some patience, especially when you work with a fast working toolset. Aluminum is a soft material and should be dealt with carefully as to not remove too much material.

When I used to fiddle around at my schools machine shop, we would dye the material with a special machining dye and then etch out an outline of the work to be done. Much like that process, I had a handy blue sharpe and proceeded to mark out any high spots, or rough spots which needed another pass with the dremel.

With all of the excess material sitting on top of the head, I needed to clean the cam journals as to not cause any damage when test fitting the cam lobe clearance. After I utilized the dremel polisher to clean the cam journals, I spread some oil on the journals before test fitting the cams on the head.

I’ve completed approximately 70% of the rough machine work for the cams, with the remaining 30% due for completion when I remove the valve springs and retainers. With the removal of these valvetrain components, I needed a specialized valve spring removal tool which I rented from a local autoparts store. Part Source. Unfortunately for me, the valve spring tool that I rented wasn’t for my application, and was designed for domestic engine heads with valve springs sticking outside of the main heads assembly.

What I will be needing is a specialized valve spring compressor tool designed and sold by Jim Wolf Technologies. This tool can be utilized for the KA, QR, VQ and VK engines.

My friend Mad Hatter and I will be purchasing this tool and showing its use in future posts.

I’ve taken the liberty to update and sort some of the links to the right of the blog. I hope to add more as this blog continues to grow, being that the links are a reflection of what i’ve learned, and what can be accessible for builds like this.



About awdaltima

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5 Responses to DIY Head Work: Slow and Steady

  1. Rob says:

    There’s other spring compressors out there, I was looking into the jwt one but was a bit discouraged because it would only work on the nissan’s listed.

    Is a universal one that worked well, and I was able to find it on ebay for a lot less than the jwt one. With that spring compressor I was able to do my valve seals with the head on fairly easily.

  2. awdaltima says:

    Congratulations Rob! You’re the first poster on my blog. Thank you for your contribution.

    The valve spring compressor that you suggested definitely looks like a good option. One reason we began to look at the JWT option is due to the ease of use if the Cylinder head is still on the block.

    Just speaking to some other enthuasiasts, they’ve also suggested the following:

    Neiko USA – Universal Overhead Valve Spring Compressor
    Thanks goes out to ‘bamboomerang’ @ tmec

  3. Rob says:

    Unfortunately the neiko spring compressor won’t work, I tried a compressor that was similar. Take a look at your head you’re working on, the springs are completely enclosed, so you can’t get the arms of the compressor down to grab lower on the spring.

    The only spring compressors that I’ve seen that work on the ka head are the JWT one, the one I’ve posted and the punch designed one, but it’s hit or miss.

  4. jonathan says:

    hey i just got an altima just like urs but a 95.anyways people always talk smack about these altimas so i want to build a awd one.umm ive heard they use the trans and transfer case of the axxess right?and wat about the rear>

  5. awdaltima says:

    I am currently using a transfer case from a 1991 Nissan Axxess. A.K.A. Nissan Prairie. Please note the drivetrain application was for the KA24E, and I would be adapting it to a KA24DE application.

    Some enthusiasts have used a GTIR rear subframe for their AWD conversion but I will OPT for an S14 rear suspension package due to the varying number of components available on the market.

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