Home » A College Student Started Rebuilding An Engine In His Tiny Dorm Room. Here’s What He Did When He Got Kicked Out

A College Student Started Rebuilding An Engine In His Tiny Dorm Room. Here’s What He Did When He Got Kicked Out

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You’re a college kid living on campus. If you’re lucky, you’ve got some kind of parking for your ride, but wrenching space? Forget about it. You’ll probably get in trouble just for changing your oil in the parking lot. Tackling something like an engine build would be pure fantasy. Except, you’ve got a dorm room, right? What if you just built your engine in there?

That’s precisely what Andrew Schafer did, transforming himself into the Doom Room Mechanic (that’s his Insta). Andrew didn’t let a lack of tools or facilities get in the way of his hobby. Instead, he made do in the best possible fashion by moving his Vortec 5300 V8 rebuild project into his dorm room, winning himself plenty of fans along the way.

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Andrew spoke to The Autopian about his daring project and what he hopes to achieve, and we’re rooting for him. His build shows you really can achieve great things if you’re just willing to think outside the box – and commit to working inside the box that is a dorm room, ironically. [Ed note: Instagram embeds aren’t playing nice, but if you click the screen grabs, each associated Reel will open in Instagram]

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Andrew’s project isn’t just a dorm room build, it’s college-budget build, too. “I sourced the engine from Facebook Marketplace for $600 with 310,000 miles on it,” he explains. He’s building the iron-block LM7 V8 as an upgrade to drop into his 1975 Chevy K20 farm truck, which he recovered from his grandparent’s barn and got to a basic running and driving state. “The goal is to make a reliable but fast engine to put in my pickup and daily drive while having fun,” he says. No turbo or any big power mods are on the table right now for the rebuild, though he’s sourced a hot cam for the motor—the popular Truck Norris profile from Brian Tooley Racing.

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Just getting the engine into the dorms proved a minor challenge. Without an engine hoist, Andrew had to get creative to remove the engine from his pickup bed. He first backed his truck up to a curb, and then jacked up the rear end. He then threw a ratchet strap over a tree branch and attached it to the engine. The truck was then lowered back down and the engine was attached to a stand, allowing Andrew to roll it into his lodgings.

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You might think working in a dorm room would be frustrating, but Andrew doesn’t have many complaints. “Overall there really isn’t much you can’t do in the dorm as opposed to a shop,” he says. His videos show his tools laying around the dorm, with the engine sitting on a stand. Bless the carpet, the block is largely clean. ” I have just faced the hardship of getting it in and out to go to the machine shop or wherever,” he explains, noting he had to get the engine across campus to remove the harmonic balancer bolt with some heavier tools.

His techniques are every bit as ramshackle and DIY as you’d hope they would be. He sets up his piston rings using a file clamped to a drawer, and presses out bearings using a screw jack and the bottom of the shelves in his dorm room.

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Creative solutions are very much Andrew’s wheelhouse.

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You might be wondering what the RA of Andrew’s dorm thinks about all this, but there’s the twist. Hilariously, he is the RA. However, that hasn’t given him unlimited leeway. In some videos, he mentions loose plans for a “dorm dyno” to test the engine, but that led to trouble. “Saying I was going to cause a noise complaint as a student staff member is really what got the project kicked out of the dorms,” he explains.

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An enterprising man like Andrew wouldn’t let that get in the way of a good project though, so he persevered. He tracked down a Honda Accord wagon for $200 and is now working on the engine in the back of it, recently sharing a post working on his LM7’s timing set:

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It’s clear that Andrew will face plenty of additional challenges before his build is done. For now, he’s handled the rotating assembly and got the cam in, but there’s so much more to do. Indeed, the bigger issue is perhaps not how to finish the engine, but how to drop it into his truck. Pulling an engine out and dropping a new one in is a big job to take on in a college parking lot, but if anyone can do it, we’d put money on Andrew.

Image credits: @dorm_room_mechanic via Instagram/YouTube video screenshot

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Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

Necessity is the mother of invention…

I love how this kid found a way. I used the kitchen of an apartment I was renting to build one of my “bicycle”/microcar things from the frame up, because I didn’t have a stove and refrigerator taking up space. There was nowhere else available for me at the time to put it together. I used the large cardboard box that the frame came in as a work stand.

I wish I had the space to finish the Triumph GT6 EV. Maybe next year.

Staffma
Staffma
1 month ago

I had a friend and his wife who specifically moved to a dorm with single rooms, they each got a single room, but both slept in the wife’s room and used the husband’s room to build engines/ parts storage. I know for a fact that he built at least two engines in that room. Another acquaintance built an engine in his dorm room but forgot that he was on the 4th floor with no elevator, so he had to disassemble and bring it down in pieces again. Gotta love technical colleges

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

In some of the pics I can see a set of bunk beds, is someone else living in that room too?

I’ve never rebuilt an engine in my house (or at all), but not having a driveway means I’ve done some work on the side of the street. Putting two wheels up on the kerb means there’s enough room in the gutter to get underneath to (eg) change an exhaust.

