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Rob@ProX

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About Rob@ProX

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  1. Rob@ProX

    How to Rebuild the Top End in your Two-Stroke

    Hahaha good call, definitely don't want anything falling in the bottom end, especially a clip. We just missed the rag setting up this photo.
  2. Rob@ProX

    How to Rebuild the Top End in your Two-Stroke

    We've always had good luck with Mitutoyo brand calipers. They're above the $50 price range, but they're not overly expensive either. Digital does seems to make it easier, but it's more of a preference.
  3. Rob@ProX

    How to Rebuild the Top End in your Two-Stroke

    Very true! The cylinder should always be kept in line with the way it will be bolted down when lowering onto the piston. Thank you for bringing this up!
  4. Rebuilding a top end is a task most two-stroke owners will run into at one point or another. Here, we go over critical steps and key tips to installing a new piston and ring(s) in your two-stroke. Periodically, if you own a two-stroke, there will come a point where you need to rebuild the top end of your engine. Hopefully, this won’t come as a surprise to you and will be part of your planned maintenance schedule versus experiencing an unplanned engine failure. While two-stroke engines are relatively simple mechanical devices, rebuilding them requires knowledge of how they work, attention to detail, and a systematic approach. We’re going to cover numerous tips pertinent to two-stroke top end rebuilds. These tips will be discussed chronologically and will encompass all phases of the build from pre-rebuild prep, to disassembly, through post build. The tips we’re going to share shouldn’t be considered inclusive of everything that has to be done, but are tips that focus on things that are either often overlooked or incredibly important. Let’s get started! Pre-Teardown Diagnosis - Before tearing the engine apart, are there any signs that a specific problem exists? If so, are there any diagnostic tests such as compression or crankcase leak down that are worth performing? Before tearing your engine down, asses the specific problem with you're engine if you're rebuilding due to a running problem. Clean Machine - Take time to thoroughly clean the machine before opening up the engine, especially if you will be servicing the top end without removing the engine from the machine. Service Manual - Performing engine maintenance without an OEM factory service manual is not recommended. Make sure you have a manual for your machine prior to starting work. The manual is the only place you’ll find service limits, torque specs, and other key data. Disassembly Limit Contaminants - Once the cylinder has been removed wrap a clean, lint-free rag around the top of the crankcase. Dirt is one of the leading causes of engine wear, and limiting the opportunity for dirt to enter the crankcase is very important. Keep a lint-free rag at the top of the crankcase at all times while it is open and exposed to potential contaminants. Piston Removal - Easy piston circlip removal can be accomplished by using a pick and needle nose pliers. Insert the pick into the dimple in the piston and behind the circlip. Then use it as a lever and pry the circlip out partially. Once out partially, grab the circlip with needle nose pliers. During this process, be careful not to scratch or mar the wrist pin bore as this will make removing the wrist pin much more difficult. Use tools as needed to aid in circlip removal, but be careful not to mar the pin bore so the wrist pin can be easily removed. The ease of pin removal will be largely dependent on the engine design and condition of the bore. If the pin can be removed by hand, great, if not, light tapping while supporting the rod is permissible. Otherwise, a pin puller should be utilized which can be bought or made. In its simplest form, this can consist of an appropriately sized bolt, nut, and socket. Once the wrist pin has been removed, the piston can be removed from the rod. Hopefully, the wrist pin can be removed by hand once the circlip is out. If not, an appropriately sized socket with some light tapping from the opposite end can help break it loose. Power Valve Disassembly - Prior to taking the power valve system apart, spend some time reviewing the procedure in your service manual. For additional insight into how the components interact, review the exploded views in the service manual and look at part microfiches, which can be found online. Online microfiches can be very helpful to double-check reassembly of the power valve. They can be found on many motorcycle dealer websites. When removing the power valve system, consider laying the components out on a clean rag in an orientation that correlates to how they are installed in the engine. This is a relatively simple thing to do that will help you remember how they are installed later. When it comes to cleaning the components, clean them one at a time or in small batches so that they don’t get mixed up. Lay out all the parts of your power valve assembly as you disassemble it. This will help you keep everything organized, and make sure you get it back together correctly. Inspection Reed Valve - Don’t forget to check the condition of the reed valve petals, cage, and any stopper plates. Most service manuals will detail the acceptable clearance between the petal tips and cage as well as the stopper plate height. Ensure any rubber coatings on the reed cage are in good condition. Inspect all reed valves components thoroughly before reassembling the top end. Any parts showing signs of excessive wear or damage should be replaced. Intake Manifold - Check the intake manifold for cracks. Cracks are more common on older engines, and propagation all the way through the manifold can lead to air leaks. Exhaust Flange - Check the condition of the exhaust flange and