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Found 5 results

  1. Whether you're racing or looking for increased performance out on the trail, there are a plethora of performance upgrades to consider to increase the power of your machine. Piston manufacturers like JE Pistons offer high compression piston options for many applications, but there are important merits and drawbacks you should consider when deciding if a high compression piston is right for your application. To better understand, we’ll take a look at what increasing compression ratio does, what effects this has on the engine, detail how high compression pistons are made, and provide a high-level overview of which applications may benefit from utilizing a high compression piston. Bumping up the compression in your motor should be an informed decision. It's important to first understand what effects high-compression has, the anatomy of a high-comp piston, and what applications typically benefit most. Let’s start with a quick review of what the compression ratio is, then we’ll get into how it affects performance. The compression ratio compares the volume above the piston at bottom dead center (BDC) to the volume above the piston at top dead center (TDC). Shown below is the mathematical equation that defines compression ratio: The swept volume is the volume that the piston displaces as it moves through its stroke. The clearance volume is the volume of the combustion chamber when the piston is at top dead center (TDC). There are multiple different dimensions to take into account when calculating clearance volume, but for the sake of keeping this introductory, this is the formula as an overview. When alterations to the compression ratio are made, the clearance volume is reduced, resulting in a higher ratio. Reductions in clearance volume are typically achieved by modifying the geometry of the piston crown so that it occupies more combustion chamber space. Swept volume is the volume displaced as the piston moves through the stroke, and clearance volume is the volume of the combustion chamber with the piston at top dead center. How does an increased compression ratio affect engine performance? To understand how increasing the compression ratio affects performance, we have to start with understanding what happens to the fuel/air mixture on the compression stroke. During the compression stroke, the fuel/air mixture is compressed, and due to thermodynamic laws, the compressed mixture increases in temperature and pressure. Comparatively, increasing the compression ratio over that of a stock ratio, the fuel/air mixture is compressed more, resulting in increased temperature and pressure before the combustion event. The resulting power that can be extracted from the combustion event is heavily dependent on the temperature and pressure of the fuel/air mixture prior to combustion. The temperature and pressure of the mixture before combustion influences the peak cylinder pressure during combustion, as well as the peak in-cylinder temperature. For thermodynamic reasons, increases in peak cylinder pressure and temperature during combustion will result in increased mechanical efficiency, the extraction of more work, and increased power during the power stroke. In summary, the more the fuel/air mixture can be compressed before combustion, the more energy can be extracted from it. Higher compression allows for a larger amount of fuel/air mixture to be successfully combusted, ultimately resulting in more power produced during the power stroke. However, there are limits to how much the mixture can be compressed prior to combustion. If the temperature of the mixture increases too much before the firing of the spark plug, the mixture can auto ignite, which is often referred to as pre-ignition. Another detrimental combustion condition that can also occur is called detonation. Detonation occurs when end gases spontaneously ignite after the spark plug fires. Both conditions put severe mechanical stress on the engine because cylinder pressures far exceed what the engine was designed for, which can damage top end components and negatively affect performance. Detonation and pre-ignition can spike cylinder pressure and temperature, causing damage. Common signs of these conditions include pitting on the piston crown. Now that there is an understanding of what changes occur during the combustion event to deliver increased power, we can look at what other effects these changes have on the engine. Since cylinder pressure is increased, more stress is put on the engine. The amount of additional stress that is introduced is largely dependent on the overall engine setup. Since combustion temperatures increase with increased compression ratio, the engine must also dissipate more heat. If not adequately managed, increased temperatures can reduce the lifespan of top-end components. JE's EN plating is a surface treatment that can protect the piston crown and ring grooves from potential damage caused by high cylinder pressure and temperature. EN can be an asset for longevity in a high-compression race build. Often, additional modifications can be made to help mitigate the side effects of increasing the compression ratio. To help reduce the risk of pre-ignition and detonation, using a fuel with a higher octane rating can be advantageous. Altering the combustion event by increasing the