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Guide to Cylinder Prep for Your Top-End Rebuild


Kevin from Wiseco

Freshening up the top end in your dirt bike or ATV is a critical part of preventative maintenance. However, it’s not as simple as purchasing a new piston kit and dropping it in. Properly preparing your cylinder is equally as important as installing a quality piston. Cylinder prep recommendations are always included with the piston when ordering from Wiseco. Depending on your application, it will either say “deglaze / hone” or “bore & hone” or “bore / replate.” We’ll take a look at exactly what these different terms mean and how to perform these steps.

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Deglaze your Cylinder

A common question is “Do I need to deglaze my cylinder?” The answer is: yes, unless it’s time for a replate or resleeve. If you’re engine has any time on it, the glazing process has begun. The term ‘glazed’ in this context refers to the motion of the piston ring(s) flattening out and polishing the surface of the cylinder wall during normal operation. The more time on the engine, the more glazed the cylinder is going to be. However, depending on how much time is on your engine and what type of cylinder you have, you may need to replate or resleeve, which we’ll discuss next.

5a986c1fc5cb7_Photo3.jpg.99239e5cab789421a414dd7ba96714ed.jpgNotice the shiny surface of the cylinder wall. This cylinder has become glazed over time.

Plated vs. Sleeved Cylinders

If your Powersports engine was made in the last 2 decades or so, chances are it is plated with a Nikasil (Nickel Silicone Carbide), chrome, or electrofusion plating. Nikasil has been the latest and most commonly used cylinder coating due to its wear resistance qualities, but they do still wear out. We recommend checking your manual for normal top end rebuild times, but generally if your engine has long hours, the overall condition of your cylinder will need to be closely reviewed. This will include not only the bore size and plating condition, but also the cylinder roundness and taper in reference to OEM service specifications. There are a number of good companies that offer replating services, just do your research and choose a trusted company. Your cylinder should come back with fresh plating, honed, and ready to go after a quick cleaning.

5a986c3f43bff_Photo4.JPG.f34b36beb26a7a3c6f00dc1be87c9a0d.JPGThis cylinder has been replated and prepped for the rebuild. The cylinder wall surface is no longer reflective and glazed-looking.

Other forms of cylinders that aren’t plated commonly have iron or steel/alloy sleeves. If your cylinder does have a sleeve, you should be able to see the seam between the sleeve and the actual cylinder. If you’re still not sure, check to see if a magnet sticks to the cylinder wall. If it sticks, it’s a sleeve, and if it doesn’t, it’s plated.

Much like replating a cylinder after normal top end rebuild time, your sleeved cylinder should have a new sleeve installed. The same cylinder shops that do replating should do resleeving as well, and it will come back honed and ready to go back together.

In short, if your engine has enough time on it to need a full top end rebuild, we recommend replating or resleeving your cylinder. Technically you can have your previously plated cylinder sleeved, but we recommend sticking with how it came from the OEM. If it is just freshening up with low hours on the engine, you should be able to just deglaze / hone.

What is Honing and Why do I Need It?

When your engine was made brand new in the factory, the cylinder was honed. Honing is a process of conditioning the surface of the cylinder wall to help with lubrication of the piston ring(s) during operation. Honing creates fine cross hatch imperfections on the surface of the cylinder bore. You can think of these imperfections as peaks and valleys in the surface of the metal. These are essential because it helps the cylinder wall retain oil to assist with piston ring lubrication. Theoretically, the idea is for there to be a very thin layer of oil between the edge of the piston rings and cylinder wall. If there was no oil to lubricate the constant contact with the cylinder wall, there would be too much friction and both the rings and cylinder would wear out quickly.

The term ‘deglazing’ simply refers to re-honing your cylinder to put those peaks and valleys back in your cylinder wall.

5a986c676fc51_Photo5.JPG.b402f15eecebbfa619d4bc1f8fc79402.JPGThis crosshatch pattern on the wall of the cylinder is the goal of the honing.

How to Hone your Cylinder

The most common tools you’ll find for honing small engine applications are rigid or brush hones and ball hones. Hones can be ordered by size according to your cylinder bore, just cross reference your bore size with the information from the company you order your hone from.  The hone company should also have recommendations on grit and material type based on what type of rings you have.

After disassembling your top end, inspect your cylinder wall and ports for damage. If you had a piston seizure or something break, chances are the cylinder was damaged. Depending on how extensive the damage is, sometimes cylinder shops can repair them. If you see any questionable damage or deep scuffs, we recommend sending your cylinder to a trusted shop for their best recommendation.