ensure that it is not excessively worn. An excessively worn flange will make exhaust gas sealing difficult, hamper performance, and leak the infamous spooge. Power Valve Components - Take a moment to review the condition of all the power valve components. Significant wear can occur over time and lead to performance losses. Rod Small End - Check the small end rod bore for surface defects such as pitting, scratches, and marring. Any severe defects in the bore will necessitate rod replacement. The rod small end is a critical point of inspection. Any damage to the inside surface could affect the small end bearing, leading to a chain of top end problems and potential failure. Sourcing New Components When freshening up the top end in your two-stroke, it’s important to reassemble with quality components. A deglazed and honed or bored and replated cylinder is a critical component to ensuring reliable performance from your new top end. Your local cylinder shop should be able to handle the bore and replate when necessary, and a simple deglazing can be accomplished with a Scotch-Brite pad. Be sure to retain the 45-degree honing mark angle. There are a lot of choices for new pistons from the aftermarket out there, but many people choose to stick to OEM. However, when ordering from the OEM, every individual part must be ordered separately, including the piston, ring, pin, clips, gaskets, etc. Dealing with all these part numbers and chancing forgetting a component can be a pain, and get expensive. ProX two-stroke pistons are manufactured by OEM suppliers, and come with the piston, pin, ring(s), and circlips all under one part number. ProX two-stroke pistons are manufactured by the same OEM-suppliers to exact OE specs. They are available in A, B, C, and D sizing for most applications. ProX pistons come with the piston, ring(s), pin, and clips all in one box. Complete top-end gasket kits can even be ordered under one part number. ProX pistons provide an OEM-replacement option with less hassle and less strain on your wallet. Find ProX pistons for your bike here. Even though ProX pistons are made by OE suppliers, the quality control difference is evident. On the left is a ProX piston for a Honda CR250, and on the right is a brand new piston out of the box from Honda. Which would you choose? Measurements The number of measurements that should be taken throughout the top end rebuild will be discretionary. At ProX, we strive for excellence and err on the side of caution when it comes to engine building, so our builds consist of numerous measurements and inspections prior to reassembly. For us, this ensures a high level of confidence and safeguards against external oversights. We recommend the same to anyone building an engine. Below is a list of measurements that we routinely make when rebuilding a two-stroke top end: Piston ring end gaps Piston-to-cylinder clearance Rod small end diameter Out of these measurements, confirming or adjusting the ring end gaps is by far the most important, followed closely by ensuring the cylinder bore is within spec with respect to diameter, straightness, and roundness. Understandably, some measurements may be difficult for the average home builder to execute, usually due to not having the right equipment, however, a competent shop should be able to assist. Ring end gaps can be checked by installing the ring in the bore without the piston, and using a feeler gauge to find the measurement. Correct ring end gap is listed in the installation instructions that come with a new ProX piston. ProX rings often do not need to be filed as they are pre-gapped, but it's always a good idea to make sure your end gap is within the provided spec. Piston-to-cylinder is another measurement that should be checked before final assembly. For this, use a bore guage and a set of calipers to measure the bore size. Next, grab a set of micrometers and measure the piston. ProX pistons should be measured perpendicular to the wrist pin, a quarter of the way up the piston skirt from the bottom. Subtract your piston size measurement from your bore size, and you have your piston-to-cylinder clearance. ProX pistons come with a chart on the instruction sheet that shows the range your clearance should be in. Measuring piston-to-cylinder clearance is a smart precaution to help ensure you won't run into any unexpected issues with your new top end. A final measurement we recommend taking is the rod small end diameter. This is important because sometimes these can get worn out and create free play for the small end bearing, resulting in damage to the bearing and most likely the entire top end. It can be done using the same method as the bore diameter. Compare your measurement to the acceptable range in your owner's manual. Making sure the diameter of the small end of the rod is within spec is often overlooked, but can prevent a serious top end failure. Prep Work Cylinder Cleaning - Once the cylinder has been deglazed or has come back from replating, it should be cleaned one final time. There is almost always leftover honing grit that will need to be removed. To effectively clean the cylinder, use warm soapy water and a bristle brush, followed by automatic transmission fluid or a similar cleaning solution and a brush or lint-free rag. To check the cleanliness of the cylinder, rub a cotton swab around the bore and look for contaminants. Clean the bore until no contaminants are visible on the cotton swab. Any honing grit that remains in the cylinder will facilitate premature wear of the piston rings. A clean, de-glazed, and properly honed cylinder is key to piston and ring function and longevity. Power Valve Function - Cylinders that have been exchanged or replated should have the power valve system reinstalled ahead of final installation. Often times, excess plating can inhibit power valve movement. To correct this, the excess plating must be carefully removed. On cylinders utilizing blade style power valves, the