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
1 month ago

I had a friend who kept a wood saw and everything in his dorm room and would do woodworking. Another friend recorded vocals for a metal track in his dorm room shower, and filmed the music video across campus. Both of these people were on the same hall, and this was at a Bible college, by the way.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Reed

I’ve read old “handyman” magazines where people had full on woodshops in their city apartments, like “making a dining table from scratch” style workshops. It’s amazing what people can get away with if they’re just a little low key.

Nauthiz
Nauthiz
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

I’d imagine the noise would be the biggest issue, even if you’re not using power tools. Though I imagine if you’re living in an apartment unit where it’s a constant cacophony from all the other units it’s probably less of an issue.

Kevin Cheung
Kevin Cheung
1 month ago

Nothing as insane as this, but I used to do my electric moped modding under my dorm building. Teardowns, harness wiring, battery assembly, tire swaps, brake bleeding, essentially anything that didn’t require power tools. One time the campus maintenance staff saw what was going on, and surprisingly came over to help! Turned a swingarm job (filing down slots to fit a new hub motor) from a half hour grind to a five minute affair.

Jimal
Jimal
1 month ago

I did a 350 Small Block Chevy in my bedroom in high school. Technically I assembled systems so I could do things like Plastigage the crank and rods, and check ring clearances. There was no way the staircase in my parents’ old house was going to handle the weight of an SBC (nor did I have any way of carrying it), so I didn’t fully assemble it until I got it into our driveway (no garage).

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
1 month ago

I built a 327 Chevy in the fraternity house back in the 60s and the best part was having beefy pledges to carry all the cast iron parts.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 month ago

I rebuilt a mid-seventies Mercedes 4 speed automatic in my collage apartment bathroom. I used ice cube trays to sort parts and cooking pans for different solvents. It worked and I learned a lot, but it took months and I would never ever do that again.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

Is he studying anthropology? He could be the next Scotty Kilmer 😛

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago

“You’ll probably get in trouble just for changing your oil in the parking lot.”

When I was in the dorms I taught my roommate how to change the oil in his car in the parking lot. We both learned the importance of making very, very sure that the old oil filter gasket comes off with the filter, and therefore isn’t still stuck in place, before screwing on the new filter, otherwise there will be two gaskets stacked together. This can result in a surprising amount of oil being sprayed in a surprising number of directions before someone notices the issue and yells for the engine to be shut off.

Fortunately for us the dorm parking was a rarely-patrolled gravel lot on the far edge of campus so, to this day, thirty-six years later, nobody knows. Don’t tell the RA on us.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

So far, so good.

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago

I rebuilt an engine in my apartment kitchen and swapped it alone in a driveway. He just needs a folding engine crane. I had to get mine down two stairs, which took some trickery and strength (thankfully, a lighter engine), but it sounds like he can just roll it out to the truck on the stand and pick it up with the crane. They’re not even expensive and can be resold after use. I’d also get a balancing bar, but a decent one of those—I got a cheap one and it was barely adequate for a 300 lbs engine.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

It may even be possible to just rent one from some tool rental or auto parts stores.

Tim R
Tim R
1 month ago

I didn’t know David Tracy had a kid in college

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
1 month ago

When I was a kid on a cray budget I built my cars in a storage unit I had pirated electrical in.

Clark B
Clark B
1 month ago

After my freshman year of college I lived in apartments off campus. The amount of work I did in parking lots then was enough to last a lifetime. Worst part was when some random person would just stand there and stare at me while I was working, like they’d never seen such a thing before. The only exception was this sweet older Chinese lady who lived in our building with her son. She got pictures of me working on a car so she could send them to the little village she grew up in to show that Americans were hard working people. A little odd, sure, but she just loved seeing me work on cars, and was always excited to see me if I was starting a new project.

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
1 month ago

I rebuilt a motorcycle in my dorm room and did an engine swap in the parking lot when I was in college. The Camaro I out the engine in was a beast.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

Back in my college days the dorms had basement storage rooms. Plenty of room for a shop and hoist. As for in and out any lot outside of school term no problem.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 month ago

I went to a tech college with a big automotive program and lots of car enthusiasts in the other programs they offered as well. I remember one of my automotive teachers told us that the one set of dorms on campus used to have dishwashers in them but the school had to take them all out because too many people kept using them as parts washers and it was causing all sorts of plumbing issues.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 month ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I nearly broke up with a woman I had been dating for three years when I used the dishwasher to clean some car parts! It took me many many hours to get the dishwasher clean again…

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  Rapgomi

Well, I have to ask: Do you also make shower spaghetti like DT?
(Or cook in the shower like Kramer?)

RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
1 month ago

This reminds me of a guy in college who was rebuilding an engine in his rental house. He started in the living room, but the land lord saw it and told him to get it out of the house. The build was moved to the front porch until the land lord saw it and kicked him off the porch. The rebuild was completed in the basement. Which doesn’t sound bad, except this was one of those Michigan dirt floor, half height basements. It was really more of a crawl space. The engine got rebuilt, put back into his truck which he drove home at the end of the semester.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 month ago

Uh oh David Tracy, this guy has one upped your transmission rebuild in the kitchen sink.

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