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Engine stands: Question from the curious

I’m not planning on using one. At least anytime soon. But this is something I’ve always been curious about.

Engine stands. I’ve never used one, but I’ve seen them standing there looking cool-like in tool stores. They are not very expensive as I recall. But I’ve never understood how they work. It appears like they hold the engine from one end only; i.e. they appear to bolt into where the transmission bell housing normally goes. And that’s the only connection. Nothing on the crank pully side of the engine. It is just sitting there in mid-air.

I can see this configuration has good points for the engine rebuilder. You can access the crank pulley side of the engine without any obstructions, and you can turn the engine completely upside down if you like, to access the oil pan side, without having to crawl underneath.

But it seems to me this puts a lot of stress on the engine when it is only supported on one side, hanging there like that. It seems like the forces of the cantilever effect on the engine could cause cracks, checking, etc. in the metal and cause the parts – like the head – not to fit properly, not like it would if the engine were supported on both sides as it is when in the car.

Am I missing something? Does the engine rebuilder usually support the other side with a shop crane or something? Or are engines strong enough to be supported from one end like that? And what if the transmission is attached? Do they still support the engine/transmission from one end only?

It attaches to the bell housing, as you mentioned. Sure, there’s some stress on those points as the engine mounts aren’t attached but you can flip the engine around with impunity.
It has always worked well for me. I have a cheapie Harbor Freight one and one made for aircooled VW/Porsche engines.

You can’t leave the transmission attached, clearly.

I have rebuilt many big block Chevy , Fords and Mopar engines on these stands with no problems. I do sometimes use a 2x4 under the front of the engine for support. This is only done if its to be on the stand for a week or more.

The engine block, a heavy casting, is PERFECTLY able to support itself on an engine stand without any undue stress…

Engine stands hold the engine at the bell housing mounting bolts and if the block weight is kept centered most automobile engines can be completely assembled with no problems. On heavy V-8s, especially big blocks with cast iron intakes I sat a bottle jack under the front of the engine as soon as the pan was installed and the engine was rotated to install the heads and intake. The weight of a complete Ford 460 engine especially seemed to be pushing the safe limits of the stand and threaded rods.