If your cylinder is in normal condition with no damage, and you’re just changing rings between top ends, honing should be the only thing required. If the glazing is minimal and you can still see a fair amount of cross hatch marks, you should be able to get away with using a rigid or brush hone to just restore those cross hatch marks. You should only have to hone for about 10 – 15 seconds at a time until you can see consistent cross hatch marks.

5a986c7c00360_Photo6.thumb.jpg.2a564bb87d55dc488fdb1164f12cc3b7.jpgA soft hone brush like this is one of the tools that may be used to prepare the interior surface of the cylinder.

The ball hone will be a little bit more abrasive, which is why we don’t recommend using a ball hone on plated cylinders unless they are specified to be safe. If you do need to use a ball hone for heavier glazing on your sleeved cylinder, attach it to your drill and lubricate it with a light coat of motor oil. Make sure the cylinder is secured and stationary, and the ball hone is spinning before entering the cylinder. Hone the cylinder back and forth for about 10 – 15 seconds, then switch to the opposite spinning direction and repeat. Check the cylinder for the desired cross hatch marks, and repeat if necessary.

After honing is complete, be sure to clean the cylinder thoroughly until there is no residual material.

When reassembling your top end, always be sure to double check your piston to wall clearance.

Do I Need to Bore my Cylinder?

If the instructions for your new piston say “bore & hone” or “bore / replate,” it’s because you ordered a piston that is larger than the stock bore size. Instructions to bore and hone your cylinder means your cylinder did not come plated from the OEM, and only requires to be machined out to the correct size for your piston. However, if it is a sleeved cylinder, consider having it resleeved depending on the time on the engine. Instructions to bore and replate your cylinder means your cylinder came plated from the OEM, so the only work required is to have the cylinder machined to the correct size for your piston, and then replated / honed.

5a986c920e569_Photo7.JPG.7b4377a3038963af63dd5a4dc581bd3c.JPGWe recommend having your local trusted cylinder shop do your boring and replating work.

In any case, we recommend having the cylinder bored by a professional machinist with the proper equipment. Cylinder shops that replate and resleeve usually have the capability to bore as well.

Don’t Forget to Chamfer and Clean Up

After any boring or honing work on a cylinder, it’s important to chamfer all ports and the bottom of the cylinder. Chamfering is smoothing out any sharp edge to leave a symmetrical sloping edge. Creating sloped edges on the bottom of the cylinder allows for easier piston and ring installation. You also want to make sure that the edges of the ports in the cylinder have a nice slope as well so the piston rings don’t get caught on any edges during engine operation.

If your cylinder has an exhaust bridge, be sure it is relieved .002” - .004” to allow for expansion.

5a986ca709a1f_Photo8.JPG.a675707bc4013e95dfa520f8173f3ab3.JPGExhaust bridge relief is important in certain 2-stroke applications. Read more about exhaust bridge relief here.

Lastly, be sure to properly clean any parts that have been worked on. Cylinders that have been bored and/or honed will have residual honing grit. This must be removed by washing with warm soapy water until an oil dampened cloth does not show any grit after wiping the surface of the cylinder wall. Once clean, apply a thin coat of oil on the cylinder wall before proceeding with your rebuild.

Always be sure to cover all your bases when freshening up the top end in your machine. Giving the required attention to all areas will help you be sure you’re getting the smoothest performance and most reliability out of your engine.

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I don't necessarily agree.  I've rebuilt plenty of two strokes by cleaning piston residue (aluminum) off the cylinder with lye, and putting in a new piston and rings if the cylinder is in spec.  After running lean it or dry seize.  There's more potential to screw it up with a bad hone job than running what you have.  Plus it inevitably makes the hole bigger.  If static compression is in spec after doing so, you're good.

Edited by squared
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On 3/4/2018 at 5:27 PM, squared said:

I don't necessarily agree.  I've rebuilt plenty of two strokes by cleaning piston residue (aluminum) off the cylinder with lye, and putting in a new piston and rings if the cylinder is in spec.  After running lean it or dry seize.  There's more potential to screw it up with a bad hone job than running what you have.  Plus it inevitably makes the hole bigger.  If static compression is in spec after doing so, you're good.

If you're just trying to knock the glaze out of the cylinder with a brush or ball hone, changing the size of a Nickle carbide bore is next to impossible. If you try to ball hone a two stroke with a hone that's too big, well, that's another matter.

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On 3/4/2018 at 10:09 PM, gumball37 said:

Hi, i should mention that for the optimun bore/hone job... "clearance wise" 

Your machinest will need to take measurements from your new piston. 

Absolutely. We provide finished size of all our pistons, which should be given to the machinist so the cylinder can be finished at the correct size allowing proper clearance.