amount of fuel (richening the mixture) and changing the ignition timing can also help. Cooling system improvement can be an effective way to combat the additional heat generated by the combustion event. Selecting larger or more efficient radiators, oil coolers, and water pumps are all options that can be explored. Equipping the engine with a high-performance clutch can help reduce clutch slip and wear which can occur due to the increased power. High-level race team machines are great examples of additional modifications made to compensate for increased stress race engines encounter. Mods include things like larger radiators, race fuel, custom mapping, and performance clutch components. Let’s take a quick look at what considerations are made when designing a high compression piston. Typically, high compression pistons are made by adding dome volume to the piston crown, which reduces the clearance volume at TDC. In some cases, this is difficult to do depending on the combustion chamber shape, size of the valves, or the amount of valve lift. When designing the dome, it is essential to opt for smooth dome designs. Smooth domes as opposed to more aggressively ridged designs are preferred because the latter can result in hot spots on the piston crown, which can lead to pre-ignition. Another common design option is to increase the compression distance, which is the distance from the center of the wrist pin bore to the crown of the piston. In this approach, the squish clearance, which is the clearance between the piston and head, is reduced. Higher compression is commonly achieved by increasing dome volume while retaining smooth characteristics, as pictured here with raised features and deep valve pockets. Compression height can also be increased, which increases the distance between the center of the pin bore and the crown of the piston. A high-level overview of which applications can benefit from increased compression ratio can be helpful when assessing whether a high-compression upgrade is a good choice for your machine. Since increasing the compression ratio increases power and heat output, applications that benefit from the additional power and can cope with additional heat realize the most significant performance gains. Contrarily, applications where the bike is ridden at low speed, in tight conditions, or with lots of clutch use can be negatively impacted by incorporating a high compression piston. Keep in mind these statements are generalizations, and every engine responds differently to increased compression ratios. Below are lists of applications that may benefit from increasing the compression ratio as well as applications where increased compression may negatively influence performance. Applications that may benefit from utilizing a high compression piston: Motocross Supermoto Drag racing Road racing Ice racing Flat track Desert racing Motocross and less technical off-road racing are two of multiple forms of racing in which high-compression pistons can benefit performance due to higher speeds and better air flow to keep the engine cool. Peick photo by Brown Dog Wilson. Applications that may be negatively affected by utilizing a high compression piston: Technical off-road/woods riding Trials Other low speed/cooling applications Lower speed racing and riding may not benefit as much from a high-compression piston, as heat in the engine will build up quicker due to lessened cooling ability. Fortunately, if you’re considering increasing your engine’s compression ratio by utilizing a high compression piston, many aftermarket designs have been tested and optimized for specific engines and fuel octane ratings. For example, JE Pistons offers pistons at incrementally increased compression ratios so that you can incorporate a setup that works best for you. For example, high-compression pistons from JE for off-road bikes and ATVs are commonly available in 0.5 compression ratio increases. Assume an engines stock compression ratio is 13.0:1, there will most likely be options of 13.5:1 and 14.0:1, so that you can make an informed decision on how much compression will benefit you based on your machine and type of riding. From left to right are 13.0:1, 13.5:1, and 14.0:1 compression ratio pistons, all for a YZ250F. Notice the differences in piston dome volume and design. If performance is sufficient at an engine’s stock compression ratio, there are still improvements in efficiency and durability that can be made with a forged piston. Forged pistons have a better aligned alloy grain flow than cast pistons, creating a stronger part more resistant to the stresses of engine operation. In addition to forged material, improvements can be made on piston skirt style design to increase strength over stock designs, such as with JE’s FSR designs. JE also commonly addresses dome design on stock compression pistons, employing smoothness across valve reliefs edges and other crown features to improve flame travel, decrease hot spots, and ultimately increase the engine’s efficiency. Even if stock compression is better for your application; forged construction, stronger skirt designs, and more efficient crown designs can still provide improved performance and durability. If it’s time for a new piston but you’re still not sure what compression ratio to go with, give the folks at JE a call for professional advice on your specific application.
