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Piston and rings

So here is a basic definition (by me) of various components of an engine. Again, basic understanding of what each is for goes a long way to diagnosing engine troubles and having a sense for engine care.

Pistons and Rings – The pistons are the parts that compress the fuel / air mixture and transfer the force of the combustion to the drive shaft. The piston has rings on it to seal the combustion chamber from the bottom end of the engine. If there is ‘blow by’, compression is lost and the energy of the explosion is lost as the energy isn’t pushing the piston down to turn the crankshaft and instead escaping past it. So rings are huge when it comes to power and efficiency of the engine. Rings are also a super simple way of refreshing your engine, especially if its a 15 or 20 year old beast. Usually people replace the piston and rings and those sets are readily available for most engines as they are common replacement parts. These don’t require you taking the engine out in most cases either, just a matter of removing the cylinder head. In a 2 stroke, its a no brainer, in a 4 stroke with cam shafts and such on top of the cylinder, its a bit more work as you need to remove the cam shaft chain. You can check compression (efficiency of the rings in the cylinder by removing the plug and putting your thumb over the plug hole and turning the engine over, it should easily push your thumb out of the way on compression as the air pushes past. To get a real indication of it though you need a compression gauge. That will tell you how far off original compression the engine is. Shop manuals will tell you what the acceptable compression range is and if its less, you may need to consider new rings at the very least.

Plugs – Plugs of course are the things which ignite the fuel / air mixture in the cylinder. You need a good strong spark to both start the engine and ignite the fuel / air mixture fully and quickly. Plugs are one of the easiest ways to maintain your vehicle, especially its is more then say 5 years old. A new set of plugs for your car is probably 10 or 15 bucks. Plugs can get gummed up after a while of use and for the price are basically disposable. YOu can clean them with a wire brush but the electrodes corrode, the gap potentially can get changed (the electrode gap is a closely measured item which allows for maximum spark efficiency). Another easy replacement is plug wires, again, especially on older cars, 10 years old or more, the distributor cap and wires can wear (though most new cars are all electronic, not like the old rotating distributors). Plug wires are cheap and like anything else can wear down, get melted or corroded and any resistance to the flow of electricity there can impede the performance of your plugs and reduce engine efficiency. On off road vehicles, like quads, dirt bikes and such, often these wires can get cut up, or yanked here and there after years of cleaning, fixing, etc.

Rods – Rods are things on 4 stroke engines that allow the fuel air mixture or the exhaust in and out of the engine respectively. These open and close based on the timing and are depressed by the cam shaft. An engine is all about timing, when the fuel is let in, when the spent fuel / air mixture is exhausted from the engine, its all synchronized and the rods in a 4 stroke engine allow for that. These can get gummed up with carbon deposits over time. Not many people take these out to clean them but you can get engine tune up stuff from Can tire which you put into your gasoline which helps with these sorts of buildups. Check the fuel additives isle at Canadian tire ( Cantire, you can make my cheques out to ‘Micah Gallant’ 😉 )

Oil Changes – It may sound obvious to you but oil changes are one of THE easiest things in maintaining your vehicle whether on or off road and infect is a required part of motor maintenance. Oil lubricates and washes deposits and other junk away from moving parts and (hopefully) into the oil filter which catches it so that the grunge doesn’t keep circulating in the engine. Metal bits, and dirt or whatever else gets in there can scratch bearings and cylinder walls and gouge rubber seals. Debris in the engine will generally and quickly tear apart the engine from the inside out. Oil is cheap and oil filters are cheap. You can do it yourself for $20 or so from Can tire. If you take it to a quick lube place, they will charge you twice that at minimum. So it depends if you like the convenience of the lube shop. Do you have anything else you could spend the extra $20 on?? Probably, food, kids… Tims coffee for a month? Its really easy to do so you have no excuse not to do it!

So thats it for now. I have no idea if this helps anyone at all, if nothing else, if I fail to teach my kids, maybe they will read my blog posts and learn a little 😛

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