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On 3/4/2018 at 5:27 PM, squared said:

I don't necessarily agree.  I've rebuilt plenty of two strokes by cleaning piston residue (aluminum) off the cylinder with lye, and putting in a new piston and rings if the cylinder is in spec.  After running lean it or dry seize.  There's more potential to screw it up with a bad hone job than running what you have.  Plus it inevitably makes the hole bigger.  If static compression is in spec after doing so, you're good.

Thank you for the comment. This is why we don't recommend using a ball hone unless absolutely necessary, in which case it still must be made sure that the grit and material of the ball hone is safe for the finish of the cylinder. A brush hone can reduce the glazing in common cases. Piston-to-wall clearance should always be checked as well before final assembly.

On 3/2/2018 at 2:44 PM, UG_ALLSTAR said:

Good read and an excellent resource. 

Thank you!

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You failed to mention how brittle plating is and why it is very risky to run a ball hone in a two stroke cylinder. When the balls clear the ports they will gain some speed and smack the plating upon clearing the port. Which runs a very high risk of chipping the plating around the ports....

 

Maybe should have listed some alternatives to deglazing other then a hone such a WD40 and a scotchbrite pad.

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On 3/10/2018 at 7:17 AM, moose_338 said:

You failed to mention how brittle plating is and why it is very risky to run a ball hone in a two stroke cylinder. When the balls clear the ports they will gain some speed and smack the plating upon clearing the port. Which runs a very high risk of chipping the plating around the ports....

 

Maybe should have listed some alternatives to deglazing other then a hone such a WD40 and a scotchbrite pad.

Our main recommendation in the article for deglazing is a brush hone, which is much less dangerous than a ball hone. Ball hones should only be used when absolutely necessary, and they must be used with caution, as you noted. Personally, I think if someone needs  a ball hone because the glazing is that bad, it'd be safer to have a professional shop refinish it. Scotchbrite and WD40 is definitely another option, it's just tougher to regulate degree of the cross hatch.

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The deglaze recommendation has been around for quite some time, I've been rebuilding engines since the early 70s and first heard it then.  I'd wager a guess that it's been around since before ww2 when metals, manufacturing and machining were not what they are today. 

I'm not a metallurgist, but I do hold a doctorate in engineering, and I don't think it's required in a lot of instances.  This needs to undergo a controlled test to demonstrate the efficacy of the process and identify the relevant factors.  Lubricants have also changed significantly, and a glazed cylinder, like chrome may present less friction..again, it needs to be tested.

 

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On 3/16/2018 at 2:04 PM, wazzabie said:

Is a hone like this ok to use?

 

brake_hone.jpg

As long as you're good enough with your motor to keep the stones completely within the bore. The second one of those stones reach up past the bore's depth or height, it'll kick over like shown in the picture, then smack back down within the bore. Not ideal. So the question is, are YOU good enough to use one like that?

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Recently (10 hours)  put in new piston and rings, I didn’t do any prep to cylinder. After reading your article I feel like I should have some work done to the cylinder and possibly get another set of piston and rings (even though this set is close to being brand new. 

Curious as to what an expert like yourself would recommend! 

Thanks!! 

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On 1/22/2019 at 12:16 PM, KaneSlayer414 said:

Recently (10 hours)  put in new piston and rings, I didn’t do any prep to cylinder. After reading your article I feel like I should have some work done to the cylinder and possibly get another set of piston and rings (even though this set is close to being brand new. 

Curious as to what an expert like yourself would recommend! 

Thanks!! 

BCB5B334-59B0-46BD-B8D8-224DF0069539.jpeg

46D1F75F-1697-4947-A3CC-5FF076A14FE8.jpeg

6AD07A52-DA34-4CD1-98E1-4B1091C637FB.jpeg

4B9EB581-1D42-48AE-A776-01452A87BB3C.jpeg

0B9A6889-A25C-4153-9C55-26983C66F99D.jpeg

A6E7E567-8735-4A06-9518-9585B2D07FDB.jpeg

7E547E34-933E-47EF-805D-E91954A1376D.jpeg

From the photos, the cylinder does look like it has a good amount of glazing, so I would recommend at least getting a soft hone brush or even a scotchbrite pad in there to deglaze and get some of your hone pattern back. The cylinder wall won't hold much oil in the condition it's in now. You may be able to reuse the same piston as long it looks good after inspection, but I would re-ring it so they break in with the redone cylinder. Make sure you clean the cylinder thoroughly with soap and warm water after deglazing! You should be able to wipe a white rag over the surface after cleaning and not see any black residue.

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