  2. Kevin from Wiseco

    Proper Motorcycle Engine Break-In After Rebuild

    Proper engine break-in is equally as important as a proper rebuild. Here, we'll go over a checklist to make your build will last, as well as a step-by-step break-in process. Putting in the time and money to rebuild your motorcycle engine is both a critical job and a prideful accomplishment. The feeling of an engine failure right after a rebuild is a sinking one, and will most likely stir up a mixture of frustration and disappointment. We want to help as many people as we can avoid that feeling. So, we've put together a review checklist for your rebuild, followed by a general engine break-in procedure, because your motorcycle should bring joy and fun to your life, not take tufts of hair out of your head. We'll start with a quick review on the motorcycle top end rebuild. Be sure these critical steps and precautions have been taken. If you find any concerning discrepancies, it's worth it to pull back apart and double check. Be sure that you have proper piston to cylinder clearance. Recently, a cylinder was bored with requested .0035” clearance. This machine shop has been in the area for over 30 years. When complete, it looked like it was tighter. He slipped the piston through the cylinder a few times and said, "It's okay." He was asked to check again, which he refused, and said that it was correct, and that he was too busy. Back in the Brew Bikes shop, it was double-checked, and clearance was .0015”. Yes, way too tight. Don’t just take someone’s word that clearance is correct, always double check it! Always double check your piston-to-wall clearance. Was the honing of the cylinder properly done? Honing is required to be done after boring, and if the cylinder was not bored, it still is needed to deglaze the cylinder for proper ring break-in. Different honing tools are better used for different applications, with common tools being brush hones and flex hones. Safe grits and hone materials depend on the cylinder finish, so check your manual or with the cylinder shop for a recommendation. Be sure that the crosshatch is at 45 degrees. The proper crosshatch will retain the proper amount of lubricating oil while allowing the rings and piston to break-in. Too little of crosshatch or too much will not allow the rings to break-in correctly and never get the proper sealing they were designed for. Read our full guide to cylinder prep. After proper honing and deglazing, your cylinder wall should have a consistent, 45 degree crosshatch. If the bike is a 2 stroke don’t forget to chamfer the ports. If it has a bridge in the exhaust port, most pistons require this area to be relieved. READ the piston specs, and if you don’t understand, be sure to reach out to Wiseco for specifications. Read our guide to relieving the exhaust bridge in 2-stroke cylinders. A critical step in 2-stroke cylinder prep is port edge relief and exhaust bridge relief. This will help ensure smooth piston and ring operation, and combat accelerated ring wear. Be certain that the ring gap is within specification. Don’t assume it is correct, check it. Always double check your ring end gap. With your compression ring in the cylinder, measure the end gap with a feeler gauge to ensure it's within the spec included in your piston instructions. Proper cleaning of the cylinder. Before you start cleaning make sure the gasket areas are clean with no residue of gasket or sealers. First, use a cleaning solvent with a brush and then again with a rag. This is not enough, and you will need to clean with dish soap and water. Using a clean rag you will be amazed on how much grit from the honing is still in the cylinder. Be sure to clean the piston also. Thoroughly cleaning your cylinder for a rebuild is critical. Be sure all old gasket material is removed, and use a 2-step cleaning process of solvent with a brush and rag, followed by soap and water. When the cylinder is clean and dry, you should be able to wipe the cylinder wall with a clean rag and not see any honing material residue. Then before assembly, use plenty of assembly lube on the cylinder and the piston. Don’t forget to lube the piston pin and bearing along with the rings. Assembly lube on the piston, rings, cylinder, pin, and bearing is important for proper break-in. Many rings have a topside for proper sealing. Double check this and be sure the proper ring is on the proper landing on the piston. Again, read the instructions that came with the piston. Piston ring markings vary, but the marking should always face up when installed on the piston. The gaskets and quality play an important part of engine rebuilding. If a gasket is thicker than the original, it could result in a loss of power. Worse yet, a gasket thinner than the original will result in less deck height (piston to head clearance). This reduced clearance may result the piston to come in contact of the head causing permanent damage. After placing the gaskets, be sure while assembling the piston in the cylinder that the ring gaps are in proper placement. Check your engine manual for proper placement of the piston gaps. Then, install the head. Many motorcycle manufacturers have a desired head nut tightening sequence. Refer to their procedures while doing this. Most companies