blade position with respect to the cylinder bore should be checked to ensure the blade does not protrude into the bore. Assemble the power valve before installing the new piston and reinstalling the cylinder. Be sure to check that the power valve is moving as it should, and not protruding into the bore. Piston - It is usually easiest to prepare the new piston as much as possible by installing one of the circlips and the ring pack ahead of joining it to the connecting rod. Unless your service manual dictates which circlip must be installed first, choose the easiest installation orientation. Typically, your dominant hand and preferred work orientation will dictate which side you choose to install the circlip on. It's easier to install one clip and the piston ring(s) before fixing the new piston to the connecting rod. Reference your service manual to determine the correct orientation of the circlip. Usually, the open end of the circlip should be oriented to the 12 or 6 o’clock position. Temporarily install the wrist pin and use it as a backstop so that the circlip is forced to move into its groove. Installing the circlip should be done by hand to limit the chance of deformation. Orient the circlip to the desired position, then push the open ends of the circlip into position first. Be careful not to scratch or mar the wrist pin bore in the process! Once installed, use a pick or screwdriver to confirm the circlip is fully seated and does not rotate. Any circlips that can be rotated must be replaced because they have been compromised and deformed during installation. Make sure to note the orientation of each clip after installation. Some manuals may recommend specific positions depending on the piston, but always be sure the gap is not lined up with or near the dimple(s). Rings - The compression ring(s) will be directional, and the top of the ring is typically denoted by markings near the end gaps. Apply a thin coat of oil to the ring, then carefully work the ring into position, making sure to line up the ring end gaps with the locating pin in each ring groove. Install the ring(s) with the marking(s) facing up, and make sure the ring end gap is lined up with the locating pin in the ring groove. Installation Piston - On the top of the piston, an arrow will be imprinted, which typically denotes the exhaust side of the piston. Consult your service manual to confirm the proper orientation of the arrow and piston. Apply a light amount of assembly lube to the small end bearing and wrist pin bore on the piston, then install the bearing. Align the piston with the small end of the rod, and slide the wrist pin into place. Once again, use the wrist pin as a backstop, then install the remaining circlip into position. Use a pick or screwdriver to confirm it is fully seated and does not rotate. Don't forget to apply some assembly lube to the ring and piston skirts before assembly! Cylinder to Piston - In most applications, a ring compressor is not required to compress the rings and install the piston into the cylinder. Lightly oil the cylinder bore with assembly lube or engine oil, then lube the piston skirt and ring faces. Prior to installing the piston and rings, confirm one final time that the piston ring ends are oriented correctly to their respective locating pins. Once the new piston is installed on the connecting rod, apply some assembly lube to the cylinder wall, and carefully slide the cylinder over the piston. Squeeze the ring with your hand as you slide the cylinder on, simultaneously making sure the ring end gap remains aligned with the locating pin. Position the piston at or near TDC then carefully lower the cylinder bore down onto the piston. Use your fingers to compress the ring(s) and ensure the cylinder bore is square to the piston. Feel how easily the cylinder slides over the piston and rings. The installation of the cylinder should be smooth and offer little resistance. If resistance is felt, stop immediately and assess the ring pack. Occasionally one of the rings may come out of position in its groove and snag the cylinder bore. This typically happens as the ring transitions out of your fingers and into the cylinder bore. Once the cylinder is safely over the ring, slide it all the way on keeping the piston at top dead center (TDC). Don't forget to torque your cylinder and head nuts to the specification listed in your manual. Post Build Torquing - Your cylinder and head nuts should always be torqued to the specifications outlined in your service manual. Double check all the nuts are set at their corresponding specs. Spark Plug - Don’t forget to install a new spark plug and if necessary gap it appropriately. Air Filter - Be sure to install a clean air filter prior to start up. Crankcase Leak Down Test - As one final precautionary measure perform a crankcase leak down test. A crankcase leak down test will help confirm all the seals, gaskets, and joints are sealing as they should. Break-In - When running your new top end for the first time, keep the engine slightly above idle, with slow and mild revs until the engine starts to get too hot to touch. Then, shut the engine off and let it cool until it is warm to the touch. Repeat this process, revving slightly higher and letting the engine get partially hotter each time. After 3 cycles like this, let the engine completely cool, then check all your fluids and re-check the torque on your cylinder and head bolts. Once that is squared away, you can begin break-in runs riding the bike. Make sure to keep the RPMs varied while riding for the first time, not letting the engine lug or sit at idle. A safe bet would be to ride the bike like this for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and finally 15 minutes, with adequate cooling in between. This will ensure your piston ring(s) are evenly and properly broken in. It’s never a bad idea to double check your fluids and torque one more time after complete cool down.
  5. Rob@ProX

