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I recently did a head gasket job on my 258. (i did have the head milled down) Once we were done and put the head back on I noticed that the number 6 cylinder, very back rocker arm, seemed to have some play in it. Almost like the pushrod was not long enough, but I thought that once the engine had oil/pressure it would push it back up. Well when I attempted to start it up, it sounded like pop corn popping in my carburetor and intake manifold. Basically it ran like shit. Like it was only fireing on 1 cylinder. I changed all the plugs and checked for simple stuff like the spark plug wire order, and timing, but to no avail. So I started pulling plug wires off the plugs while the truck was running (poorly) and when I got to number 6, the engine smoothed right out. Then I remembered that the back rocker arm had play in it. So my questions are:
Do you all think this is the lifter?
And can I just replace the one lifter and not the whole set?

Any help is appreciated. Thanks
 

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did you reset your rockers? after milling a head the head is closer to the block making your lash off, but your prob sounds like a lifter didnt pump back up or better known as a collasped lifter it may pump back up on its own or with the help of a stp like oil additive, if not change it , you can just change one or more lifter`s to get by which on a 6cyl may be forever,, but it is best to have a new cam and lifter set so they will break in together. hope that helps some
 

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Reset Rockers? I didnt know they could be adjusted. Mine just have the bridge that holds the two together (exhaust, power) and you just torque the bolts down to specs. All of the other rockers seemed to be the same distance. So how do I adjust them?
 

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with a lash kit or shims in thousands that fit under your rocker rails,, or adjustable push rods,,, depending how much was taken off the head you should be fine unless it was extreme,, but the one push rod is loose so i`d bet on the lifter or a bent pushrod
 

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Like the man said, collapsed lifter or bent pushrod. That is one of the reasons they make a little tool that you hook up on a drill and shove down into the oil pump. It spins up the oil pump, giving you oil pressure, you then ideally rotate the engine a few revs by hand with the pressure up. That allows the lifters to pump up and to get oil to all the bearings. A study done by one firm showed that the wear in the first few seconds after a rebuild start that wasn't properly lubed could be equal to 20k miles of regular driving.

$10 for a tool and 10 minutes worth of work is cheap insurance.

In the old days we would put the lifters in a pan of oil under a drill press, chuck up a pushrod and use the up and down feed on the press to actuate the lifter, getting oil into the mechanism and pumping them up before installation.
 
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