give the head nut torque rating with the washers, nuts and studs being clean and dry. That means if you use oil or a thread locking compound the studs will be over-stressed due to the over-tightening of the head nuts. Engines have been damaged by this. Now you know, follow what the engine manufacturer recommends! Regardless of the type of motorcycle engine you're working on, there should be a tightening sequence and torque spec for the head nuts. Pay close attention to the specs in the manual, as these are critical to prevent damage and for proper operation. Use the proper engine oil and fill to the proper level. The fuel you use should be fresh and of the proper octane. If your engine is a 2 stroke, mix to the proper fuel/oil ratio. For just about any 2-stroke, whether vintage or a newer, a 32:1 fuel/oil mixture is very common, but check your manual for the recommended ratio. Not only is it important for piston lubrication, but also for the crank bearings and seals. After all this work has been done, and you feel confident with the rebuild, what else can go wrong? PROPER ENGINE BREAK-IN! So many mistakes can happen while breaking in the piston and rings, resulting in rings never properly sealing or/and piston galling. Many builders have their own procedures, but most all do heat cycling for breaking in engines. Before we get into it, please note that this is just one of many methods that work well for engine break-in. Many people have many different effective methods, this is just one example that has worked well for us. Use this break-in procedure as a guideline for your next fresh top end: It's important to ask yourself if the rebuilt engine is still using the same carburetor, air cleaner, exhaust system, cam, compression, or if a 2-stroke, the same port work configuration? Any changes can result in air/fuel mixtures to be either too rich or too lean, resulting in engine damage. If your engine is fuel injected and in good working order, the ECU and O2 sensor should keep the air/fuel mixture correct. If you have access to an air/fuel meter, or if a 2-stroke, an EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) gauge, check the air/fuel mixture. Even with these tools, spark plug readings are still recommended. Spark plug readings are a sure-fire way of knowing if your engine is running too lean or too rich. We'll get into more detail in a later article, but generally the plug will look white when it's too lean, and dark brown or black and wet when too rich. At first start up, keep the engine just above idle and give it a few revs up and down. This power on and power off RPM breaks in the piston and rings evenly on the intake and exhaust sides. If air cooled, once the engine builds up heat where it becomes too hot to touch, shut the engine off. If water-cooled, once the engine coolant starts rising in temperature, shut the engine off. This initial warm up takes just a couple minutes. Now wait a few minutes until the engine is slightly warm to the touch, repeat #2, letting the engine get slightly hotter. Be sure to keep the engine RPMs above normal idle and keep the RPMs going up and down slowly. Let it cool again till it is slightly warm to the touch. This time, start and run longer until the engine gets near operating temperature. If air cooled, be sure you have a fan pushing air from the front. You now can rev the RPMs up a little higher, being sure not to hold it at a sustained RPM, but revving it up and down. Let the engine cool completely. Check all fluid levels to be sure there is no loss of engine lubricant, or, if water-cooled, engine coolant. After engine is cool, do a plug reading to be sure it is not running lean. Because the engine has run a few heat cycles, the gaskets may have compressed. It is VERY IMPORTANT to be sure engine is totally cooled down, and then check the torque of the cylinder head nuts. Most times the cycling head nuts will need some re-tightening. DON’T over-tighten; just tighten to manufacturers’ specification as you did when assembling the engine. Next, warm up the engine for a couple minutes as you did in the other procedures. Ride the bike, revving the engine up to normal riding RPM. Be sure NOT to keep the RPM too low and don’t lug the engine. These low RPM’s actually puts much more stress on the engine parts. If this is a dirt bike, running on a track is best due to the up and down RPMs the engine will experience. Don’t be afraid to run it normally. If this is a road bike, a curvy road is best due to the RPMs going up and down, this is a must! Don’t lug the engine and don’t go on an open highway that keeps the engine at a sustained RPM. This first initial ride will only be about 5 minutes. Let the engine cool till you can touch the engine. Follow the same procedure as above, but this time running for 10 minutes. This will be your last break-in run. Follow the above procedure and run for 15 minutes. Now is the time to let the engine totally cool down again. Check the fluids as you did before after the engine has completely cooled down, and do another spark plug reading. It is now time to do another check of the cylinder head nuts for proper torque. Sometimes no additional tightening is needed, but don’t be alarmed if you need to, because this is normal Check all your fluids once more after the engine cools, inclduing coolant and oil level. At this time, the rings and piston should be broken in. Go out and ride it. The first few times, just be sure not to get the engine overheated, but your ride times are not restricted. It never hurts to do another spark plug reading and double-check the head nuts after your first long ride. Enjoy your rides, and be safe!