    How-To: 4-Stroke Piston Replacement

    We have a used 2006 YZ450F that we're rebuilding step-by-step, and documenting along the way. In this part 1 feature, we'll go over how to replace a 4-stroke piston. Click here to watch the quick tip video to go along with it! The top end in a four-stroke can be split up into two major sections: the head, and the cylinder and piston. They both require specific attention and critical steps to ensure proper opertation once everything is back together. We replaced the worn stock piston with an OEM quality forged ProX piston kit. It includes the rings, wrist pin, circlips, and installation instructions. The pistons are available in A, B, and C sizes, to accomodate for the size of your cylinder as it wears. Our new ProX forged piston compared to the stock, used piston. Carbon deposits on the crown are common after running hours, but can decrease power and efficiency. Disassembly To prepare to disassemble your head and cylinder, you'll need to remove the seat, gas tank, exhaust system, and carburetor (or throttle body). While not always required, removing the sub-frame, shock, and air boot make accessibility to the engine a lot easier in most cases. Once those major components are removed, you'll need to remove any other components attached to the head or cylinder, such as clutch cable guides, spark plug boots, and electrical connections. Removing the subframe, airboot, and shock, in addition to the other components, provides much better access to all sides of the motor. Don't forget to remove any cable guides or other items bolted to the head/cylinder. Next, remove the cam cover, loosening the bolts incrementally until they are all loose. With that off, it is best to make sure your camshafts are not fully compressing any of the valve springs before you loosen the cam caps. You can do this by slowly rotating the crankshaft via the kickstarter. With the cam caps removed, loosen and remove the cam chain tensioner next. This will give you the slack to remove the timing chain completely. You can now lift the camshafts completely out, handling carefully. Now you can loosen the head bolts in incrementally in a crossing pattern. Remove the head and place it aside, handling it carefully. Next, do the same for the cylinder bolts, and carefully remove the cylinder. As you remove the cylinder, the piston is going to stay on the connecting rod, so it helps to hold the connecting rod steady as you wiggle the cylinder off the piston. It is always a good idea to fill the opening of the cases with a lint free rag to prevent debris or loose parts from falling in. Remove the cam cover and head bolts incrementally until loose. This prevents the chance of warping. Finally, you can remove one wire lock from the stock piston using a pick or small screwdriver. Slide the wrist pin out, and remove the piston from the small end of the connecting rod. Be very careful no to drop anything into the cases during this step, and throughout the entire process. Cleaning With everyting removed, you'll need to clean any old gasket material and other residue off your sealing surfaces. This includes the base for the cylinder on the cases, top and bottom surfaces of the cylinder itself, and the bottom surface of the head that seals to the cylinder. For large or difficult pieces of material, it is common to use a razor blade for removal. However, be gentle and careful not to put deep grooves or scratches in the surfaces. Also, don't cut your finger open, or off. Scrape old gasket material off carefully, being cautious of any grooves or scratches in sealing surfaces and personal injury. Final cleaning commonly consists of using carb cleaner, or a similar chemical cleaner, and a rag to achieve completely clean and flat surfaces. Cylinder Prep Before you go and put that cylinder back in with your new piston, you'll want to inspect it for signs of wear, and measure it to make sure it's within spec (refer to your owner's manual for proper specifications). If there is minimal glazing on the cylinder, no grooves worn in, and it's within spec, you should be ready to reinstall after a good honing. Always use a diamond tipped honing brush for resurfacing