Selecting the Right Pistons for Your Engine
Regular folk will have few reasons to poke around their car’s engine, especially when it comes to pistons and full engine rebuilds. But when you’re a performance enthusiast, every little upgrade counts, and getting the right part for the job is always your top priority. When it comes to pistons, you’d want what’s best for your engine, so read through our quick guide and find out what you need to look for when looking for aftermarket pistons.
How much power do you need?
To put it simply, if you need more power from your pistons, then be prepared to spend more as your needs go higher. It’s important that you set a budget beforehand and that you decide on a balance between piston strength and price. You wouldn’t need a top-of-the-line piston if you aren’t going to use its full potential on a race track now would you? If you’re after a modest performance boost, then a simpler set of pistons would do.
Higher compression ratio gives more power?
Rebuilding an engine can be tricky, so make sure that you know what you’re doing or have an expert tuner with you to get the most out of your piston upgrade. A higher compression ratio will need really good tuning to keep the engine operating at a safe level. You’ll only get a better response from pistons with a high compression ratio if your engine is tuned perfectly. Otherwise, you’re better off with a set of lower compression pistons, just to keep you safe and prevent your engine from blowing up.
Do I need to rebore my engine?
Only a mechanic can answer that, that’s why most people tend to take their engine to a machine shop before installing pistons, to see if they need to be rebored or not. A good mechanic will also advise you what pistons to get, and how to properly tune them according to your needs.
Get professional advice
If you’re unsure of what to get for your vehicle, then it’s best to have an expert at hand who could help you with your needs. For the average driver, you’d simply need a compatible set of pistons, which you could install yourself or with the help of a mechanic. We suggest that you always get a complete kit that includes pistons, wrist pins, piston rings, and locks that are compatible with your particular engine. For performance enthusiasts, unless you have experience rebuilding your car’s engine, it’s best to seek advice from a professional before purchasing any replacement pistons.
How to Change Your Engine
Installing brand new pistons into your car’s engine shouldn’t be too difficult, but you’ll need a couple of specialized tools, which can be very expensive, especially if you’re just going to use them for a one time job. You can easily rent equipment from your local auto parts store for a minimal fee, so you won’t have to spend too much money getting brand new tools. Just stick with our tried and tested procedures for installing pistons and you should do just fine. Remember to work with proper safety gear and that your workspace is clean before you attempt replacing your engine’s pistons.
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Tools that you’ll need:
- Ridge removing tool
- Ratchet and six point socket set
- 8 to 16 short pieces of rubber hose
- Rubber hammer or piston hammer
- Assembly lube
- Lint-free cloth
- Engine service manual
- Replacement pistons
Note: If you have doubt about removing or installing your engine’s pistons, then have a professional help you out instead.
Step 1: Begin by removing the ridge from the top of each cylinder using your ridge removing tool, so you could take out the pistons later. Be careful when dealing with thicker ridges as forcing them out could break the piston.
Step 2: Next, you should turn your engine block upside down and loosen the connecting rod cap nuts using a ratchet. You should turn these cap nuts half-a-turn at a time working your way from the center towards the front and rear of the block alternately until you could remove the nuts by hand. Afterwards, make sure that you mark all rod caps so you could easily reassemble them later with their respective connecting rod and piston assembly.
Step 3: Once you’re done removing the connecting rod caps, you should set them aside in a safe and clean place. Next, you should take out a piece of rubber hose and slide it over each connecting rod bolt. This will allow it to avoid damaging the crankshaft bearing journals and cylinder walls later when you slide the pistons out of your engine block.
Step 4: Using a rubber hammer or a piston hammer, tap on the upper bearing surface of the connecting rods to push them out through the top of the engine. You should be able to access the bearing surface of the connecting rods by rotating the crankshaft by hand.
Step 5: After you’ve removed the connecting rods, make sure that you clean the block, cylinder walls, crankshaft, as well as the connecting rod assemblies completely before you begin installing your brand new pistons. You could use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe each connecting rod and cap clean.
Step 6: From here, you should install the top bearings on each connecting rod by hand. Make sure to follow any setting marks. Make sure that you place each ring into their respective piston ring grove and that you position each end gap at the correct intervals.
Step 7: Remember to apply a layer of engine oil around the pistons, rings, and cylinder walls so you could slide them into place easily.
Step 8: Insert the piston and connecting rod assemblies into their respective cylinders making sure that you securely seat the compressor ring skirts on the bore and the top notch of the piston points are pointing towards the engine’s front.
Step 9: Using a rubber hammer or a piston hammer, tap the top of the piston to slide the cylinder into its bore. You should check that the connecting rod is sitting properly on the crankshaft journal and that nothing is obstructing the end of the connecting rod. You shouldn’t feel any resistance as it slides into place.
Step 10: Check your setting marks and install the bearings on the rod caps by hand, making sure that you place a thick layer of assembly lube to each one. You should install the rod caps to their respective connecting rods and follow the torque and tightening sequence as detailed in the service manual of your engine.