  3. With a little bit of work on your part, Wiseco Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits can help your dirt toys deliver years of service. Read on for full details on these reliable and affordable valve replacement kits. One of the basic truths of the imperfect world we live in is that the people who design machines are not the same people who have to maintain those machines. This often leads to situations where something that seemed like the way to go on the CAD screen turns out to be more difficult or more expensive to fix in the real world than it otherwise would be. Exotic materials and painstaking processes that are economical to implement when you’re mass-producing something turn out to be expensive to service in the field. Today's 4-strokes are engineered to be high-tech, but the parts come with a big price tag. In this single-serving, throw-it-away-when-it-breaks world, there are some noble souls who take a stand and say that we should be able to service and maintain things ourselves instead of discarding them, bringing new life to machines that need a bit of a refresh. Such is the case with Wiseco’s Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits for a variety of popular dirt bike and ATV applications. Wiseco Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits were engineered to be a more reliable and affordable option for riders who need to replace valves in their modern four-stroke machines. Read on for complete details! When faced with the price tag on factory replacement parts for bikes that came with trick valvetrain components, many owners cringe at the price of refurbishing a tired engine. However, with the right components at the right price, turning your dirt bike’s mid-life crisis around and letting it catch its second wind can be easy. Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday With the incredibly impressive machines under race tents worldwide, nobody wants to buy a new bike that has a whiff of “outdated” technology surrounding it, so a lot of the high-end features that really only make a difference to the top one percent of professional racers become must-haves for weekend warriors who just want to trail ride with their kids. When those parts wear out, the exotic bragging rights come with a cost, though. “Titanium is a great valve material due to the strength-to-weight ratio, and also the material’s ability to deal with the high temperature of combustion,” Wiseco Product Manager Dave Sulecki explains. “The light weight is important for engine acceleration; imagine how a heavy component takes more energy to move, and you can see where titanium is ideal when the camshaft needs to accelerate the valve quickly with less energy, and you can see that a lightweight component would be critical for a high-end racing engine.” Titanium is popular for valves for its light weight properties, but they are expensive to manufacture and can wear out faster than steel. While those race-spec valves come standard because they’re a positive selling point on the dealership floor, they’re mostly there for bragging rights instead of making a difference you’ll feel when twisting the throttle yourself, and it’s cheaper for the manufacturer to make everything to one specification than it is to have separate designs. “This light weight and performance comes at a greater cost,” Sulecki adds. “The material is more expensive, and costs more to machine or form into a valve. Additionally, the titanium requires a special coating to deal with the heat and wear, which also adds cost. This expense is needed for the highest performing engines, like the type you find in nearly all levels of racing from motocross up to Formula 1.” Sticker Shock Even expensive, exotic materials wear out, though, and when it’s time to freshen up the valvetrain of your bike, you might be surprised to see just how much it will cost to replace like-for-like with factory components. Per Sulecki, “Steel valves are a great low cost alternative to titanium, and offer longevity, reliability, and improved wear over titanium. Some customers are not always racing their vehicles, and just want longer service intervals and the peace of mind that comes with this material.” "Steel valves are a great low cost alternative to titanium, and offer longevity, reliability, and improved wear over titanium." - Dave Sulecki, Wiseco Powersports Product Manager That’s where Wiseco’s Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits enter the picture. They’re designed to be an affordable way to refresh your high-tech dirt bike’s valvetrain. Although they may not be made from titanium, that doesn’t mean they aren’t precision-engineered. “Because steel valves are a small percentage heavier than titanium valves, heavier-rate valve springs are required to control the valve and protect the engine from valve float (the condition where the heavier valve will stay open under high RPM engine speeds),” Sulecki explains. “These springs are included with the Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits.” Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits are available separately for both intake and exhaust valves. They come complete with the valves, springs, and even a free packet of cam lube to make sure every box is checked during your reassembly. Converting to steel valves requires using valve springs designed for the specific weight of the valve. Springs are included with Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits. Wiseco’s extensive experience with powersports valvetrain components provides confidence that their conversion kits are engineered to restore showroom-floor performance, and they utilize stock retainers, seals, shims, and other components for affordability and drop-in compatibility. The springs are crafted from premium chrome vanadium steel, and the nitrided steel valves can actually outlast an OEM titanium valve by a factor of three or more. Wiseco's nitrided steel valves are designed to utilize stock retainers, keepers, and seals. The steel conversion valve springs are manufactured from chrome vanadium steel. Time For A Change So, how do you know when it’s time to replace the stock components, short of a dropped valve or broken spring? Per Sulecki, “Valves and valve springs wear over time, like any highly-stressed engine component. When you are checking the valve clearance, or making shim adjustments, this is always a good indicator how quickly the valves are wearing or receding into the seat.” Keeping an eye on these telltales during your regular maintenance will allow you to judge when your factory valves and springs are reaching the end of their service life. Entire engine in need of a refresh? Garage Buddy also offers Complete Engine Rebuild Kits, check them out here. “When you are inspecting your top end for general overall health, such as the piston and ring condition, this is the best time to take a closer look at the valves and valve springs,” he continues. “Valves and springs need to be removed from the cylinder head for full inspection. Once these are removed, you can look closely at the condition of the valve face where it seals to the valve seat, and also the condition of the valve head overall and the stem condition. Any cupping or damage to the valve face means it is time to replace the valve, and any similar wear to the valve seat means replacement or re-cutting will be needed.” Inspecting your valves for wear while doing a top end is a good idea. Closely inspect the sealing surface of the valve for cupping, and inspect the rest of the valve for wear or damage. It's a good idea to also check the groove at the top of the stem for signs of wear to avoid breakage. Over time, springs become less elastic and may no longer be able to control valve motion at high speeds, but it’s not the sort of wear that is immediately obvious to the naked eye. Sulecki suggests, “Valve springs should be inspected for free length, and also overall condition, looking for any wear marks or defects that can lead to spring failure.” Any nicks or cracks are a sure sign of impending doom, and your cue to replace the entire set. Valve spring free length can be measured and compared to the recommended spec to get an idea of wear on the spring. Doing the Job Right Depending on your level of mechanical aptitude and how well-equipped your garage is, valve replacement might be a job you want to subcontract to a professional. “For most all valve replacements, it is a good idea to work with a qualified builder if you are not sure about the condition of any of these components,” Sulecki suggests. “The work can be done in your own workshop, but there are some special tools required to remove the valves from the head, and having an experienced eye on these items is always the best approach if you are not sure what to look for. An OEM service manual is always the best place to start, they will provide information about any special tools, and guidelines of what to look for regarding valves, valve seats, and even valve guides, and their condition.” When replacing your valves, be sure to use proper tools and follow all procedures and specifications outlined in your owner's manual. If you're unsure about performing your own valve maintenance, we recommend taking your machine to a trustworthy and certified shop. Whether tackling the job yourself or letting a pro handle your top-end maintenance, you’ll save time and money by seeing to all the wear-prone components at the same time. Sulecki adds, “When replacing valves, it is a good idea to inspect the top end for any concerning issues or conditions. Inspect the valve seals, valve keepers and seats, shim buckets, the condition of the cylinder head (flatness and sealing condition), and cam chain condition.” Needless to say, the time to service or replace these components is while everything is apart in the first place, and by using quality components like Wiseco’s Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits, you’ll protect your investment for many off-road seasons to come. Wiseco Garage Buddy Steel Valve Kits are available separately for both intake and exhaust valves.
