If you are still idling at least a tank through during break-in, you’re using the old-school accepted method (still works well for some!) but it’s not the method that the top engine guys (Ron Paris, Dennis Richey, Rody Roem, Michael Salven are just a few I’ve spoken personally with about this) recommend anymore.
Heat the motor with a Temp Gun or Engine Warmer before starting then from the very 1st time you start your engine, plop the car on the ground & begin running it in a parking lot in 2-3 minute intervals, tuned only *slightly rich* getting the temps up in the 200F range on a normal day. Every 2-3 minutes, shut the engine down & let it cool completely with the piston at BDC (bottom dead center), and then fire it back up; continue this cycle until you’ve run 15 min or so, and then bump up to 3-4 minute intervals. Vary the RPM and don’t be afraid to get the temps in the 200’s. What you want is heat cycling of the components without the incredible stress that comes with breaking an engine in when it’s overly rich & cold. After cycling the engine in this manner for about 20-25 total minutes, it’ll be ready for the track and race tuning. I realize this method goes against the old-school “idle on the box” routine, but you’ll be amazed once you’ve completed this break-in routine, your engine will still have amazing pinch w/out sticking at the top AND your engine’s compression will last far longer than it will with the “old school” method.
You say you run the engine at “factory settings” for the first FIVE tanks? That alone causes lots of stress, as the factory engine settings are very rich on every engine I’ve ever owned or tuned. The piston & sleeve haven’t expanded to operating temps, and every time the engine turns over, the piston slams into the pinch zone at TDC. The not-so-surprising result can be a cracked con-rod at the crank pin–that’s where the majority of the stresses occur as the engine turns over. I’ve only heard of about 6-8 engines breaking con-rods, and they’re ALWAYS during the first gallon…and almost every time it’s because the guys have performed the break-in procedure you described. Doesn’t seem like a mystery as to why it’s happening. Drawing out the break-in routine really stresses the engine & actually wears away compression along the way. This method I’ve outlined will feel weird at every step, but after you try it once, you’ll notice a big difference in your engine’s performance & lifespan.
Rick Brake @ RB Mods –
“Hope this helps; give this break-in method a shot–you have nothing to gain except longer life & more power. Use a MC 59 or the hottest plug you can get and burn 30% nitro. Keep your cool and be patient, It will come in to It’s own after about a gallon of fuel.”