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I'm having trouble removing the lifters. They will come about 3/8" and then I must hit a varnish spot (25 year barn find). Any suggestions would be welcomed.
 
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You don't need anything special. There is oil build up . . so soak it.
 

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You are going to trash those old lifter with this procedure. One by one pull lifter out/up as far as you can, then with locking vise-grips clamped around the exposed portion of the lifter, twist back and forth while pulling upward which will slowly work the varnish buildup off. Once you are done you will not be able to re-use those lifters, toss them in the trash.
 

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You are going to trash those old lifter with this procedure. One by one pull lifter out/up as far as you can, then with locking vise-grips clamped around the exposed portion of the lifter, twist back and forth while pulling upward which will slowly work the varnish buildup off. Once you are done you will not be able to re-use those lifters, toss them in the trash.
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If you are hitting a burr on the bottom edge of the lifter caused by excessive lifter wear, forcing them out will damage or destroy the lifter bore. Invert the engine, slide the lifters up, remove the camshaft, and examine the lifters. If there is even a microscopic ridge, it must be removed from the lifter.
 

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Success! After working the lifters back and forth about 10-20 times each they came out with the vice grip, except one. I cracked and split apart the case and the internals went flying. I couldn't grip it with the full size vice grip so I the smallest vice grip I have and worked it out high enough to get the full size set on it and now they're all out.

Yes, new lifters with the new cam.
 

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FWIW, and the NEXT time someone runs across this.... CRC Carb & Choke cleaner, liberally applied, will dissolve that varnish. Spray some directly on top of the lifter, let it sit a few minutes, give it another shot and work the lifter up and down, spraying as needed.
 
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^^ this is all you need and vise grips can help if you need it. It's all I ever use.
 

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Actually I've soaked with carb cleaner just as bartl says and then use that exact tool above I bought from Summit and the lifters come on out. I do have to work them around and wrestle a bit but they come out with no damage. Nice for that rare occasion when you want to reuse flat tappet lifters with a cam and so don't want to damage them. Works great on roller lifters too which is what I really bought it for to begin with.
They make a neat attachment to combine a slide hammer with a pair of vice grips which is the business when lifters are really varnished up and are going to be tossed anyway.
Looks like this -
 
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