  4. When it comes to overall strength, there's no beating a forged piston. But what is the process that yields the toughest parts in the racing world? We'll show you. When it comes to turning raw metal alloys into useful things, two processes dominate - casting and forging. Both have their place, but when strength and light weight are priorities, forging is the method of choice. Though it’s been around for more than six millennia, forging processes continue to advance the state of the art, bringing us everything from sharper, more durable kitchen knives to more fuel efficient jet engines, plus things much closer to our heart: lighter, stronger pistons. Although forging is a metalworking process thousands of years old, it’s still the best method to produce components with the highest strength and durability. Forging is defined as the controlled deformation of metal into a desired shape by compressive force. At its most basic, it’s a blacksmith working a piece with a hammer and anvil, and those first metalworkers toiling at their forges discovered something important about the pieces they were crafting – compared to similar objects made from melted and cast metal, they were stronger and more durable. Though they knew the finished product was superior, what those ancient smiths didn’t suspect was that the act of forging was changing the internal grain structure of the metal, aligning it to the direction of force being applied, and making it stronger, more ductile, and giving it higher resistance to impact and fatigue. While a cast metal part will have a homogeneous, random grain structure, forging can intentionally direct that structure in ways that give a finished part the highest structural integrity of any metalworking process. Wiseco forged pistons start as raw bar stock in certified 2618 or 4032 aluminum alloy. Once they’re cut into precisely-sized ‘pucks’ they’re ready to be preheated in preparation for forging. Although many performance enthusiasts might put billet parts at the top of the heap in terms of desirability, the reality is that the billet they are created from doesn't have the same grain properties of a forging. The Wiseco Forging Process Today’s state of the art in forging technology is far removed from the smith’s bellows-stoked fire and anvil. In Wiseco’s ISO 9000-certified forging facility, pistons begin life as certified grade aluminum bar stock, cut to precise lengths to form slugs. The choice of material is critical - conventional wisdom has always said that a forged piston requires additional piston-to-bore clearance to allow for expansion, leading to noise from piston slap until the engine gets up to temperature, but per Wiseco’s Research and Development Manager David Fussner, “Forged pistons do require additional room temperature clearance. However, the 4032 forging alloy we use has about 12% silicon content, and this significantly controls the expansion to nearly the same as a 12% silicon cast piston. The 2618 alloy expands a bit more and does require a bit more room temperature clearance than 4032.” Pistons are forged in a ‘backwards extrusion’ process where a moving punch presses the raw material into the die to form the rough shape. The process takes only a fraction of a second (longer in the isothermal press), and the speed of the press helps determine how material flows, and therefore the internal grain structure of the forging. While 4032 is more dimensionally stable across the typical operating temperature range seen inside an engine, it does give up a small advantage in ductility to 2618, which has a silicon content of less than 0.2 percent. This makes 2618 a better choice for applications where detonation may be an issue, like race engines running high boost or large doses of nitrous oxide. The low silicon alloy’s more forgiving nature in these instances makes up for the tradeoffs in increased wear and shorter service life compared to 4032. Once cut to the proper size, slugs are heated to a predetermined temperature and moved to the forging press itself, which is also maintained at a controlled temperature. There are two different types of presses employed at Wiseco; mechanical and hydraulic. Both have a long history in manufacturing, and each has specific strengths. Mechanical forging presses are well-suited to high production rates, helping to keep the overall cost of high-quality forged components affordable. Hydraulic presses have the advantage of variable speed and force throughout the process, allowing greater control of material flow, which can be used to produced forged components with even more precisely controlled physical properties. Wiseco’s isothermal hydraulic press forging machines use precise digital control of the temperature of the raw