work. If you're unsure about performing any cylinder prep work yourself, talk to your local dealer about cylinder shops, where any prep work required can be performed. ProX pistons are available in multiple sizes to accomodate for cylinder wear, so be sure your bore measurements correlate with the size of piston you're installing. Make sure your cylinder is the correct bore size for your piston, and properly cleaned and honed, as pictured here. Reassembly When you have your cylinder prepped and ready, now is a good time to double check your piston-to-wall clearance and ring end gap. For piston-to-wall, measure the size of your ProX piston using a micrometer only. Measure the piston on the skirt, 90 degrees from the wrist pin bore, at the point on the skirt that is 1/4 of height of the piston from the bottom. Refer to your manual for acceptable piston-to-wall clearance range. When measuring ring end gap, install the top ring and second ring (seperately, and if applicable) approximately 1/4" into the bore. Use a feeler gauge to be sure ring end gap is within the dimensions specified in your piston kit instructions. ProX rings are pre-gapped, but it is always good practice to double check. While ProX rings are pre-gapped, it's still a good idea to double check your ring end gap. Install the rings in the proper order and location on your pistons. Refer to the instructions that come with ProX piston kits to be sure you are installing the rings in the correct fashion and location. After this, install one wire lock into your piston, being sure it is properly seated. Click here for our tips on installing wire locks. Use your finger to put a layer of motor oil on the cylinder wall. Next, put a layer of oil on the outside of your new piston (on the outside of the rings, on the ring belt, and on the skirts). You don't want your new piston and rings breaking in under dry conditions. Use the normal motor oil you use in your 4-stroke. Piston installation can be done via more than one method, but in our case, we installed the piston in the cylinder before attaching it to the connecting rod. Either way, be sure your piston is facing the correct direction, meaning the exhaust valve reliefs line up with the exhaust side of the head. There will be markings on the crown of ProX pistons to indiciate which side is the exhaust side. Also, make sure your rings remain in the proper location as you slide the piston into the cylinder. The arrow shows the marking on the piston crown that indicates that is the side of piston that needs to face the exhaust. Before installing the new base gasket, piston and re-installing the cylinder, make sure the surface is clean and the crankcase is free of debris. While the top end is off, this could also be a good time to make sure your crankshaft is in spec. Next, lay your new base gasket on the cases, lining it up properly. Install the piston (which should remain in the cylinder) onto the connecting rod by lining up the pin bore with the small end bore, and sliding your new wrist pin (put a layer of oil on this before installing) completely through, until it stops against the one wire lock previosuly installed. With the piston secured to the connecting rod via the wrist pin, install your remaining wire lock, and make sure it is properly seated. You can now slide the cylinder all the way down to meet the cases. Note: Make sure you take any rags out of the cases before reassembling! You're now at the point in reassembly where you will install your rebuilt head (details in part 2 of this top end rebuild soon to come) with the proper head gasket, and re-install all the items previously removed. Be sure you are following all proper torque specs specified in your manual. Head back for part 2 of the the top end rebuild, where we'll show you some great tips on assembling a four-stroke head with new valves and valve springs, re-installing camshaft(s) and timing chain, and checking and adjusting valve clearance. Our new ProX piston and freshened up clyinder successfully installed. Note the dot on the piston crown, indicating that is the exhaust side. Stay tuned, more rebuild tips to come!
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