material, the punch, and the die, as well as the pressure exerted during the full motion of the forge. This allows very close control over the physical properties of the finished forging. Regardless of the type of press, pistons are forged using a “backwards extrusion” process where the material from the slug flows back and around the descending punch to form the cup-shaped forging. Picture the stationary part of the press (the die) as the mirror image of the piston top, and the punch as the mirror image of the underside. As the punch descends, the puck is transformed into the rough piston shape with material flowing up along the sides of the die and punch to form the skirt. This entire process takes place on the scale of milliseconds (on the mechanical press), and the all-important flow stresses of the material are determined by the strain rate (or speed) and load applied by the press. In addition to three mechanical forge presses, Wiseco also has two isothermal hydraulic presses in-house. These state of the art forges maintain the temperature of the piston slug, the die, and the punch very accurately through computer control, delivering more precise dimensions and geometry for the finished pieces, as well as allowing for more complex designs to be successfully forged, and even the creation of metal matrix composite forgings. Once the puck (left) has been transformed into a forged blank (middle), it still has a ways to go before becoming a completed piston (right). The Heat Is On Once the forging process is complete, the components next move to heat treatment. Wiseco’s aerospace-grade heat treatment facility is located in the same plant as the presses, and here the pistons go through a carefully controlled process of heating and cooling that relieves stress induced during forging, increases the overall strength and ductility of the metal, and provides the desired surface hardness characteristics. While casting can deliver parts straight out of the mold that are very close to their final shape, forgings require a bit more attention in order to get them into shape. Fussner explains, “In a dedicated forging for a specific purpose, the interior of the forging blank is at near-net as it comes off the forging press. And in some cases, we also forge the dome near-net with valve pockets and some other features. Other than these items, most other features do require machining.” Pistons aren't the only thing Wiseco forges and machines in-house. Wiseco clutch are also forged and machined, as well as finished with hard anodizing. The forging (left) allows the basket to closer to the final shape before machining. The basket shown here is just post-machining. One basic forging may serve as the starting point for many different types of finished pistons, unlike castings which are typically unique to a single design or a small group of very similar designs. Regardless of the manufacturing method for the piston blank, some degree of final machining needs to take place to create a finished part. “As a ballpark percentage, I would say about 75% of the forging blank would require machining.” Cast pistons also require finish work on the CNC machine, but this is almost always less extensive than a similar forged piston. “That’s the main reason why forged pistons are more expensive than a cast piston,” Fussner adds. Another reason for the added expense of forging is the significant cost of the initial tooling for the die and punch, which must be made to exact specifications and be durable enough to survive countless forging press cycles. Per Fussner, “We control these costs by making all our forging tooling in house at Wiseco headquarters in Mentor, Ohio.” The ability to make their own tooling, doing their own forging, and their in-house heat treatment facilities make Wiseco the only aftermarket forged piston manufacturer in the United States with these unique capabilities. Once the machining process is complete, Wiseco pistons can also receive a number of different proprietary coatings to fine-tune their performance. These include thermal barriers as well as wear reduction treatments. Though forging is a technique literally as old as the Iron Age, it’s still the undisputed king of manufacturing techniques for light, strong, durable components. Wiseco continues to refine the process with the latest methods, materials, heat treatment, and machining to provide the highest quality aftermarket components available, at an affordable price. Wiseco forged pistons provide superior quality and performance at an affordable price thanks to the company’s close control over every step of the manufacturing process.
  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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